Can Ben Simmons Lead the 76ers in the Playoffs Without Embiid?
Ben Simmons is an incredible NBA talent. As a “rookie” guard/point-forward without a jump shot, he is just dominating the league; posting an impressive 8.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists, and 15.8 points on 54.3% shooting from the field. Along with his all-star teammate, Joel Embiid, he has lead the 76ers to their first playoff berth in 5 years. Unfortunately for the 76ers, Joel Embiid received a facial fracture during a collision with rookie Markelle Fultz and will possibly be out for the first round of the playoffs. Many NBA analysts and commentators are now predicting this to be the end of the 76ers playoff run this year, but are they right? Can Ben Simmons take the reigns and lead the 76ers to a first round victory in the playoffs without Embiid?
To answer this question, we must first look at the 76ers team performance with Embiid on and off the court:
Obviously, due to Embiid being one of the best two-way players in the NBA, there is a huge drop off in both offensive and defensive rating. Pace and Assist percentage are increased due to the 76ers not having a player on the court that can generate his own points, thus they play faster and increase ball movement. Ben Simmons’ numbers are a bit different for the season:
Ben Simmons is not quite the scorer or defensive presence that Embiid is, and his stats reflect that. He is more of a distributor and facilitator on the offense (as reflected by the higher pace and assist percentage compared to Embiid) and is more integral to the offense (hence the slightly higher offensive rating drop off compared to Embiid). It’s also important to note that Simmons has played over 700 more minutes this season than Embiid due to injury or rest; which means that Simmons had to play more minutes with replacement-players like Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes (who don’t even come close to the skill and ability of Embiid), than Embiid.
With these stats in mind, it seems that without Embiid, the 76ers are guaranteed to be a 1st round exit. They lack the defensive presence and the offensive skill Embiid brings to the team. Before, you deem this data conclusive, let’s look at how Ben Simmons is leading the team without Embiid in the last 5 games:
Ben Simmons has been playing like a monster these last 5 games without Embiid, and the 76ers have won 5 of the last 5 games. He is driving the 76ers to have the best pace, assist percentage, and net rating in the last 5 games. You could say that these stats shouldn’t count as much since this was mostly against below 0.500 teams, but this 5-game win-streak without Embiid also includes a 132-130 victory of LeBron James’ Cavaliers. Before all the excuses start coming in about how Lebron wasn’t trying because the game was inconsequential, I’d like to point out that this game was a battle for the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference and LeBron played 40 minutes, shot 29 times from the field, and tried to lead a comeback against the 76ers, so I think Lebron James tried and cared about winning this game.
If this were the 76ers team from last season, without Embiid the 76ers would easily get swept in the first round of the playoffs. But, this isn’t the 76ers team from last season. Not only did they add guys like JJ Reddick and Markelle Fultz, but they also have a future HOF caliber player in Ben Simmons. If Ben Simmons continues to play the way he’s been playing, I don’t see why he can’t lead the 76ers past first round, or even possibly to the conference finals. This kid is a special talent.
All statistics are provided by NBA.com*
All statistics accurate as of 4-7-18*