Simmons sends 76ers soaring into playoffs without Embiid

Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) dribbles the ball as Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) defends during the second half at Wells Fargo CenterPerhaps the Philadelphia 76ers don’t need The Process to succeed after all. Joel Embiid appropriated the nickname after becoming the franchise’s de-facto leader, but a concussion and fractured orbital bone knocked Embiid out of action with the playoffs approaching, leaving Philadelphia in a potentially difficult position. But thanks to Ben Simmons, the 76ers can’t stop winning, and they’ve ridden a 14-game win streak all the way to third place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Embiid had surgery to repair his orbital bone but there is still no timetable on his return, meaning Philadelphia is Simmons’ team for the foreseeable future. Simmons is playing more and seeing more of the ball, which is why he’s one rebound per game away from averaging a triple-double while Embiid is out of the lineup. Improved ball movement under Simmons is leading to more quality 3-point opportunities for perimeter shooters like JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli, while Ersan Ilyasova is picking up the slack on the glass, averaging 10 rebounds per game in April.

 

ESPN recently asked Simmons who he would pick for rookie of the year and his answer was obvious: himself. Simmons’ 12 triple-doubles place him second all-time for rookies behind only the legendary Oscar Robertson, and the fact that he has Philadelphia ahead of James and the Cavaliers despite losing Embiid should only help his case. The 76ers defeated Cleveland 132-130 last Friday in a game where both James and Simmons recorded triple-doubles, and that win is why Philadelphia is holding a half-game lead on the Cavaliers with two regular-season games remaining.

 

The 76ers close their season with a game against the lowly Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday and a meeting with a potential first-round playoff opponent in the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Even if Philadelphia’s streak comes to an end before the season does, home court in the opening round of the playoffs is already guaranteed. Obviously, the 76ers are at their best and most versatile with both of their young stars in the lineup, but Simmons’ ability to carry the team on a lengthy win streak without Embiid bodes well for Philadelphia’s long-term prospects.