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If the Sixers won’t play Paul Reed, they should move him at the 2023 NBA trade deadline

Paul Reed is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, which means this could be his last season with the Sixers either way.

Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, Paul Reed appeared poised to battle with second-year big man Charles Bassey for the Sixers’ primary backup center spot. But when the Sixers signed Montrezl Harrell to a two-year, $5.2 million contract shortly before training camp began, it effectively closed the door on Bassey’s tenure with the team and Reed’s chances of playing major minutes behind Joel Embiid.

Reed racked up three DNPs in the Sixers’ first seven games, and he didn’t crack double-digit minutes until the 10th game of the season (one which Embiid missed). He again played a larger role when Embiid missed four games in late November—he had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds in the short-handed win over Brooklyn and 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in a blowout win over the Orlando Magic—but he has since largely fallen out of the Sixers’ rotation.

With Reed set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, the Sixers should be looking to move him ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline if Harrell has permanently jumped over him in the rotation. Otherwise, the asset-strapped Sixers will risk losing one of their only promising young players for nothing in the summer.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, it’s because this exact scenario played out last season, too. Reed was in head coach Doc Rivers’ doghouse for most of the year, buried behind the exhumed corpses of DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap, neither of whom stood a prayer of playing playoff-caliber defense. Rivers finally dusted off Reed at the very end of the regular season, and he dropped 25 points on 12-of-14 shooting, six rebounds, four steals and a block in only 21 minutes against the Detroit Pistons in the Sixers’ regular-season finale. (Who could forget the “Paul Reed Victory Tour” afterward?)

Reed ended up supplanting Jordan in last year’s playoffs, averaging 3.7 points on 52.8 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks in only 11.7 minutes per game. Most importantly, the Sixers rarely got destroyed in his minutes, which has been long been their playoff Achilles heel with Embiid off the floor. He was a minus-10 or worse in only two of the Sixers’ 12 playoff games—the 15-point loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of their first-round series and the Miami Heat’s 35-point beatdown in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Whatever momentum Reed generated in the 2022 playoffs hasn’t carried over to this season, though. Since the start of December, he has more DNPs (nine) than he does games with double-digit minutes (five). Over that same span, Harrell has played 10-plus minutes in all but seven of the 29 games in which he’s appeared.

The Sixers have largely broken even with Harrell on the floor this season, while they’re getting clobbered in Reed’s limited minutes. They’ve outscored opponents by 0.8 points per 100 possessions with Harrell at center, and they’ve gotten outscored by 13.0 points per 100 possessions with Reed at center. Their defense is slightly worse with Reed (117.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) than Harrell (115.5), while their offense is a crime scene with Reed (104.9) compared to Harrell (116.2).

However, Harrell has proved in years past that he’s more of an 82-game player than a 16-game player. Between his struggles as a pick-and-roll defender and his lack of resistance as a rim protector, opponents will relentlessly target him once they’re able to create an opponent-specific game plan in the playoffs. Reed, who boasts far more lateral quickness and explosiveness than Harrell, has the theoretical upside of a switchable big. He’s far more mistake-prone than Harrell, particularly on offense, but regular minutes could help him work through those issues before the playoffs begin.

The win-now Sixers don’t appear inclined to give him that opportunity, though. Instead, they’re reportedly “interested in acquiring a safer/more traditional backup to Embiid for certain matchups in the playoffs,” according to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice, even if they don’t move either Reed or Harrell at the trade deadline.

If Rivers doesn’t plan to play Reed in the playoffs, the Sixers would be better off moving him for reinforcements at the trade deadline. Sending Reed to a younger team could give him the chance to make a more consistent impact before he becomes a restricted free agent, while the Sixers could potentially fortify their playoff rotation.

Reed is earning only $1.8 million this year, so the Sixers might have to package him with Furkan Korkmaz ($5.0 million), Matisse Thybulle ($4.4 million) or Danuel House Jr. ($4.1 million) to bring back someone noteworthy due to the NBA’s salary-matching rules for trades. (Since the Sixers are currently above the luxury-tax threshold, they can take back no more than 125 percent of the salary they send out, plus $100,000.) Reed isn’t likely to fetch a huge haul in return, but there is value in gaining his matching rights as a restricted free agent, particularly for teams that already project to be over next year’s salary cap.

Trading a fan favorite like Reed might not be a popular decision, particularly after seeing how Isaiah Joe is thriving in Oklahoma City this season. But there’s no guarantee that the Sixers will be able to retain Reed beyond this year either way. Re-signing James Harden alone could push them close to next year’s projected $162 million luxury-tax threshold, and Thybulle, Georges Niang and Shake Milton are all set to become free agents, too.

If Reed doesn’t factor into their long-term plans, the Sixers should follow in the Washington Wizards’ footsteps with Rui Hachimura and cut their losses before it’s too late. The only thing worse than trading Reed for an underwhelming return would be keeping him, burying him on the bench in the playoffs and watching him walk for nothing this summer.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information via Spotrac or RealGM.

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