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Tag Archives: Ben Simmons

Old Eras of 76ers Basketball to a Bright New Future

Written by Logan Karels (@Karels23)

The Philadelphia 76ers are a franchise with a storied past, filled with superstars era after era. These include Julius Erving (a.k.a. Dr. J), Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, and Moses Malone as just some of the players this franchise has had the privilege to bring in the fold since their inception. Some legendary names to be sure, there is no denying that. Only time will tell if their franchise cornerstones, Simmons and Embiid, can etch their names into 76er history and join the other greats of this storied franchise that has the third-most regular season wins in NBA history (behind the legendary Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers).

The Wilt Chamberlain Era

During the 1964-65 season, Philadelphia acquired the legendary Wilt Chamberlain from the Warriors, leading to a great era in Philly. A name that every Sixers fan will know and respect, to be sure. Chamberlain absolutely dominated the league on every team he played on. He is one of the most legendary and recognizable figures in basketball history. Of course, everyone knows about his iconic 100 point game, which to this day has still not been surpassed and probably never will be. His career for the Sixers was not very long, but it didn’t take away from anything he accomplished during his time in Philadelphia. That Sixers squad was very talented from top to bottom from their duo of star players — Chamberlain and Hal Greer — to their role players. Reportedly there was some tension between the two stars, Greer not wanting to give up being the undisputed leader and the authority that came with it. As the season progressed, however, they started to mesh well and put those differences behind them. With Philadelphia, Chamberlain won the NBA championship in 1967, and also won three straight Most Valuable Player awards from 1966-1968.

The Julius “Dr. J” Erving Era

The Julius Erving era was an exciting time for Sixer fans. Dr. J revolutionized the way basketball was played. He played a major role in popularizing modern basketball which had an emphasis on leaping and playing at a high level above the rim. He was such an iconic and polarizing player to watch. Most people will remember that legendary play against the Lakers in the 1980 finals, where he pulled off that ridiculous reverse layup and seemed to hang in the air forever. It was athletic and acrobatic plays like this which allowed him to shape the way basketball would forever be played — even to today.

Erving played a major role in helping legitimize the American Basketball Association (ABA), being the most well-known player of the league when they merged with the NBA. After he was traded to the Sixers, Erving quickly grew into the leader of his new team- leading them to a great 50-win season. While in the ABA, he was expected to do everything for his team- and while playing for the Sixers he focused his role mostly on scoring- but he also kept up with his unselfish play keeping his teammates involved.

The Charles Barkley Era

Charles Barkley arrived in Philadelphia during the 1984-85 season. Barkley brought happiness to the fans of Philadelphia mostly in part thanks to his humorous and occasionally controversial personality and actions. The Sixers made a return to the Eastern Conference Finals during Charles’ rookie season, ultimately losing to Boston. Little to the knowledge of the Philadelphia fans, the Sixers would never again advance to the Eastern Conference Finals again during Charles’ tenure. In June of 1986, Harold Katz perhaps made two of the most controversial and extremely criticized roster moves in the franchise’s history. Moses Malone was traded to Washington and the first overall pick in the year’s upcoming draft to Cleveland.

In the 1987-88 season, the Sixers finished the regular season with a losing record and led to the franchise failing to earn a playoff spot for the first time since the 1974-75 season. In 1988-89 the Philadelphia 76ers made their return to the playoffs after the one-year hiatus. The following season, Barkley finished second in MVP voting. The Sixers finished atop the division ending the season 53-29 overall. Following their victory over Cleveland, the Sixers met the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the second round. Philadelphia would be defeated by the Bulls in five games in back-to-back years. The 1991-92 season, the Sixers finished with another losing record, leading to only the second time they missed the playoffs during Barkley’s tenure. On June 17, 1992, Charles Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang. This deal was highly criticized by the league community, including the franchise’s fans.

The Allen Iverson Era

After many years of disappointment following the departure of Charles Barkley, there was a shining moment. The franchise won the draft lottery for the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. With that pick, the Philadelphia 76ers found the “Answer”, in Allen Iverson. Iverson is widely regarded as the best “pound for pound” player in NBA history due to his small stature and weighing less than a typical guard would. Paired with new ownership of the team and Iverson as their focal point on the team, things seemed to be heading in the right direction. Iverson was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in his debut season. Following Iverson’s rookie year, the coach was fired and they unveiled a new logo design and jersey; hopefully to signify a new era in 76er basketball.

