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Paul Reed is ready to succeed with Nick Nurse’s Sixers

Paul Reed seems set for another season of improvement (and a different kind of role) as the Sixers’ best backup big.

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

For a while, it looked like Paul Reed might well be leaving the Sixers in the summer. He went into restricted free agency with understandable interest from other teams, with the potential to sign out of the Sixers’ price range. As other moves and the James Harden situation remained up in the air, the Jazz sweeping in with a three-year, $23 million offer sheet for Reed looked like it might be enough to pry him away. Reed even reached a point of going to look at the Jazz’s facilities.

Fortunately for the Sixers, they did match Utah’s offer sheet — and delighted Reed in the process.

“It was crazy. I was actually going to Utah to check out the facility and stuff,” Reed said at media day as he recalled his free agency experience. “We was going back to Vegas because Summer League was going on and I was just gonna go out there and be around the energy. And that’s when I found out the Sixers matched the offer, and I was just super excited. Just super grateful that I was able to come back to the team that drafted me.

“It kinda made my heart warm a little bit,” Reed added with a wide smile on his face.

Reed really continued coming into his own last season. His didn’t always get as many minutes as he deserved, especially earlier in the year, but towards the end of the regular season and playoffs when he finally took control of the primary backup role, he proved he belongs. His efficiency, finishing, hands, general offensive control, rebounding and rim protection/foul rate all improved. Which, to go along with his rare defensive mobility and disruptive playmaking, turned him into a genuinely solid backup big.

Reed could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Nick Nurse’s arrival, too. If there’s a long, athletic, switchable player who fits the mold of Nurse’s defensive creativity and rangy lineups he used in Toronto, it’s Reed.

“The type of player I am is the type of player he’s used to coaching,” Reed said when talking about adapting under Nurse. “Long, athletic, versatile, can guard multiple positions. So I don’t think the translation [will] be hard at all to his coaching style.”

To succeed in a Nick Nurse defense, Reed is confident that he just needs the right approach.

“I think for me, I just have to lock in on the details, being disciplined, being consistent. And I think it’s going to work out pretty well.”

Reed is also intrigued by the idea of partnering up with Joel Embiid and Mo Bamba to form more two-big lineups. Bamba may be around now to compete for some backup center minutes, but Reed’s potential to contribute more at the 4 helps maintain his upside to succeed in a larger role next season.

“I’m extremely excited to play alongside Joel or Mo,” Reed said on Monday when asked about the possibility. “I’m excited to be on the court in general, but I honestly think that playing with two bigs is a great idea. If I play next to Joel, I take a lot of stress off him. ... I can try and make the game easier for him, help him get easier looks, ultimately help the team get easier looks. On the defensive end, take the load off him a little bit on that end as well. Blocking shots, getting rebounds, guarding, boxing out. There’s a lot of little things that, as a big — you know, I had to hold it down at the 5 position — it’s a lot of work. Having two of us out there we’ll feel like we could dominate, to be honest.”

There are still obvious ways for Reed to continue improving. Besides the potential to benefit from Nurse’s approach and new lineups, developments such as expanding his range on offense and further reducing his fouls would be useful.

Working on his jump shot has been one point of focus for Reed this offseason. While it’s going to take time for him to have a reliable three-pointer against NBA defenses with his current form and release time, he is putting in the work to improve. He’s flashed it a lot in Rico Hines runs we’ve seen him in and he’s worked on it already with Nurse, too.

“It’s been great,” Reed said when asked about what it’s been like to work with Nick Nurse, ‘the shooting coach’. “Since day one he’s been hands on. First time he seen me in the gym, he stepped on the court and was like, ‘hey’. Just started working with me since day one about ball placement, hand placement, some drills I can do. ... I’ve been trying my best to buy in fully, and I think it’s been helping a lot.”

In what has become Philadelphia tradition at this point, the Sixers have used up too many roster spots on backup centers. But BBall Paul is the best of the lot.

If he continues the individual improvement he’s already made through his career, and gets to benefit from more minutes and positional variety at the 5 and 4 under Nurse, Reed could be in for another career year.

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