I typically avoid opinion pieces nowadays, but when I saw the news of DeAndre Jordan being pursued by the Sixers it bothered me, maybe more than it should have. I have an issue with it, but not necessarily for the reasons you might initially think.
When news broke about the Sixers pursuing Jordan it puzzled me. Sure, Jordan is a NBA vet and he is what the Sixers have reportedly been in the market for: a big that can set screens and catch lobs. That, in theory, is true. However, Jordan is at the end of his career, and the case can be made that he should’ve been out of the NBA for two or three years already.
Let me say that Jordan himself isn’t what I have an issue with in regards to these rumors. I get that Doc Rivers might not trust Charles Bassey, a rookie, to backup Embiid for a potential championship run. I get that Paul Reed has had his ups and downs this season. I also get that Paul Millsap, who is 37 years old and 6-foot-7, probably isn’t the answer either. Willie Cauley-Stein hasn’t played a NBA game in months.
My issues spawn from what the Sixers haven’t done, not what they might do. Let me explain.
When the Sixers traded away Andre Drummond it left me with some personal excitement. It was nothing against Drummond, who was really good within his role for the team. In fact I think most Sixers fans can honestly say that they miss him. I was personally excited to see Reed given a chance with a newfound wide open opportunity. James Harden has had a history of elevating centers around him, and I thought Bball Paul could possibly be that guy given some time.
We’ve gotten a chance to see Reed in action at various points in the season where he showcased some impressive flashes. One of the highest moments for him were competing against DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo when the Sixers endured COVID problems. He didn’t stop them by any means, but he stayed in front of them and made them work for their shots — which is all you can ask.
We did get a chance to see Reed get some run after the trade deadline, playing a combined 34 minutes across three games. There were mixed results, but the small sample size showcased some passable minutes that led to some intrigue. Harden, as you all know, wasn’t available for those games with a hamstring injury. It wasn’t until the post-All-Star break that we could even get a chance to see Harden on the floor with any of the Sixers’ backup bigs.
Fast forward to now and it’s apparent that we will simply never see Harden and Reed play a minute of basketball together, for this season at least — which I simply don’t understand at all.
Harden works best with rim-running bigs that can set screens and roll hard to the rim; a mold that all of Bassey, Reed, and Cauley-Stein fit. So why not give them a chance? After all, these next 20 or so Sixers games are experimenting on the fly to see what works best for this team before the postseason. The Sixers have lacked a long-term answer at the backup center position for the entire Embiid era in Philadelphia, and it seems like that problem will remain after this season.
The lack of Reed situation has shades of Richaun Holmes’ time in Philly back when he was a Sixer. Holmes showed flashes, but never got the opportunity to really solidify his role with the Sixers before being traded away for cash considerations. He has since proven himself and recently inked a hefty extension with the Kings. I’m not saying Reed is the next Holmes. Nothing is a given, and it’s far from guaranteed that Reed, or any of the current centers on the roster, can provide average minutes at best.
Here’s what I’m getting at: I would argue that having no answer is worse than having a bad one in regards to the Sixers’ backup big situation. Having three or four question marks behind Embiid is a serious concern.
It’s one thing if the Sixers play Reed or any of the bigs and it just doesn’t work out. Then I think signing Jordan, or some other veteran center, is very much justified. However Reed has held his own defensively every time he’s been on the court this season. The minutes, while inconsistent, haven’t been a nightmare — and that in itself is worth a look if you’re trying to find a long-term answer behind Embiid.
One of the biggest reasons for Reed not being on the court was the Sixers had to space the floor for Simmons, who is now long gone. Reed’s offense is still very raw, but he’s more than capable of setting screens and catching lobs. The bar has been lowered substantially in regards to what is being asked of him.
Now, it seems like the Sixers will eventually sign Deandre Jordan, making him the fifth center rostered on this team. Using five full-time roster spots on four centers with huge question marks looming over their heads is a huge concern for any contending team — especially when you factor in that there’s other holes in this Sixers roster that could be addressed.
Even though I’m not high on him I hope I’m wrong about Jordan. Harden has a history of elevating his teammates, and that could be the case with Jordan. He’s also had his best years under Doc Rivers, albeit several years ago. The Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond signings initially raised some question marks and those turned out OK. These are all fair points.
Jordan will likely only average ten or fifteen minutes at most in the postseason, with all of those minutes likely being next to James Harden. If Jordan plays passable defense, sets screens, and catches a lob or two it won’t be a big deal.
However, if the Sixers get the DeAndre Jordan that has been labeled negatively by NBA fans and analysts for the past few years things could get ugly fast. If that happens the Sixers won’t have an answer in their most crucial moments because they’ve simply chosen not to find one.