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Isaiah Joe enters his third season looking to earn a consistent role

The third-year wing showed flashes each of his first two seasons, but still faces a tall task to find routine playing time.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Isaiah Joe

Age: 23

Contract Status: Non-guaranteed contract worth $1.78 million that becomes guaranteed if he is not waived before the team’s first regular-season game

Last preseason, Isaiah Joe ripped through the nets and looked primed to garner minutes off the bench for the Philadelphia 76ers. Across four games, he averaged 16.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, two assists and 1.8 steals on 85 percent true shooting, including 59.3 percent (16 of 27) beyond the arc. In the Sixers’ 2021-22 regular-season debut against the New Orleans Pelicans, he notched 13 minutes, but misfired on all three of his field goals. In fact, he opened the year 1 of 10 overall and 1 of 8 from deep, which quickly extinguished his chances of cracking the rotation when everyone was available.

After Philadelphia revamped its cast of wings this summer, the likelihood Joe sees minutes on a nightly basis has dropped significantly. He’s also in the unenviable spot of having a non-guaranteed contract with the Sixers currently at 17 players, needing to release two of them and trim the roster to 15. I’d bank on him holding an edge over Charles Bassey and Trevelin Queen, but the sentiment remains that he’s not a lock to open the year in Philadelphia.

Joe’s appeal resides in his versatile off-ball shooting and defensive aptitude. He holsters a deep, quick trigger off the catch, can fire from wonky angles on the move and execute simple reads derived from the attention he commands. He’s slippery around screens, physical at the point of attack and understands team defense concepts well.

The issue, though, is he followed up his 36.8 percent rookie year three-point clip with a 33.3 percent mark last season. Inside the arc, he’s converted only 37.7 percent of his looks and has just 15 shots at the rim to his name, per Cleaning The Glass. His offensive viability is almost exclusively tied to his long-range shot-making and it has not sufficed through two seasons, albeit ones with highly limited opportunities.

Season outlook: Dating back to the pre-draft process in 2020, I’ve long been an ardent proponent of Joe’s game. The shooting indicators were quite good, the passing vision hinted at some latent playmaking potential and his multifaceted defense rendered him more than a shooter, despite his slender frame. Yet I also understand why he’s failed to see the court for an extended period. His primary allure is as a floor-spacer and he’s not delivered in that realm when called upon.

For all of head coach Doc Rivers’ faults, it’s easy to recognize that he might be hesitant to play an unproven second-rounder while trying to maximize an MVP-caliber superstar’s prime. I’d have given Joe a chance when Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz were out and/or mired in a slump last season. Both have lengthy samples of rotation-worthy play whereas Joe does not, though. The objective for Joe will be to pair his impressive defensive chops with prolific three-point shooting and showcase actual 3-and-D services, not merely theoretical ones.

If he can splash home, say, around 38 percent of his triples, he’s someone I’d legitimately consider playing over Matisse Thybulle. He isn’t as good defensively as Thybulle, but he’s a rather good defender in his own right and wouldn’t shrink the floor offensively like Thybulle typically does. Assuming Joe survives the roster cuts, 2022-23 is a critically important season for his NBA future. He’ll be a free agent next summer, has hardly much tape through two years and just played Summer League entering his third season, something it’s ideal to avoid as it pertains to your league-wide standing.

Given their reinforced wing depth, it seems unlikely his NBA breakthrough occurs in a Sixers uniform. However, doing so hinges on actualizing the promise of his elite off-ball shooting and giving Philadelphia another complementary two-way option on the perimeter. When he does see minutes this year, he absolutely has to knock down shots. The defense should continue to be good. It’s all about the jumper.

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