Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on September 28.
Age: 20 (turns 21 on October 28)
Contract status: Reportedly signing a one-year, non-guaranteed deal
Bassey was selected by the Sixers with the 53rd overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-11 center played three years at Western Kentucky, including a medical redshirt when a broken tibia ended his sophomore season after 10 games. Returning to the court last season, Bassey averaged 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. While his defensive instincts, 7-foot-3 wingspan, and high motor are his most projectable attributes as a rim-running shot blocker at the next level, the Sixers are surely intrigued by his 2.1 3-point attempts per game last season. Bassey only made 30.5 percent, and he has a very slow release, but his willingness to shoot combined with his 76.8 percent mark from the free throw line across his collegiate career means there might be a stretch five diamond hidden in the rough.
Bassey was introduced to the game of basketball by a youth coach in Nigeria who saw the then-12-year-old selling fried chicken on the side of the road. Two years later, Bassey was MVP of the Giants of Africa camp co-founded by Masai Ujiri (you can watch a 2016 documentary about the youth program). Bassey then moved to Texas to attend high school and continue his basketball career, later becoming a top-10 recruit nationally according to multiple ranking sites and choosing Western Kentucky. He represents another great success story about the expansion of the game and outreach at the global level.
Season outlook: All that being said, if Bassey plays a significant role for the 2021-22 Philadelphia 76ers, something will likely have gone horribly wrong. The 20-year-old is strictly a center, and the Sixers already have two pivots on the roster: MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and recently-signed veteran Andre Drummond. Additionally, fan favorite Paul Reed got a long-awaited look starting at center in the final two games of Las Vegas Summer League, and with only the second 20-20 game in Summer League history to show for it (not to mention, those four assists, four steals, and four blocks), the Sixers might be more amenable to using Reed at the five, rather than the four, moving forward.
Under non-injury circumstances, then, Bassey will likely be spending a lot of time down in Delaware with the Blue Coats. Plus, the contract situation represents another fly in the ointment. Bassey’s camp and the organization were unable to reach an agreement on a deal that would have him participate in Summer League. Bassey looks poised to sign his required tender, a one-year, non-guaranteed deal at the minimum. With his not inking a long-term deal, what incentive would the Sixers have to give Bassey developmental reps that they might afford a young player who they know will be with the program for years to come?
Bassey is betting on himself, as he’ll be able to enter free agency next summer. However, with teams across the league allowing him to fall to the 53rd overall pick in the first place, and with not much of a path to NBA minutes to show what he can do at the next level, it would appear to be a risky proposition. We’ll see if Bassey can buck the odds and help the Sixers this season.