The backup center situation in Philadelphia has long been a topic of debate since the Sixers lost to the Raptors in 2019. We’ve seen a pipeline of centers make their way through the city as the Sixers have longed for a long-term big behind Joel Embiid: Richaun Holmes, Amir Johnson, Boban Marjanovic, Greg Monroe, Al Horford, Kyle O’Quinn, Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, just to name a few.
While a rotational big wouldn’t be much of a factor for most teams, it is for the Sixers; as they want to keep their cornerstone player in Embiid healthy. Having a key player to step up while he’s out is huge. It’s even bigger for extended playoff runs.
Drummond was arguably the best backup the Sixers had in the Embiid era. Since his departure, we’ve seen the Sixers look through several options; 37-year-old Paul Millsap, a near-34 year old DeAndre Jordan, and now Paul Reed. The Sixers have invested four full-time roster spots in this role alone this season.
While Drummond’s departure left some questions, we finally have some answers to where the Sixers should go with this long-debated topic. Look no further than the two young bigs already on the roster: Charles Bassey and Reed.
The Sixers waited until the final two regular season games to give him a real chance in the rotation, but Reed has shown that he’s capable of playing 10-to-15 minutes per game. Through seven playoff games, Reed has logged 10.4 minutes per game with 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. While those numbers might seem modest, he’s shown that he’s a capable option in limited time. He’s ranked as a -5 in plus-minus across all seven games.
While a minus-five is nothing to show praise over, it’s a lot better than the other options found on the Sixers’ roster. DeAndre Jordan has had limited playing time, but he already has a net rating of -68.75 in 17 minutes of play.
Reed isn’t perfect, but the Sixers should give him a real chance. He makes mistakes, mostly with gambling on defense and fouling too often. But both of those qualities are commonly found in young big men. While his play is sporadic, he’s capable of producing some great flashes. One of the biggest areas of intrigue for me is his transition game. He’s capable of taking the ball up the court and getting easy transition buckets — an area where the Sixers have struggled somewhat.
These transition sequences from Paul Reed are really good. Would love to see him keep working on this aspect of his game. No other Sixers’ center (outside of Embiid) can do this.— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) April 11, 2022
Are people too high on Bball Paul? Probably. I’ll include myself in that group. But the bar for the backup center role has reached a new low.
Bassey, on the other hand, is another intriguing option just waiting for the right opportunity. We saw Doc Rivers even go to him over Drummond in some moments early in the season. His most notable moment was locking down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic when the Sixers were without Embiid. He looked disciplined and put together quality minutes that lead to an upset victory. If the Sixers are concerned with Reed’s fouling they should simply look here.
Doc Rivers on Charles Bassey: “You rarely see a rookie 5 calling out coverages, calling switch… He’s been coached well.”— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) November 19, 2021
Gave credit to assistant coaches Dwayne Jones and Jason Love: “For about a week, they’ve been in my ear, saying, ‘He’s ready. I’m telling you he’s ready.’” pic.twitter.com/C00F3raF2C
Since then, Bassey has spent most of his time down in the G League with the Delaware Blue Coats. He was a huge factor in the Blue Coats securing the third seed, averaging 18.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game. There’s a lot to like about his game and how it can possibly translate in the NBA. He rolls well, patrols the rim, and knows how to play within the pick-and roll-game.
It makes the most sense for the Sixers to invest in their young bigs now more than ever, from a short- and long-term perspective. They’re reliant on their backup bigs more than ever with Embiid enduring multiple injuries. They need to stay afloat as they play without him.
Between Bassey and Reed, the Sixers have all they need for the backup center position moving forward — and perhaps even right now. Bassey is more of a traditional big who’ll matchup better against big bodies while Reed is much more mobile and can guard players on the wing. Both players will combine to make roughly $3.5 million next season. Depending on what happens in free agency (James Harden’s extension, whether they trade Tobias Harris, etc.), they very well might be limited in what they can do finically. They can use their mid-level exception or cap space elsewhere on important needs.
It’s time for the Sixers to invest in Paul Reed and Charles Bassey. It was a huge error on the Sixers’ behalf to not give either of these players a chance before burning a roster spot on Jordan.
The Sixers have two intriguing prospects on cheap deals for the next year or two. They very well could be the long-term answers they’ve been seeking for years at the backup center spot.