One of the hottest topics surrounding the Sixers heading into the 2018-19 season is how Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz will play together.
Friday night's preseason opener against Melbourne United provided the first glimpse at how a lineup with both Simmons and Fultz might operate.
There are, of course, a ton of caveats to this extremely small data sample; it's the first preseason game, it was against a non-NBA team, and it was Fultz's first start since Oct. 4, 2017. Still, the speculation and data has to start somewhere.
On first glance, there are definitely some positive points of which to make note.
Simmons and Fultz didn't seem to have a problem coexisting. Simmons is an excellent distributor and made good use of Fultz's ability to get to the rim, assisting on four of Fultz's made field goals, and Fultz is the kind of ball-handling creator whom the team wished they had last season.
"Ben went to the other side of the floor when Markelle had the ball; it wasn't a wrestling contest at all," Brett Brown said after the game. "From that perspective, I thought there was a natural partnership that felt pretty good."
There are absolutely some things to be happy about with the pair working together, and defensively the two are as impressive as you could hope for from budding stars.
As Simmons pointed out after the game, there was some rust. It was the first game after a long offseason, so rust is to be expected.
"Felt weird, kinda rusty, but it was good," Simmons said. "The way [Fultz] plays the game, he's unselfish, can get to the rim, knows how to play the right way and he knows how to push the ball, which I love to do. Playing with him is going to be easy."
Though, there is one glaring missing piece. In all of the time that Simmons and Fultz were on the court together, not one three-pointer was made by anyone, and Fultz — who did attempt a few jumpers from mid-range — did not attempt anything from three-point land.
Alongside Fultz and Simmons, the rest of the starting lineup consisted of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington. All three are absolutely capable of making a three-point shot and Brown wants them all shooting, but it still remains that the two guards, the two with the ball in their hands most of the time, are not shooting from long range.
Again, this is just right out of the gate and it will likely take some time for Fultz to regain some confidence from distance, and nobody is expecting Simmons to start jacking up threes. But this is still something to keep an eye on.
As the long NBA season wears on and they start jockeying for playoff position, the Sixers will need to have a reliable three-point shooter in their starting lineup. In order to keep up with the way the game is played and how other elite teams will attack, the three-ball cannot be overlooked or ignored.