Celtics fanboy and the face of The Ringer Bill Simmons hopped onto The Lowe Post with ESPN’s Zach Lowe on Wednesday. In the midst of their wide ranging conversation, the Sixers came up, and while Simmons typically allows his Boston homerism to take over, he had a few nice things to say about Philly’s team.
On the Celtics’ Loss of Horford
Simmons said of Horford’s play for Boston last year:
We’re just talking regular season, we’re not talking playoffs. We’re just talking 82 games, regular season… Horford’s playing 30 minutes a game and he’s in his mid-30’s and he was averaging 14 and 6 or 15 and 6 or whatever and was good on defense during the regular season. He wasn’t transcendent. I think (the Celtics) can patch together that position and at least get to 60% of what he gave them. I don’t think this is like Denver losing Jokic. People are getting a little carried away with the loss of regular season Horford. Playoffs, different story, I’m with ya. That guy in the playoffs, I love that guy. He’s a warrior. He’s played in a million big games. He’s the fulcrum of everything happening. He’s also the same guy last year that that team was healthy last year and didn’t play well the whole year and had a ton of defensive breakdowns. So I just wonder if he’s hitting potentially a different point in his career. It’s at least worth talking about right? He’s been in the league 12 years.
Simmons speculated on why Al Horford chose to go to Philly:
Horford looked at the Celtics thing, and from what I’ve heard, I think a big part of what drove it was he didn’t think physically he could handle (playing center) anymore. And that’s why he wanted to go to Philly, because he didn’t wanna guard Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic and all these ****ing dudes. He just physically couldn’t do it for eight months anymore.
On the Sixers
Lowe asked Simmons who he thought would be the top team in the Eastern Conference, and while Simmons admitted that he thinks Giannis Antetokounmpo has another two levels to increase in the next four years, the Sixers have the highest ceiling:
I think Philly’s upside is pretty ridiculous and a lot of it involves Ben Simmons. Is this shooting thing actually going to be real for him or is he at least gonna make people respect it a little bit like Giannis how was able to make people respect him at least a touch from 24 feet? The Embiid upside is incalculable, especially if he’s in better shape. I just think if you’re gonna pick one team in the conference who you’d be like, “Alright, somebody’s going 65-17 in the East, who’s it gonna be?” I think Philly’s the only team that has a chance to do that. I don’t think they’ll actually do it, but I think their ceiling is the highest.
On Josh Richardson’s Fit with the Sixers
Simmons and Lowe also riffed on replacing JJ Redick with Josh Richardson:
Simmons: You know I love JJ and he’s the Ringer Employee of the Year three years in a row. I just think they’re better with Josh Richardson in that position because of his ability to defend.
Lowe: Last year, Josh Richardson… I think the Heat realized midway through the season, “We’ve overtaxed Josh Richardson as a ball handler. We’ve reached the peak of what Josh Richardson is as a ball handler. And he’s kinda quaking under the burden a little bit. His shooting percentage is starting to go down. At the same time, point Justise Winslow made a leap and became a good player and really a point guard.” So Josh Richardson started coming off more screens. Now he’s not gonna do it like Redick. He’s not gonna look like Redick. He’s not as good of a shooter, his release isn’t as quick, JJ Redick’s one of the five best shooters in the world. But he started to do more of the actions… I think we will see Josh Richardson’s two-man game with Joel Embiid that looks a little bit like Redick’s two-man game with Joel Embiid. Something about Philly is sexy, man. They’re weird and they’re crazy and it could all blow up and they could all hate each other and maybe Embiid is still out of shape and drinking the Shirley Temples, but I like their team.
Simmons: I think Josh Richardson is overqualified to be the role he’s gonna be in Philly, which is great for him and for them. I think he was under-qualified to do what Miami asked for him last year. I think it’s a great situation for him. The catch is gonna be Simmons, right? He’s gonna decide for better or worse what happens with this team. If he ends up being used like he was used in these tough playoff games last year where he basically does not have the ball in the half-court offense and he’s just kind of hanging around the rim hoping to get an offensive rebound, then no. There goes the upside.
So there you have it. Simmons and Lowe seem to think the squad that Elton Brand has assembled has the highest upside and that Horford’s postseason play and Josh Richardson’s all-around game will make Philly a legitimate Finals threat.