Larry Brown was hired as the new head coach and he was known for a defense-first type of coach. He also was renowned for transforming average teams into winning teams with his mindset and coaching ability. Brown and Iverson often clashed, disagreeing on various views and opinions of the other.  Early on during the season, the Sixers traded Jerry Stackhouse to Detroit. Philadelphia received a couple defensive stars in Aaron Mckie and Theo Ratliff who had a major impact in the team’s resurgence. The Sixers began this resurgence in the 1998-99 season which was shortened due to the lockout. Philadelphia earned the sixth seed in the playoffs- this was the first time the franchise had returned to the playoffs since 1991.

The Sixers were steadily improving year after year- but Iverson and Coach Brown continued to have disagreements and clash with each other. Their relationship suffered much during this time and was starting to look like Iverson was going to be traded. Later on, it became apparent that Iverson was going to remain in Philadelphia and he and Brown started to work on their relationship and fix things between the two. In the 2000-01 season, the Sixers had a great regular season and secured the first seed in the East. After a hard fought playoff run, the Sixers, led by Iverson, emerged victorious in the Eastern Conference Finals and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1983. Philadelphia was bested by the Lakers four games to one. Philadelphia’s 2000-01 season featured the NBA MVP, Iverson, Coach of the Year in Brown, Defensive Player of the Year (Mutombo) and the Sixth Man of the Year (Aaron McKie).

In 2003, Coach Brown resigned from his position as head coach. The following season, the Sixers acquired Chris Webber from Sacramento with the hope that they had finally found another star to complement and support Iverson. The same year in the draft, they selected Andre Iguodala who would be another vital piece for the Sixer squad. A couple of seasons later, in December of 2006, Iverson came to the front office with an ultimatum: acquire players who will help support me, or trade me. Two weeks later, Iverson was traded to Denver, and thus ended the Iverson era in Philadelphia.

The Simmons/Embiid Era

Fast forward some years to now, and the Philadelphia 76ers are back as an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Led by their young core in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, this season’s Rookie of the Year, they had a strong 2017-18 season and things are only looking up from here as both players will continue to develop and get better. What does this mean for the league? It means that certain historical league rivalries have been reignited and that can only mean great things for the league in the years to come.

Comparing the team now to past eras, it feels different, to say the least. With the whole “Trust the Process” theme coming to fruition with their stellar drafting ability recently, Philadelphia has done just about everything they can do to ensure that they are back to one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for years to come. It is great for the league now that the Sixers are back as a top team in the Conference. Legendary old rivalries have been reignited again, most notably the rivalry between Boston and Philly. The Sixers are back and are here to stay. Personally, I think it is great for the league to have these old rivalries coming back and it can help to bridge the gap between the Sixers fans of old, and their young fans.

2018 NBA Rookie of the Year Race

Written by Logan Karels (@Karels23)

Stats & Team Records

Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons — these are the two young players who were frontrunners for the honor of the Rookie of the Year (RotY) award. First, we will take a look at their regular season statistics.

Donovan Mitchell:  20.5 PPG |3.7 RPG | 3.7 APG | 1.5 SPG

Ben Simmons: 15.8 PPG|8.1 RPG |8.2 APG | 1.7 SPG 

Mitchell is obviously more of a scorer and shooter than Simmons is, but you have to look at what else Simmons does for the Sixers. As a point guard, he often brings up the ball and running parts of the offense, all while distributing and getting his teammates involved.

Simmons helped lead his team to a 52-30 record, taking the third seed in the Eastern Conference. On the other side, Mitchell led his team to a 48-34 record, taking the fifth seed in the West. It can be argued Mitchell had the more impressive season due to his team being in the tougher Western Conference. Not to discredit the Sixers spectacular turnaround from the previous year with an impressive 24-game improvement (from 28 games in 2016-17 to 52 last year). It would appear “Trusting the Process” has indeed worked out in their favor. It’s obvious they will continue their upward trajectory in the upcoming seasons with all the young talent on the roster. Before this year, Philadelphia would never have been thought of a landing spot for LeBron. However, after their turnaround season, things are looking up.

