The Sixers are 3-0 since James Harden’s team debut. After knocking off the New York Knicks in back-to-back games, the team improves to 38-23, third place in the Eastern Conference.
But while the franchise has landed its best backcourt weapon since Allen Iverson, they may or may not still have some backup center issues. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
So they’re turning to the available free agent pool for former two-time All Defensive team member, DeAndre Jordan. The signing became official Thursday night.
Earlier in the day, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that this would go down, barring an unexpected waiver claim. That implies a bunch of other teams didn’t want Jordan, or Jordan didn’t want them, or some combination thereof.
Barring an unlikely waiver claim before the 5 PM ET deadline today, center DeAndre Jordan is expected to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers, sources tell ESPN. Lakers waived Jordan on Tuesday and Sixers have an open roster spot and desire to add another backup center.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 3, 2022
The Sixers haven’t had a clear solution here since parting with Andre Drummond, who joined Ben Simmons and Seth Curry, that trio now in Brooklyn.
Paul Millsap, who came over from the Nets with Harden, received 56 minutes over 5 games from head coach Doc Rivers. Millsap has’t looked good — frankly he’s looked bad. The team has been outscored by 25 points in his brief stint. Guards and centers are having their way with him.
Woj notes that the Sixers are parting ways with Willie Cauley-Stein to make room. Trill was signed to a 10-day contract but only saw six minutes of action.
The team is looking for DJ to no doubt, protect the rim a bit, and catch some lobs following pick-and-roll action with James Harden. The 14 year-vet is 33 years old and appeared in 32 games this season for the struggling Lakers. He started in 19 games, averaging four points and 5.4 rebounds in 13 minutes.
Philly won’t expect him to switch or shoot threes. You don’t tend to find valuable skills like those on the wire this late in a given season.
So why is he here? Well, few in the game, if any, throw alley-oops to a rolling big quite like The Beard. Joel Embiid isn’t a lob threat and that’s fine. He’s better off saving the finite number of jumps in his super-maxed legs for contesting shots on defense.
But it would be such a shame if the Sixers had nobody on the roster who could catch lobs thrown with this type of precision whenever Jo takes a breather:
This angle of Claxton's poster on LeBron pic.twitter.com/RH65j6xeuq— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 27, 2021
DJ of course, was one of the best to do that in basketball long ago. He and Chris Paul made some sweet and vicious music together in Lob City under Doc.
More recently, Harden and Jordan put something on film during their time in Brooklyn last season. Surely that’s what caught the Sixers’ eye here:
James Harden x DeAndre Jordan— Brock Landes (@LandesBrock) March 2, 2022
Doc Rivers’ system is friendly to backup bigs.
6ers just need between 10-16 minutes from the big body. pic.twitter.com/hxZFDgpifu
But whether or not DJ still deserves playing time on a contender is at least a fair question. LB’s Harrison Grimm simply doesn’t see it.
It doesn’t seem impossible that the Sixers can get more out of Jordan than they can the other remaining reserve bigs on their roster. Maybe Harden can do what Kevin Durant and LeBron James couldn’t, and help Jordan consistently find a way to offer solid minutes on a championship or bust squad, perhaps we’ll see.
I’m not completely counting Jordan out. To me, Daryl Morey, after executing the Harden trade, deserves the benefit of the doubt.
But it does seems needlessly risky to simply hand DJ the reigns without holding a quiet tournament allowing players like Paul Reed and Charles Bassey to step up and compete too.
Here’s the thing. The stakes are very high. This coaching staff may feel confident they’ve seen enough from B-Ball Paul or Bassey in games, in practices, or the G League, to make a final determination they’re not the solution. They know more than we fans do, for sure.
But this franchise has a recent history of blowing the backup big minutes. I submit, Greg Monroe.
This head coach has a recent history of blowing the backup big minutes. The last two playoff series Doc lost could probably have been salvaged if he’d listened to the countless fans and analysts who screamed “use Montrez Harrell less, Ivica Zubac does better against Jokic!” And later “don’t just play Dwight Howard no matter what, there are matchups not suited for his skillset!”
So we fans should’t be completely ignored when we say things like “let’s at least see how player X looks before deciding to give all the reserve run to DeAndre.” If the Sixers are willing to experiment and DJ wins out, great. As long as it’s a meritocracy and not a gerontocracy, we all win.
When the glass is half full, this is a no brainer, another low-opportunity cost signing, and DJ figures to offer much more than Cauley-Stein, especially if Harden himself endorsed the decision. When the glass if half empty, Doc is going to overplay his guy rather than experiment with playoff viable lineups and it will predictably combust in a couple of months as defenses put DJ in a slew of high-screens he hasn’t been able to credibly defend in many years. This is Philly, we’re allowed to waffle back and forth between both perspectives as we se fit.
Welcome to Philly, DJ! There’s nothing weird about being Joel’s backup, honest!