Kenny Smith doesn't think Simmons can guard Beal or Russ originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Now that the Wizards have clinched the No. 8 seed in the East and a first-round meeting with the Sixers, it's time to start thinking about the matchups on the floor.
For the Wizards, figuring out how to slow down Joel Embiid will dictate their eventual success in the series, and in the Sixers' case, containing Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook will be high on their priority list. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ben Simmons figures to play a key role in defending Washington's back court, but one analyst doesn't think he's up to the task.
"Ben Simmons, I don't think can play on the perimeter consistently with either [Beal or Westbrook]," TNT's Kenny Smith said Thursday night. "I was a decent scorer, but if a guy at 6-11 tried to guard me I would feel I had the advantage. I don't care if Dennis Rodman switched out on me, I got him. He's too big to move his feet on a consistent basis all game.
"For a play, for a couple of plays, but if he picked me up full court like he's gotta do with Russell Westbrook and Beal, impossible. Those two guys are too crafty, too good, too athletic [for Simmons] to do that."
Simmons' main claim to fame on the defensive end is his ability to guard all five positions on the floor at an elite level, especially primary ball handlers. We've seen him lock down All-Star talents such as Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard, but Smith seems to like Beal and Westbrook in that particular matchup.
If Simmons draws Beal and Westbrook on a regular basis and it goes the way Smith is predicting it would, the Wizards would probably be in a good spot to make some noise in this series. According to Shaquille O'Neal, the only chance the Wizards have lies with their two star guards going berzerk.
"[Westbrook and Beal] have to play out of their minds," O'Neal said. "No games off, value every possession, high scoring games to have a chance. If one or two of those guys go off, they have a chance. Not saying they could win, but if they go off they have a shot."
Game 1 of Wizards vs. Sixers tips off on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Philadelphia. It'll be Washington's first playoff appearance since 2018, when they lost in the first round to the Raptors.