76ers Must Explore the Unknown With Zhaire Smith
A couple of months ago, the Philadelphia 76ers weren't sure if their first-round rookie Zhaire Smith would contribute to much in 2019. In fact, it was unclear if Smith would even be able to contribute to anything at all since he was still rehabbing his foot injury. As expected, Brett Brown left everybody with the idea that Smith likely wouldn't have his debut season in 2019, which seems to be the norm surrounding the Sixers' first picks.
Shockingly enough, Smith made a surprise appearance for the Delaware Blue Coats not too long after his injury update was discussed. Then, out of nowhere, Smith was recalled to the Sixers and surprisingly appeared in six games towards the end of the year. Two of which, he started. Although Brett Brown mentioned Smith would hardly be utilized in the playoff plans due to a lack of experience, he may want to re-think that thought process.
As a whole, the Sixers struggled against the Brooklyn Nets during Game One. This series wasn't expected to be an easy one for Philly, but they struggled much more than expected, which was a bit of a surprise. One negative factor about the Sixers game which was to be expected though was the fact that Jonathan Simmons was going to struggle coming off of the bench.
Simmons is a four-year veteran, who the Sixers acquired from the Orlando Magic in the trade involving Markelle Fultz. Although nobody expected a game-changing performance from Simmons, his contributions, or lack thereof, have been damaging the team when he's on the floor. Brown's decision to avoid going with an inexperienced rookie in the playoffs to prevent rolling with the unknown makes sense - but at this point, the unknown could be much better than what is known. And what is known is that Simmons is not the answer to the Sixers problems defensively.
During Game One, Simmons appeared on the floor for eleven minutes and only contributed a whopping four points. However, Simmons' lack of scoring isn't exactly the focal point of his issues. While on the floor, Simmons was a minus-16. Clearly, his defense has become one of the Sixers' glaring liabilities.
As the Brooklyn Nets were already a matchup nightmare for the Sixers, they need to ensure they can stop the Nets defensively during Game Two, or at least slow it down as long as they are struggling to score. Simmons' struggles on Saturday wasn't an isolated incident. He's struggled this much all season long. At this point, there's only one other option to patch everything up. That option is going with the rookie, Smith. It may or may not work, but it's a gamble that Brett Brown must be willing to take.
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