The Sixers are in a very difficult spot heading into the second round of the NBA Playoffs. They are staring down a series with the Atlanta Hawks, a trendy team that many are picking to pull off a massive upset and could be going at it without their MVP candidate, Joel Embiid. A small tear in the big man’s meniscus in his right knee has the potential to throw a wrench in the plan of the Sixers’ playoff run should he be forced to miss significant time.
Against the Washington Wizards in round one, the Sixers were able to get by with the combination of Ben Simmons and Dwight Howard soaking up the minutes at center, but against a team with more depth and skill, getting away with that combination is going to be a bit harder. There is one avenue that hasn’t been explored so far, and it’s one that fans can easily get behind: playing none other than Paul “BBall Paul” Reed.
Adding Paul Reed to the rotation without Embiid wouldn’t fix everything overnight, but giving him a few minutes throughout the series could end up being a smart move if the Sixers are forced to play without Embiid. Both Simmons and Howard are going to continue to play most minutes at the center position, but with Howard’s propensity to pick up quick fouls and Simmons needing some semblance of rest so he doesn’t gas out early in the series, the Sixers will need another option to handle a few minutes each game. Mike Scott was given the opportunity in Game 5 against the Wizards and didn’t do much with his minutes (much like the the entire season), so switching things up can’t hurt.
When looking at the opponents, the Hawks have three very athletic big men in Clint Capela, John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu who can rebound, run the floor and finish above the rim. While Simmons and Howard can negate that to a certain extent, if they’re not on the floor the Sixers will be at an obvious disadvantage. This is where Paul Reed really becomes a better option than Scott, as Reed has shown off his extreme athleticism throughout the season and seems like he has a better chance of slowing down these other big men in a way that Scott can’t.
The only thing that Scott has over Reed at this point is his ability to stretch the floor. Scott is shooting 34 percent from three-point range this season, and while that number isn’t incredibly impressive he has shown his willingness to shoot from deep, making the defense aware of his abilities and more likely to guard him around the three-point line.
Paul Reed, on the other hand, does not have that notoriety in the NBA yet. In a 15-game sample size during the G League season, Reed did shoot 44 percent on 3.6 three-point attempts per game, but he hasn’t had enough success in the NBA at the three-point line to make defenses really worry about that part of his game. If the opportunity presents itself, though, Reed can hit those shots — another reason for him to gain minutes over Scott at this point in time.
The hope is that Joel Embiid isn’t forced to miss much many games because of this knee injury, but if he does the Sixers do have a young, capable option to soak up some minutes. It might be a small role, but against a team that matches up well against his strengths, Paul Reed could become a factor in the Sixers’ second round series.