Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 27.
Contract status: On a partially guaranteed contract through 2023-24, including a salary of $1.56 million for 2022-23 ($74,742 guaranteed)
Charles Bassey has never had a great shot at a very significant role for next season. He did have some promising moments early last season, especially when he got to flash his rebounding and rim protecting talents more in November when the Sixers were shorthanded, but he dealt with a shoulder injury late in the season and had no final chances to take to the court.
Paul Reed was genuinely solid with his energy and defensive mobility through the end of last regular season and the playoffs, and made the most of his chance as the Sixers’ go-to backup to finish the year. For most of this offseason, he appeared to be in full control of the Sixers’ primary backup center role.
Then there’s P.J. Tucker, the Sixers’ top signing of free agency who addresses several areas of need — from rebounding, to perimeter defense, to general dawg-ness. While Tucker will mainly be manning the starting 4 spot, he can also shift down to center using his strength and serve as a smaller backup 5 here and there, too.
Next to Reed and Tucker, Bassey was only in position to fight for minutes, with the upside to give the Sixers a bigger center option off the bench and get some help to improve offensively as a roller alongside James Harden. Realistically, though, it was hard to see Bassey overtaking Reed or taking many minutes away from the small-ball option of Tucker. Bassey’s disappointing performance in Summer League this year didn’t help his case either.
Now, the Sixers have made another surprise addition to slash Bassey’s potential to earn minutes — or even stay on the roster — even more.
Montrezl Harrell isn’t a perfect signing. He’s a poor defender which has been plainly evident with his defensive woes in the playoffs through his career. To make matters worse, he has history with Doc Rivers from their time with the Clippers. The low point being when Rivers overplayed Harrell in the 2020 postseason against Denver (rather than relying more on Ivica Zubac) and Harrell’s defense was routinely burned. We all know Rivers’ long history of relying too heavily on his favorite vets. It should go without saying that he may just ride or die with Harrell in the playoffs, rather than turning to Reed’s better defense or getting creative with smaller Tucker-based lineups.
Nevertheless, there shouldn’t be any doubt that Harrell is walking into Philadelphia as the new primary backup 5. When it comes to giving second units more offensive juice, eating up minutes in a grueling, 82-game regular season and likely getting Joel Embiid more rest than he’s used to, Harrell is going to be a useful player to have. He’s an excellent rim roller who’ll pair perfectly with Harden, a highly productive scorer off the bench (averaging 15.4 points and 6.5 rebounds with a 64 true shooting percentage in only 25 minutes per game over the last four seasons), and a strong finisher. He’ll add a quality interior scoring threat to the Sixers’ second-unit frontcourts that they haven’t had.
Unfortunately for Bassey, Harrell’s strengths push the young sophomore even further away from having the chance to hang around as part of the team.
Season outlook: The Sixers now have 17 players under contract (plus Charlie Brown Jr. and Julian Champagnie on two-way deals), meaning they need to remove two players before the new season to reach the roster limit of 15. Perhaps the Sixers can find a two-for-one trade, pairing Furkan Korkmaz’s $5 million salary with another young player like Shake Milton or Isaiah Joe. Even if that suddenly happens, though, someone still needs to be cut before the new season opener.
With Harrell coming in to strengthen the center rotation even further, Bassey, with his small portion of guaranteed money, seems like a top candidate to be waived. With such a hard path to getting many minutes and having just under $75,000 of his salary for next season guaranteed, it’s easy to see why the Sixers may not want to use up a valuable roster spot on him.