With one game left in the regular season, it's already time to start thinking about summer league. For the Sixers, the biggest question about the competition in July is, will Ben Simmons play?
"I think it would be good if he did, but I wouldn't say it's a prerequisite he has to play," Brett Brown said. "I think still his health and the judgement of his health rules the day."
Simmons was sidelined for his entire rookie season with a Jones fracture in his right foot. He has not been cleared for full contact five-on-five practice with the Sixers.
Given the fact he has been limited in closely monitored activity with his teammates, it would not be unusual for the team to hold him out of summer league play. Simmons did not participate in every game last summer when he was healthy, let alone coming back from a lengthy injury.
The Sixers would have liked to get a more comprehensive look at how Simmons will fit into their system, a forecast unafforded to them this season.
"I do concede the thing that we missed with him not playing after the All-Star Break is, I have this vision that I want to pursue with him as a point guard," Brown said. "Nobody can promise that I'm right. I don't know either. But I think from what I have studied from truly his childhood, and high school and LSU, I feel confident that we should try this and look at it. We would know a lot more in that regard had he had played and we could know a lot more in a summer league. But we don't."
Evaluating Simmons' role must come in two parts. First, can he play point guard? Second, what kind of backcourt pairing will the Sixers need to complement him? Last offseason, the Sixers signed point guard Jerryd Bayless to a three-year deal with the vision he could play the combo guard role with Simmons.
"It's somebody that can guard the other point guard, it's somebody that can make a three, it’s somebody that can bring the ball up the floor from time to time or run a second side pick and roll," Brown said. "I think that Jerryd does, to (president of basketball operations) Bryan Colangelo’s credit, fit the qualities that we’re going to need in that position next to Ben Simmons."
Brown is thinking far beyond summer league when it comes to Simmons. He envisions a starting core with the players on the roster, even if they are currently unavailable to be on the court.
"I think if you go Ben Simmons at a one, that type of player at a two, (Robert) Covington at a three, (Dario) Saric at a four and (Joel) Embiid at a five, when you start draping over the tenants of how we want to play, can that team play defense, you bet? Can they run, yes they can," Brown said.
How will all of that pan out with Simmons playing point? The Sixers may not be able to see until training camp.