Player Comparisons

As great as Ben Simmons is; he has weaknesses — as all rookies do. Obviously, the most notable flaw would be his shooting ability. Mitchell certainly has the edge here despite Simmons’ raw higher field goal percentage. You have to take that with a grain of salt as most of Simmons’ shot attempts come from inside the paint while driving to the basket due to his weak shooting ability. Obviously, this translates to Simmons’ free throw shooting ability as well. It’s also below average: 56% compared to Mitchell’s 80.5% on the season. Mitchell is already drawing comparisons to Dwyane Wade which is an honor in itself, Wade being the future Hall-of-Famer he is. The only significant difference is that Mitchell is a stronger shooter than Wade was at that age. Of course, Mitchell has some serious work to do to live up to Wade’s reputation in the league.

Both of these rookies had outstanding seasons and many memorable moments it’s hard to pick the best ones. One could go on forever about how talented these two rookies really are. What Mitchell did to lead his team in his rookie season was an incredible thing to behold. The fact is that he was playing in the Western Conference as well. Simmons also helped to lead his team to the playoffs this year. Simmons was even drawing some comparisons as a “mini-LeBron” due to them being such a freight train in transition with nearly unparalleled court vision as playmakers.  That comparison is a quite a stretch since Simmons has only played 81 games while LeBron has played 1143 regular season games. We’ll revisit when Simmons has developed further and is in his prime. There may be some similarities in the future.

Some pundits thought there should have been a co-rookie of the year award just like Jason Kidd and Grant Hill in 1994-95.

Closing Thoughts

While Simmons won the Rookie of the Year award over Mitchell, Jayson Tatum deserves an honorable mention in the race for ROTY. Tatum really stepped up amidst a plethora of injuries that plagued the resilient Boston Celtic team led by Brad Stevens. With all this taken into account, I thought Mitchell should have won. What he has done to lead the team in the Western conference was tough and he deserves to be recognized for it. This doesn’t take away from Simmons’ season at all though. He still had a very impressive rookie campaign. It was great to watch all the leagues’ young rookies compete this year and will be even better watching them improve in the seasons to come. Given all the stats and accolades these two players accumulated during this past season, I believe that Mitchell should have won ROTY, but something was telling me that Simmons was going to be taking home the hardware instead.

The Point Forward in the Modern NBA

Ryan Stivers (@ryanMstives)

What is a point-forward? The term has cropped up in recent years among NBA discussions. Traditionally, the term describes a big-man (at least someone taller that “transcended” the label of “guard”) who ran the offense for the team getting his teammates involved as the primary ball-handler. Now, the concept of a big-man playing the point guard position is nothing new, Magic Johnson stood a full 6’9” and ran the offense for the famous showtime Lakers. Oscar Robertson was 6’5” and averaged a triple-double for a season; even Penny Hardaway stood a shocking 6’7”. But despite all of these guards being as big as they were, they were just that, true guards. None of them fell into the category of a “point forward.” So, height and size aside, what is it that makes a true Point Forward and not only that, what makes a great one? For the purposes of this article, it needs to be tossed out that anyone considered a true Oscar have all already been discussed.

As for a point of reference in this argument, each of the four selected typically plays the forward position but at one point or the other in their career run the offense through their use of ball-handling or offensive output. Each of the four was ranked using metrics such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER), assists per game (APG), turnovers per game (TOV), and points per game (PPG) throughout their career. Each category was then ranked one through four for each player and an average score was taken for the ranking of the category. Not the most mathematically nuanced, but combined with the eye-test, it can help us rank these players.
Let’s go:

#4

Ben Simmons
PER – 17.1
APG – 7.2
TOV – 4.0
PPG – 16.3

To start with and not to be unfair to him, Simmons has the smallest sample size of the four players. After having spent his “rookie” season on the bench for the Sixers, the 21-year-old is making a splash, running the offense in Philly. It doesn’t hurt a bit that he has Joel Embiid to help hold down the paint or guys like Robert Covington and JJ Redick to stretch the floor, but what is most intriguing and exciting to watch with Ben is his passing. Through a career total of 42 games, his average of 7.2 assists a game ranks him first among all current rookies with only Lonzo Ball even close at 7.1 (and he’s only played 36 games for the Los Angeles Lakers).

