Taken with the 53rd overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, Charles Bassey quickly found support among the Philadelphia 76ers fan base as a potential cheap, backup center option in the franchise’s never-ending quest to stay afloat in non-Joel Embiid minutes. His strong performance against the Denver Nuggets in November 2021 was a coming-out party of sorts for Bassey; in under 20 minutes of action, he tallied 12 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks, while doing an excellent job defending reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers praised Bassey’s effort after the game, per SI:
“Bassey was great. You can see it, his IQ. He got three blocks from behind because he read the play. I think he had two or three rebounds where he caught it, and instead of trying to go out and turn it over, threw it out that led to threes. He did a lot of good things. He blocked Jokic’s shot one time, so that was good. I’m happy for him.”
Of course, you know how things played out from there. Rivers presumably got a look at Bassey’s birth year falling in this century, and a few weeks later, the rookie was relegated to solely garbage-time minutes for the rest of the season.
Bassey entered this season third in the center pecking order, behind Embiid and fellow youngling Paul Reed. When Daryl Morey signed veteran Montrezl Harrell in September, it ultimately spelled the end for Bassey in his Sixers career, joining Isaiah Joe in this year’s “they showed promise, but were never really afforded a long enough look in Philadelphia” bucket.
A fresh start might have been for the best for Bassey, however, as he was quickly scooped up by the San Antonio Spurs on a two-way contract. After averaging 26 points per game in a pair of contests with the G League’s Austin Spurs, Bassey received the call-up. In two games for San Antonio, he has averaged six points, six rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 14 minutes per game. Like Doc Rivers, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had kind words for the young center’s performance out of the gate:
Yes. From earlier, Pop on Charles Bassey:— Matthew Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) November 10, 2022
"He’s aggressive, he’s a good defender, he moves the ball well -- for not knowing what the strategy is offensively or defensively, he’s caught on very quickly.” https://t.co/NCqJ4gS6Ko
However, unlike Doc, Pop looks as though he’s inclined to do something with the on-court evidence in front of him and on tape from the G League.
More Pop on signing Bassey, then giving him early playing time: "...he played a couple of G-League games and scored a thousand points in both games, and we said “well, maybe we’re dumb we haven’t been playing this guy."— Matthew Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) November 10, 2022
If only Bassey had dominated in the G League while with the Sixers, maybe he would have been given more of an opportunity. Oh wait...
Hearing those comments from Pop is particularly hilarious in light of Doc Rivers’ continual “Would you ask Pop that question?” attitude:
Could you imagine Doc saying something like “maybe we’re dumb” for not playing this guy? Or would he dig in and play DeAndre Jordan into the playoffs against every bit of on-court evidence and every fan screaming in agony to make it stop? Or tell reporters they don’t ask about the Harrell/Reed tandem when Trez has a good game?
Now, to be fair, San Antonio is clearly better positioned to offer minutes for development for a young player. While the Sixers are trying to maximize a present window of title contention, the Spurs are in the midst of a rebuild (stronger-than-expected start to the season notwithstanding), entering the season as the third-youngest team in the league. If Bassey does end up settling into a steady 15-to-20 minutes per game role in San Antonio, it’s disingenuous to say the same opportunity would have necessarily been available in Philadelphia.
Still, there had to have been more chances to take a look at Bassey during his year as a Sixer. But the supernova that is Tyrese Maxey aside, Philadelphia has done a terrible job trying to work youth development into the picture after shifting into win-now mode a few years back. For now, we’ll keep an eye on Charles Bassey’s progress in San Antonio. I’d love to someday say, “Maybe we’re smart for thinking the Sixers should have been playing this guy.”