When it came time for the Sixers to take their next step toward competing for a championship, another star was a necessity. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler solved that problem, but also created another big one in the process. Ever since the trade, the Sixers have been playing with an obvious weakness in the starting lineup: the power forward spot.
Obviously, in order to get a player of Butler’s caliber, good pieces have to be shipped out, but the loss of Dario Saric is hurting a lot more than one could’ve expected. While losing fan favorite Robert Covington in the trade goes down as a net positive because of who is replacing him in the lineup, the same can’t be said for the power forward spot. With Saric in Minnesota, the Sixers starting lineup has been clogged with the likes of Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, a situation that isn’t beneficial for anyone. Saric was no world beater, but when he was on the court, he was a solid third option on offense and worked hard to better himself on the defensive end. He did his job and helped space out the starting lineup. The same can’t be said for the new starters.
When Wilson Chandler was acquired in the offseason, his role on the team seemed like that of a veteran mentor who would help chip in off the bench to stretch the floor and bring much needed length and toughness. Now in his 11th NBA season, Chandler simply doesn’t have the legs to log big minutes every night, and that’s fine. But things change, and he has now been thrust into a role he shouldn’t have to fill. Sitting in the corner, not moving around to get open, and getting beat by younger, more explosive athletes on defense is not what the Sixers hoped for when they traded for Chandler, a situation magnified because of the role he now plays. Simply put, a change needs to be made. Whether it’s giving other players opportunities or bringing in someone from the outside, the Sixers need a new starting power forward.
The other more traditional power forward options already on the roster, Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden, don’t inspire the most confidence. Muscala has a few games started under his belt this year, but he is also a player that hasn’t lived up to expectations after his signing. Opting to go with the big man from Bucknell in the starting lineup would give the Sixers more spacing, but that’s basically it. Only shooting non-3-point shots 1.6 times per game, Muscala is a threat from deep but not much else. Besides Muscala, Jonah Bolden doesn’t have any starting experience and is just now able to crack the rotation. He needs more experience from the bench before he is even an option to start.
The easiest solution would be to use Ben Simmons at ‘power forward’ more often. Just because he is nominally playing the position doesn’t mean he can’t still run the offense. Then, the Sixers can start another shooter like Landry Shamet and cover up Simmons’ deficiencies even further. Simmons is the most switchable defender on the Sixers, so guarding larger players shouldn’t be a problem. Whether or not the Sixers experiment with this more than just the current small sample size every game is yet to be determined.
Right now, it feels like the Sixers are constantly playing a man down with their current power forward situation. Just one change could do wonders for the team. By making a trade for even just a middle-of-the-pack starter, then both Chandler and Muscala can go back to their original roles as bench depth. The Sixers need all the depth they can get, and making a move that allows both of these players to contribute in shorter spurts, instead of having the spotlight focused on them in the starting lineup, would be a huge help.