On Tuesday, we learned that point guard Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back. Reports are stating that Simmons will be reevaluated in two weeks, but the team is not expecting him to be ready at that time. Other than that, there is no real timetable for his return at this point.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that the Sixers are “preparing to play an extended period of time without him.” So yeah, this doesn’t sound great at all.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Philly errs on the side of caution here and shuts Simmons down for the rest of the regular season. Although not having Simmons down the stretch could cost the team a higher seed in the playoffs, their seeding won’t matter if Simmons can’t go come playoff time. They won’t make it out of the first round without Simmons, it’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, Elton Brand didn’t bring in a legitimate backup PG in the offseason or at the trade deadline, so Brett Brown will have to try a handful of different rotations to figure out which works best.
Simmons was top 10 in minutes per game before his injury, so filling his shoes will not be an easy task. Not to mention everything he brings to the floor night in and night out. No single player on the Sixers roster has the capability of picking up all that slack.
Here are three players who absolutely need to step up if this team wants to continue to compete for a top seed in the East.
In the teams first full game without Simmons, backup guard Shake Milton got the start against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. He didn’t do anything outstanding, but he held his own and did a little bit of everything, racking up five rebounds, six assists and seven points.
It seems like Brown is going to give Milton the first shot at claiming the starting PG spot while Simmons is sidelined. At just 25-years-old, it would great to see Milton really develop into a long-term bench player for this team.
This will really be his first chance to show the coaches what he can do when given ample playing time. Although he did fill in Josh Richardson while he was sidelined with an injury, he’ll now be playing more of his natural position at point guard.
If he continues to progress, Milton could really help the Sixers down the stretch.
Furkan’s time in the starting five was short lived, but he’ll have an opportunity for more minutes now that Simmons is out. He may not start every night, but he’ll more than likely get starting level minutes as we close out the season.
He had more minutes than Shake on Monday and he’s been averaging just over 20 per game. Although his three-point game is always a key for this offense, it’ll be even more imperative now with Simmons out of the lineup. Simmons has the ability to get to the hole at ease without a play being set up for him. Without that, Brown will need to get more creative with how he sets up his shooters.
Korkmaz will also need to be more consistent from outside now, as he’s had his ups and downs throughout the year. He has the highest three-point percentage on the team with a .396 mark, but the Sixers are just 18th in the NBA in three-point percentage at .352.
Korkmaz will be leaned on to continue shooting lights out from long range. Hopefully he can deliver.
This one’s pretty obvious, but it’s still important to note how important this stretch will be for Embiid. We all know the potential he has to take over every game he plays in, we’re all just waiting to see him do it consistently.
Monday was a great start, as Embiid recorded a career high in points with 49 to go along with 14 boards. The Sixers schedule is not that tough the rest of the way, so there’s no excuses for Embiid. He can, and he should, be able to carry this team to a top-four seed in the East.
All eyes will be on Joel now. If he truly wants to be hailed as the best player in the league, now is his time to prove it.