Whether you like him or not, you have to admit just how big of a role JJ Redick has on the Philadelphia 76ers. The sharpshooting veteran was brought in last year to add a shooter to a team with several questions surrounding floor spacing. Having a veteran who has played in the playoffs every season of his career was also a welcome addition to a team with so much inexperienced youth.
Over his two year tenure in Philadelphia, Redick has hit several highs and lows that come with the territory of playing in front of some of the most passionate fans in sports. His performance last postseason in which he came up small seemingly every game made many sour on his play. Many people asked, if Redick isn’t hitting his outside shots, what is the use of having him on the court? For the most part of his career he has been targeted on the defensive end, him making his shots and being effective on the offensive end glossed over the issues he brought defensively.
Redick’s production this season has been a mixed bag, but once again the problems on defense overshadowed his production on offense when his shot wasn’t falling. It is easy for anyone to see that Redick gets hunted on defense. Whether you're an occasional viewer or a basketball savant, when you watch JJ Redick transition to the defensive end of the court he is often times overwhelmed. With all of the additions the Sixers made this season Redick’s role on the team has changed quite a bit. Now the fourth or fifth option on offense, his defense has been observed under a microscope because his offensive role has diminished.
For the second postseason in a row offenses looked ready to attack Redick for easy points, and yet during the first round series against the Nets something odd happened: Redick learned how to play defense! After the draining experience that was Game 1, adjustments were made and Redick surprisingly became one of the Sixers most reliable defenders. Brett Brown made the call to have Redick stick on his man through everything whether it be screens or switches, and it worked. After the solid performance of Joe Harris in Game 1 (13 points, 5-7 from the field, 3-4 from three), he became a non factor throughout the rest of the series due to the adjustment to have Redick stick on him. Redick is known for his shooting prowess so much that it is often forgotten how great of a shape he is in at 34 years old. The legs have mileage on them but he still finds ways to outrun people and stay attached to the hip as a defender. The change in game play had an obvious effect, as Harris averaged only 7.7 points throughout the rest of the series, shooting 11-36 (30.5%) from the field and 1-17 (6%) from deep.
Redick’s current assignment is the sharpshooting Danny Green, someone who mirrors his own situation as a player who isn’t the top option but helps the offense run smoothly when his shots are dropping. Once again, Redick seems up to the task of shutting down the opposing shooting guard as Green has combined to score 10 points on 3-13 (23%) shooting from the field and 2-10 shooting from deep (20%) through two games. Whether or not Redick can keep up this stellar stretch of play on the defensive side of the ball is yet to be seen, but the team has to be impressed with the newfound confidence.
JJ Redick will never be a First Team All-NBA defender, and he doesn't have to be. As long as he can be an average defender that makes life hard for opposing shooters, the Sixers will be that much more dangerous on both ends. Redick catches a lot of flak for coming up small in big situations, but his evolution into a competent defender could be the first step in changing that narrative.