Point/Counterpoint: Would the Philadelphia 76ers be better off with John Wall or Ben Simmons? 

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The free agent saga of Ben Simmons has certainly kept the buzz of NBA free agency going as the season begins to take action. With NBA fans on the edge of their seats as they wait to see where the all-star will take his talents next, former NBA center Kendrick Perkins had an interesting take on the subject. “I think John Wall in Philly with Joel Embiid is better than Ben Simmons in Philly with Joel Embiid,” said Perkins. But, is Perkins really farfetched in his statement? The Daily Campus Sports section will debate Perkins’ take in this week’s issue of point/counterpoint. 

Evan: As someone who’s studied the game of Simmons ever since he’s come into the league, he has so much to offer to this 76ers lineup. As a defensive juggernaut, Simmons is always a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year as he plays consistent lock down defense to help out Philadelphia when they need it most. While his offense is certainly not where executives and coaches would like it to be, he is still a much better option than Wall. If this was a prime Wall, this may be a different conversation. But with Wall’s current situation in Houston and performance last year, Simmons is most certainly a better choice.  

Ajeeth: As of now, the Philadelphia 76ers have reached the last straw. After an embarrassing loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Atlanta Hawks last year, there have been a lot of questions surrounding how Philadelphia bounces back. John Wall would provide Philly with a couple of things they sorely need: a real shake-up in talent and a ball-handler willing to shoot. A John Wall acquisition, assuming the 76ers only lose Ben Simmons in a swap, would allow Joel Embiid to flourish as the obvious number-one option in a system geared toward getting him the ball while allowing Wall to steadily return to the form that made him electric for the Washington Wizards. An Embiid-Wall tandem could push Philly right back into serious contention. 

Evan: The problem with Wall going to Philadelphia would be that he’s not the same John Wall we’ve seen and with the NBA having a different focus on its playstyle, I don’t think Wall will ever have a similar effect as he did in his early years with Washington. In just 40 games for Houston last year, Wall shot just 31.7% on three-pointers. While this is better than Simmons, his shot is just not there to outweigh the notable deficiencies at point guard for Wall. Standing at 6-foot-4, his height is fairly average and with averages of just one block and one steal each, his defense lacks the impact that Simmons provides. Simmons’ defense is just such a strength that is hard to find in other guards and Wall’s offense is simply not spectacular enough at this point to make an impact. 

Ajeeth: While it is true that Philly would lose a tremendous defensive presence if Ben Simmons is not on the roster come Oct. 20th, wing defense in the NBA today is a dime a dozen. Even on the 76ers roster, there are plenty of wing defenders that can fill the void that Simmons leaves, like Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle, who both ranked in the top 15% of the league in defensive win shares last season, with Harris even securing the 11th spot on that leaderboard. Plus, a high-speed offense with Wall running point would be a welcome change to one that was slow and clumsy against good defensive teams, or even teams the likes of the Hawks. Ben Simmons’ refusal to even attempt threes in meaningful moments destroyed the spacing of the Philly offense, affording defenses the ability to smother Joel Embiid and not get punished for it. The fact that Wall is a player with high motor and athletic ability as well as being a 30% three-point shooter would make enough of a difference to turn the 76ers into a more dynamic team. 

Evan: Considering that Wall was only able to play in 40 games for Houston and has been heavily injured throughout his recent time in the NBA, I’m just not encouraged that he would be able to make that type of difference in Philadelphia. What if Wall were to get injured in a postseason run for Philadelphia? I disagree that Simmons’ defense would be easily replaceable by Thybulle or Harris as well. Harris and Thybulle are great defenders, but they’re simply not enough to replace Simmons and give the 76ers enough defensive effort to contend right now. While Simmons was definitely limiting his team with his inability to shoot, the entire team was really at fault throughout the season for depending on Embiid so much and not going to other options like Harris or even shooters like Seth Curry. If Simmons were to develop his confidence throughout the season and use his physical abilities to attack the rim more often, it would confuse defenses and provide another for Philadelphia. His playmaking is already fantastic and above Wall, which is just another feature he possesses in his game that gives him the leg up. You know what you are getting with Simmons and for Philadelphia, the hope that Wall will become the player that he once was is a chance at that.  

Ajeeth: At the end of the day, Ben Simmons has lost interest in playing for the Sixers. He has fractured his relationship with nearly everybody in that organization and gone into isolation after a dreadful playoff series against Atlanta, so I doubt he’s going to be looking for help to improve his game from within that coaching staff. Plus, this pattern of behavior he’s picked up also doesn’t bode well for him gaining enough confidence in his game to maximize his potential. At this point, it seems, and I’m sorry to say this, Ben Simmons has hit his skill ceiling as an NBA player. And even though Simmons has more talent than most of the league, his unwillingness to grow into a more versatile player will be the one of the reasons the 76ers would be better off jettisoning him and taking a flyer on the resurgence of Wall. Sometimes, the better player isn’t the best fit. 

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