Bob Cooney has a great article about how the NBA has changed and is changing. His main point is that great teams tend to shape their strategy around their talent. Currently, the Warriors do this with small ball, heavy on shooters and movement in the paint.
The Cavs — a team that Cooney does not talk about as much — are a bit different. With their three great vets, the Cavs feed off reading and reacting. They take what you give them. Play Lebron one on one (like the Celtics just did) and he will score pretty much at will from inside or outside. Double him and you get Love or Irving or Korver, doing their things.
So what about the Sixers? Last year, they found out that Embiid can change a game by dominating in the üaint. Embiid, for example, took away Lebron’s patented drive into the lane where normally his combination of bulk, speed and finishing skills wipe out defenders. Embiid is bigger, just as quick and has very good shot blocking skills. Lebron was suddenly less effective. Embiid was less efficient on offense, but not bad there either — able to score from the 3, from mid-range and inside.
The Sixers also found out that Dario Saric can score and pass. The offense can flow through him. And while he is not as dominant as Embiid, when he is on the floor, he can change the game.
This year, the Sixers have Ben Simmons and at least one new player. We do not know yet how effective Simmons will become. We do know that he is big, quick, passes like a dream and has a great handle. His shooting — they say — is coming along.
And the support case is there. Roco, McConnell, Stauskas, etc. they will play key roles even if they don’t dominate.
Notice that Embiid, Saric, and Simmons are big – very big. The Sixers are likely to put a big team out on the floor. That does not mean big and slow. They will be big and likely just as quick as small ball teams. I can’t wait to see a Simmons initiated pick and roll with Embiid. Embiid is so wide, it will force a switch. There is no way the big dude covering Embiid will be able to keep up with Simmons. Alternatively, there is no way a smaller wing or guard will be able to hang with Embiid as he rolls to the hoop for a dunk. And that is just one example of what pairing these kinds of dudes can do.
This will be a different style of play than we have seen around the league — where a lot of teams are going small. It will be interesting to see how it plays out!