J.J. Redick: A-
On July 1st, 2017, J.J. Redick tweeted “Trust the Process” and the word was out: the veteran sharpshooter would be heading to South Philadelphia for his 12th NBA season, ditching offers from the Brooklyn Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Redick and the Sixers agreed to a 1-year deal worth $23 million. Although the signing seemed like an overpay, the deal was easily palatable for most Sixers fans for a few reasons. The Sixers had an abundance of cap space for the 2017-2018 season, Redick fit perfectly within the roster construction, and, after all, it was only a 1-year deal. Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated titled his July 2017 article, which assigned a grade to the transaction (B+), “J.J. Redick Signing Makes Perfect Sense for Sixers.” Seemed so.
Redick could serve as a type of big brother to a squad riddled with yoots, mentoring Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the rest of the wet-behind-the-ears Sixers on their journey through the NBA season. On top of the ol’ veteran presence, J.J.’s reputation of providing floor-spacing via his stellar 3PT shooting figured to be instrumental in helping the Sixers obtain their primary goal for the season — an appearance in the NBA playoffs.
Redick’s tenure with the Sixers started off pretty much as expected. He shot 39.3% from 3PT territory in 5 games in October and 40.7% in 14 games in November, backing up the notion that Redick’s primary influence was opening up the court by draining shots from distance. Game-to-game observers quickly became accustomed to the way Brett Brown was utilizing Redick. J.J. spent offensive possessions running around screens over and over again, hoping to get just enough space to fire off a jumper or simply acting as a decoy. For the most part, many Sixers fans took just one issue with Redick’s game early on: “Why is he seemingly always jumping sideways when shooting?” (It didn’t end up mattering.)
As the season progressed, it was much of the same from the shooting guard. Redick had just one month of shooting lower than 38.5% from behind the 3PT line, when he shot 34.7% in February. And there was a pretty reasonable explanation for the February dip: Redick had a leg injury in mid-January that caused him to miss 7 games before returning on January 31st. It’s likely the injury, and interruption of repetition resulting from said injury, disturbed the extremely meticulous Redick and his jumper. He would battle back in March, hitting 45.3% of his treys. Over the course of the season, the 3PT specialist connected on 42% of his triples on nearly 7 attempts per game.
Distance shooting wasn’t the only impact Redick contributed. When you consider the all encompassing true shooting percentage, Redick showed the ability to be a multilevel threat with a TS% of 61.4%. That number was good enough for 4th on the team, trailing only Demetrius Jackson (really, doesn’t even count), Marco Belinelli and Trevor Booker, all of whom played significantly less games as a Sixer than Redick. Redick showed an ability to get layups at the rim from cutting despite seeming to always nearly be a victim of a chase down block. And he brought personal surprise displaying quick-thinking passing at times, averaging 3 assists per game. He’s no (former teammate) Chris Paul — he doesn’t really create and his handle is less than stellar. But J.J. found teammates every now and again in a way that prompted me to say to myself, “Oh. I didn’t know he had that in his repertoire.” Redick’s well-rounded offensive game helped propel him to the 2nd highest offensive rating on the team out of players who performed in at least 30 games as a Sixer.
If Sixers supporters did take issue with Redick, it was likely on the defensive side of the ball. He wasn’t necessarily a bad team defender off the ball, but his relatively small frame and lack of speed make for a lousy point-of-attack defender. For most of the regular season, the Sixers defensive scheme and overall talent on that end of the floor allowed Redick to hide defensively. You could do worse than his 102.1 defensive rating from a 2 guard, but again, you have to wonder how much of that number is a product of the players around him.
Other metrics paint a picture of Redick having been below average on defense (to say the least), with his DRPM (ESPN) registering at -1.95 and his DBPM (Basketball-Reference) at -2.6. We sometimes had clues into what those numbers were seeing. There were times, specifically in the playoffs, in which his defensive deficiencies manifested. The Celtics often targeted J.J. in the playoffs and with great success. The point being this: Redick was typically fine as an off-ball defender for most of the regular season. But the playoffs revealed flaws that most could assume would come out sooner or later due to his lack of natural abilities to play defense. Oh, and the fact that the regular season occasionally showed those flaws.
Ultimately, Redick added a dynamic to the Sixers’ offense that usually negated defensive lapses. How else could he be a member of a 5-man lineup that ranked #1 in net rating in the Association amongst high usage lineups? En route to a career high in points per game (17.1), Redick’s presence often exceeded the box score. While defenders chased him through screens all game long, spaced was the floor. Did he have the most impressive season of any Sixer? Most might give that distinction to Ben Simmons (or Joel. But I feel like people expected greatness from Joel and were not ready for Simmons to be this good, this fast), and I’d be inclined to agree.
But Redick gave the Sixers exactly what they were looking for when Bryan Colangelo and Josh Harris opened up the checkbook for 23 mil. Redick, in some respects, allowed Brett Brown to run a highly effective offense, initiated by a rookie, no less. Was J.J. solely responsible? Hell no! But his presence did wonders for the rest of his teammates, and I feel certain the Sixers finish with less than 52 wins if the signing was never made. And after all, the Sixers met their goal.
“Exactly what they were looking for.” The course syllabus lays out exactly what a professor is looking for in regards to grading criteria. And when a student fully meets the criteria on that syllabus, they receive an A. I’m not arguing Redick was an All-Star level player. And I deducted half a letter grade for the defensive struggles in the playoffs. However, overall I was impressed with Redick’s contributions this season. Whether or not the Sixers retain his services, his play made one thing very clear: an elite 3PT shooter opens up an offense to be creative, innovative and dynamic.