So what is Ben Simmons’ ceiling? Where is his weakness? If his time at LSU (and so far in the league) is any indication, then the only handicap in his game would be his jumpshot. While his field goal percentage at the rim is fine (43.6 percent), he seems to have no confidence in his jumper — for good reason. Between three and ten feet from the basket Simmons is shooting 32.3 percent, and it gets worse. From ten to 16 feet out (known as mid-range) he is shooting 19.8 percent — not good. His three-point shot is practically non-existent. Ben’s game is still young and working its way through The Process but that certainly hasn’t stopped him from showing flashes of greatness.

#3

Giannis Antetokounmpo
PER – 19.8
AST – 3.7
TOV – 2.4
PTS – 16.4/28.2 (2017-2018)

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now, Giannis is a freak, in every sense of the phrase, word or what have you. Every game Giannis is like a baby deer learning how to walk and going from that walk to an outright sprint in four seconds. His eye-test is through the roof to where most people agree he could win an MVP before he turns 25. His points per game are included above only because of how high it is this season compared to his first four years; two of which he was listed as the starting SG/PG —
Giannis has done it all. This is a 6’11” terror who is listed on BasketballReference.com as playable at every head coach to design a perfect player and then develop him into a Hall-of-Famer (except for his shooting, which was bad, but is steadily improving). For his first three years, jumpshot. Through last season and this year he has increased his volume as well as his accuracy to an insane 54.6 field goal percentage (obviously a lot of those are layups/dunks using his incredible 7’ wingspan and massive hands). He is even attempting 1.6 threes a game (with not great accuracy, but it’s improving). Much like with Simmons, Giannis’ upward potential relies entirely on his ability to build up his jumpshot — and he has already made TWO All-Star games!

#2

Kevin Durant
PER – 25.2
AST – 3.9
TOV – 3.2
PTS – 27.1

This may be an unconventional pick for this discussion but it needs to be argued. Durant began his career with the (now long-gone, RIP) Seattle Sonics where he played the shooting guard. To refresh, Earl Watson, Luke Ridnour, and Delonte West were the three point guards for the Sonics that season and for some reason head coach P.J. Carlesimo believed playing the true seven-footer (he is, don’t even deny it) in an off-ball role would benefit this team. In hindsight, it didn’t really help the team, but it did help Durant.

Durant started out hot in his rookie season averaging 20.3 points per game on 43.0 percent from the field and a below-average 28.8 percent from deep. Once moving to OKC and playing with high-usage players like Westbrook and Harden, he wasn’t able to really show what he could do with the ball in his hands. Coincidentally, it wasn’t until he came to play in Golden State that his usage rate as the primary handler really became a thing. Playing alongside one of the greatest shooting point guards (do you need to ask?) in the history of basketball as well as an accurate shooting guard (Thompson) with probably the quickest release of all-time, occasionally, Durant was able to flourish in a more primary role while the others either rested or played off-ball. Durant would probably be mad he comes in second again, but still, coming in at number two on this list isn’t so bad.

#1

LeBron James
PER – 27.6
AST – 7.1
TOV – 3.4
PTS – 27.1

If positionless basketball is just now taking on, then somewhere around 2007-08 is when this OG of all positions invented it. There’s a reason he’s known as The King, The Chosen One and The Akron Hammer. His ‘07 season was the mountaintop of “drag every single one of you to defend the Eastern Conference no matter what I have to do” (seriously, look at the rest of that roster). During that season, LeBron averaged 30 points a game on an excellent 48.8 field goal percentage, while shooting 31.5 percent from behind the arc. His points were a career-high that season while his assists were 7.4 a game, tied for fourth-highest of his career. This was a season in which his roster consisted of Shannon Brown, Larry Hughes and Delonte West (dude has taken a beating this article – clearly he was not a great point guard).

LeBron began his fifteen-year career as a shooting guard and eventually evolved into the primary ball handler/offensive threat on every team he has played on. Currently, he is averaging 8.6 assists a game which is a near career-high through the better part of the last two decades. He is a freight train in transition, unstoppable in the post, with the incredible vision to break down your defense if you dare bring a double-team. The King has transcended what it means to be a big man running the offense and for that, he has to be the true winner in this contest.

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