It was Brett Brown’s idea.
The 76ers coach is the mastermind behind one of the most talked about position switches in recent NBA history. Ben Simmons has been moved to power forward during the restart camp, and Shake Milton has assumed starting point guard duties.
Brown made the decision while feeling things out during the four-month NBA shutdown, which came after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The coach was reminded that he only saw the opening-night starters on the floor together for 19 out of 65 games.
“That backdrop kind of allowed me to make the decision that I’ve made,” Brown said. “That’s number one.″
Even though it was a small sample size, it’s well known that the opening-night starting lineup of Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson and Simmons had spacing issues. In fact, the Sixers’ pairing of Horford with Embiid and Simmons all on the court together has been a failure.
Hesitant to shoot, Simmons has also had his struggles in the postseason where opponents routinely sagged off him defensively. So Brown opted to move Simmons inside, where he wouldn’t be a liability, and start Milton, who has solid perimeter skills at point guard.
“You try things and follow your gut and understand there’s a tolerance, a patience that I am going to have to have with a bunch of different things and study it fairly,” Brown said.
Simmons will resume point guard duties when playing with a group that includes Harris, Horford, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz. The Sixers will use the lineup when Milton, Richardson, and Embiid all go to the bench.
Brown likes what he’s been seeing from the Thybulle-Harris-Horford-Korkmaz-Simmons lineup in Florida.
“It’s fun because one of our strengths is just the speed,” the coach said. “We are a tall group, but it’s not tall and slow. We got Ben pushing the ball and [Tobias] and Al are both huge and can also run.”
Simmons’ ability to impact a game as more of a scorer should become greater while playing power forward. He would be a guard in pick-and-rolls and one-dribble takeoff dunks. He can also use his quickness to cover post players and his strength to post up wings. He can also quarterback the team from the high post.
“It opens up a variety of ways that he can score,” Brown said. “With the ball, we’ve seen. None of us can be sort of that forgetful that we don’t remember that his a two-time All-Star. He is a [maximum-salary] player and he’s 23.”