The end of the first half of the NBA season is quickly approaching and the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference Standings. Joel Embiid is playing MVP caliber basketball, Ben Simmons has turned a corner after a slow start to the year, and Tobias Harris has improved a ton after a disappointing season last year. The Sixers’ front office made moves this offseason to keep a championship window for this team open after it seemed to be rapidly closing.
The moves given the most credit have been the savvy trades made to properly build the roster around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with new starters Seth Curry and Danny Green, but the way the team handled the latest draft has also made a difference both now and into the future.
While Tyrese Maxey has already given fans a glimpse of what they can expect out of him in the future, one of the other recent draftees is now working his way into the rotation to do the exact same. Isaiah Joe was someone linked to the Sixers from the very early days of the offseason — being able to draft him at 49th overall felt like a steal. He brings with him great touch from outside, a very moldable frame, and an effort that you don’t see from every player at the NBA level. So far this season in the spot minutes he has played he has shown that all of those talents have translated to the professional level.
The Sixers have enough playable options on the wing to allow Isaiah Joe to learn the game without having to be thrown into the fire, but the question being asked now is whether or not those players are good enough to keep Joe completely out of the lineup. The play we’ve seen over the last few weeks has given fans a resounding no as an answer to that question.
Furkan Korkmaz hasn’t been able to get shots to fall consistently. He’s only shooting 32.6 percent from deep so far and his defense leaves a lot to be desired. On the completely other end of the spectrum is Matisse Thybulle. While Korkmaz is offensive minded, Thybulle prides himself on his stellar defensive play. Him being so active on defense will keep him in the rotation, but if he continues to shoot only 27 percent from long range it will be increasingly difficult to justify giving him significant minutes around other players who aren’t great shooters.
Even though there are veterans in front of him, what we have seen out of the bench as of late goes to show there is no reason why the Sixers can’t take a longer look at Isaiah Joe. The rookie might not be as great of a shooter as Korkmaz at his peak or as rock solid defensively as Thybulle, but he is able to blend both of those players’ talents together. One of the biggest issues the Sixers have had over the last few years is the inability to find players who are above average at more than just one facet of the game. Joe can buck that trend should the team start giving him some of Korkmaz’s minutes throughout the rest of the season.
The rookie is shooting 37.3 percent from long range, is a threat to defenses due to his ability to shoot threes at high volume and get to the rim, and has been a surprising plus on defense so far. For as much as he has shown he is capable of he can only do so much with sparse minutes.
The Sixers’ bench has been underwhelming to this point. Isaiah Joe won’t fix everything, but he might be able to bring a spark that the unit is in desperate need of.