Now that Joel Embiid is officially rule out for game five against the Wizards, Doc Rivers has a hard decision on his hands. Who replaces the MVP finalist in the starting lineup?
Throughout the regular season, Mike Scott was the answer to this question. Dwight Howard ran with the starters on occasion, but Rivers prefers to keep him with the second unit.
Seeing how Scott has struggled this season, Rivers should look to go in a different direction on Wednesday night. Game five is a chance for him to experiment with an unorthodox lineup.
We have not seen Ben Simmons at center much this season, but adjustments were needed when Embiid exited due to injury. After seeing how successful the small-ball lineup was in game four, Rivers may look to utilize it again.
Now that Davis Bertans is out for the remainder of the series, Scott Brooks is likely to go small. If Rivers starts Simmons at center, the Sixers can match the speed of the Wizards' multi-guard lineup.
Putting Simmons in the frontcourt allows Rivers to add another guard or wing to the starting lineup. As crazy as it may sound, Tyrese Maxey is a name that might get considered when discussing potential starters. The rookie continues to impress in the postseason and gives the lineup more speed and offense.
Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle are two other names to be thrown in the mix. Korkmaz adds another ballhandler and outside shooting, while Thybulle makes the lineup more switchable on defense.
Starting Thybulle gives the Sixers another option to who defends Bradley Beal while Simmons is defending at the rim. Thybulle could also match up with Rui Hachimura as he has shown he can defend larger forwards. This creates the opportunity for them to play small and still have Simmons defend Beal at times.
In a postseason setting, a team needs to play their best players. Starting Scott is something you can get away with during the regular season but is questionable in the postseason. His shooting has been inconsistent, and he doesn't give that much more in frontcourt defense.
Going small allows the Sixers to open up the floor and up the tempo. Adding another guard to the lineup makes it easier for Rivers to use Simmons off the ball offensively. Most importantly as a screener in the pick-and-roll.
Rivers has spoken in the past about the idea of Simmons at center and has said it is a look he likes. Increasing the possibility that he does embrace small-ball for game five.
If the Sixers want to walk away with a win in game five, they need all their best weapons on the court. Experimenting with Simmons at center in big minutes puts them in the best position to do so.
Kevin McCormick covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN and Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCNBA.