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Status quo for Sixers frontcourt at NBA trade deadline

And now we eagerly await word on the buyout market

Orlando Magic v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers made one major move at the trade deadline, sending Matisse Thybulle to Portland as part of a three-team deal that brought back Jalen McDaniels from Charlotte. While that transaction is likely a net positive for the team, many fans are extremely disappointed with the team’s deadline as a whole with the reality that no new backup big men were brought into the fold.

It’s no secret that the lack of a suitable backup for Joel Embiid has long been a weakness of this Sixers roster. Nearly every postseason, Embiid racks up extremely positive plus-minus numbers, only for the team to lose as a result of the handful of minutes he has to hit the bench. I’m going to refrain from listing the options the Sixers have sorted through over the years, as I find them triggering.

Coming into the season, it was expected Paul Reed had secured the job, after faring decently well in his first extended opportunity last postseason. Reed backers argued a more settled role and consistent playing time over the course of an entire season would help sand out some of his rough edges.

However, due to an aversion to playing Reed on behalf of head coach Doc Rivers, and maybe some input from star guard James Harden, BBall Paul has risen out the mud only to find himself on the pine for most of the season. Instead, offseason acquisition Montrezl Harrell has assumed the backup center role.

Now, before getting to Harrell, let me put on my “benefit of the doubt” hat for a moment. Outside of a handful of games, Reed has not played well this season. The shot is still entirely theoretical, his foul rate is even higher than last season, and he misses any number of defensive rotations. So I understand wanting to try a different option, although I agree it has to be hard for Reed to find a rhythm only receiving a handful of minutes every so often.

But that other option is Harrell, who has both been bad this season, and has a history of being a poor fit for postseason play, including costing Doc Rivers a playoff series in Los Angeles due to his inability to defend the pick-and-roll. The situation is like the inverse of the boat or mystery box scene from Family Guy. Doc doesn’t want to play Paul Reed because he might be bad, instead sticking with the option that has proven to be insufficient over a larger sample size.

Harrell’s shooting numbers are well down from his career marks, his rebounding, assist, and foul per-minute numbers are all among the worst since his first two years in the league, and all of that is secondary to the red carpet to the rim laid out for the opposition when Trez comes into the game. But hopefully he doesn’t read this, because he looked to be wading through the mentions on deadline day.

I don’t know what exactly the Sixers could have done to address the situation. The going rate for a rotation player now is apparently five second-round picks, and the Sixers aren’t awash in draft assets after years of win-now trades and getting a pair of picks yanked for tampering. But one day after the team was bullied by Jayson Tatum and the Celtics’ B squad, not doing something to try and fix the backup frontcourt problem is super depressing. Undoubtedly, Daryl Morey and company will be watching the buyout market with heavy interest, but that’s not where teams usually turn to fix a fundamental roster hole. And make no mistake, the Sixers have one.

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