| Ben Simmons is leading the way as the 76ers march towards the playoffs |
Simmons’ Historic Rookie Season Marches On
It’s only fitting that as the Sixers close in on a return to the playoffs, Ben Simmons would be playing some of his best basketball of the season. The Aussie notched his 9th triple double of the season in a win over the Hornets. It was his third triple double in the past four games. This latest one was particularly impressive, as Simmons did it without a single turnover. He’s the 5th player since 1983-84, and first ever rookie, to score 15 assists in a triple double without a single turnover.
A few days later, he got his 10th triple double against Minnesota. It was his fourth in seven games, making him the second rookie in NBA history to collect that many in a span of seven games. Simmons now has more triple doubles in a rookie season than any other player not named Oscar Robertson.
Okay, let’s take a moment and appreciate this. Ben has 10 triple doubles this year. Can he average that every year? No one knows. But if he does, he would pass Wilt-freaking-Chamberlain by his seventh season in 2023-24. Even if we conservatively estimate that Simmons doesn’t get another this season, and only averages six or seven per year, he would still only need 6-8 seasons to pass Wilt. I don’t care what kind of record you’re breaking; if it belongs to Wilt Chamberlain, you’re doing something special.
Triple doubles are a somewhat arbitrary benchmark that we fascinate over because of its roundness as a statistic, but it’s impossible to deny how impressive Simmons has been as a rookie. His presence is a huge part of bringing playoff basketball back to Philadelphia.
Wins Piling Up
I’ve mentioned in recent weeks how easy this current stretch of games is for the Sixers. For a young team on the verge of it’s first postseason appearance as a group, it was fair to wonder if this team might squander the chance to give themselves a favorable seeding. But they came through and have won six straight against easy competition. This included wins over the lowly Knicks, Nets, Hornets, and Grizzlies. And two of those wins came on the second night of back to back games.
It’s encouraging to see Philly handle teams that are clearly worse. Earlier this season they had some bad losses to Memphis and Brookly. Luckily neither of those losses seemed to drastically affect the team’s chances of making the playoffs. It’s good to see a young team like Philadelphia learn that you can’t take any opponents for granted, especially in a playoff race.
Easy Schedule Providing Perks
Amdist this stretch of the schedule against lesser opponents, the Sixers haven’t just beaten teams, they’ve blown them out. I mentioned in my last 7 for 6 that the Sixers would likely want to rest their starters in the fourth quarters of thes. Joel Embiid has since pushed back at that idea.
Some firm words from the big man. His competitiveness is certainly admirable, if not a little misguided. If the Sixers are locked into a playoff seed by the final game or two, it wouldn’t make much sense for Embiid to play. But if they can continue to blow opponents out, they can artificially create some rest for Embiid in the fourth quarter of games. Check out his playing time in recent blowouts.
Mar. 11 @ Brookly: 26 mins.
Mar. 21st vs Memphis: 19 mins.
Mar. 22nd @ Orlando: 20 mins.
A far cry from his 30 minute average. Look, if you’re playing in an NBA game, you aren’t truly resting. But limiting the workload while still getting wins is a perfect scenario as Philadelphia approaches the postseason. And Embiid isn’t the only beneficiary to this. The starters are playing less in blowouts. At least, they were against Minnesota until the Timberwolves stormed back and forced Simmons and Embiid to return to the game. That wasn’t a good showing for the Sixers’ bench.
More words on Fultz
Nope, still no word on whether Markelle Fultz will play again this year. Sorry. But there are more quotes of people talking about it in hypotheticals! That’s just as good, right?
Brett Brown last week, when asked why the team would bring Fultz back in a seemingly lost rookie season, gave this response:“My answer would be because he could make us better…this is the Holy Grail, the risk-reward of Markelle Fultz,” Brown said. “I’m tilting on reward. Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. But that would be the answer that I give you.”
“It’s just something that when Markelle Fultz feels like he can go – he really feels good about himself and his health, the shoulder, everything and the medical people support that — he knows that he has a coaching staff and a team that will welcome him in when he says go,” Brown said a few days later.
Cowherd Owns Up
Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd is very outspoken. One of his predictions for this NBA season was that the Sixers would not win 40 games.
Well, they won their 40th game on March 21st against Memphis. Initially, Cowherd seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t be following through with the bet.
Looking everywhere in LA for Sixers jersey. Can’t find one. So frustrating. Really wanted to pay off the bet. Well, maybe next time.
Well, the fans in Philly weren’t about to let him forget about this wager. Especially not their most outspoken player. Since this news re-surfaced, Embiid called out Cowherd on twitter for not following through on the bet. Well, it turns out that Cowherd is a man of his word. The day after the Sixers won their 40th game, he made good on his bet and donned an Embiid jersey during his show.
This is obviously all in good fun. Cowherd clearly likes getting a reaction out of folks; it was probably the genesis for both this initial bet and the idea of balking at the punishment. Beyond the scope of a bet between media and players, this whole event serves as an important reminder of how far the Sixers have come since their rebuild began. To make such a monumental leap this season is a great accomplishment. If anything Cowherd is lucky that his bet was such low stakes. In the next four or five seasons, the expectations will be far greater than just 40 wins.
Embiid with the Circuis Shot
The Sixers blew out the Magic on Thursday. Joel Embiid did this just before halftime.
I mean…are you kidding me with that? The swag! The skill! The disrespect! A 7’2″ player with that kind of shooting touch is just outrageous. Granted, Embiid is only shooting 31% from deep this season. But his form is smooth and defenders have to respect his range. When you see him doing things like that, it’s easy to envision him becoming more efficient over the course of his career. For now, it’s fun to simply marvel at Embiid doing things like this.
Korkmaz Comes Back
Furkan Korkmaz finally saw some playing time against the Magic on Thursday. He had not played since December with a foot injury. In 12 minutes, he hit one three pointer on 1/5 shooting and picked up an assist.
Korkmaz is surely happy to get back on the court. I doubt that he’ll see much playing time in the playoffs, but getting some reps in these final 10 games will be important. He needs to bulk up a little and become a stronger defender to play meaningful minutes in the NBA. But if he’s able to improve, he’ll be an important piece in the next three or four years; either as a cheap scoring option off the bench, or a trade chip that helps the Sixers land a bigger star.