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Are the Sixers ready to trust Paul Reed in the playoffs?

BBall Paul has come a long way from the mud, but he’s still earning the trust of his teammates and coaches.

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Paul Reed has made it out the mud and into the backup center position as the Sixers head into the 2022-23 postseason.

For much of the beginning of the season, the Sixers bounced between Montrezl Harrell and Reed to back up Joel Embiid, with Harrell getting most of the opportunities. As Harrell continued to struggle in the position, the tide began to turn with Reed getting more and more time on the floor. By the end of the regular season, Reed had claimed the spot for himself.

The biggest difference for the young center out of DePaul is his understanding of scouting reports and where he should be on the floor at all times, according to Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers.

“Just for him, understanding what we’re doing, really focusing in on the scout stuff. For Paul, he struggles at that at times,” Rivers said Friday at practice. “We really need him to have great focus — where to be defensively, being in the right spot. And if he does that, he’s going to be a big plus for us.”

The Sixers want to set Reed up for success, also, by altering the defensive game plan to suit him.

“Well, I think we’ve both made progress. We do things with him to make it easier for him, and that’s helped him a lot. When he’s on the floor, you’re not doing three different coverages. You just can’t, and we know that,” Rivers said. “So when he’s coming off the floor, it’s probably because we feel the one coverage we’re doing is not good enough for this game. And that’s the bottom line. Where he’s really helped himself is in those coverages that we do with him. He’s good at it. He works at it. We drilled him every day this week at it.”

His teammates have helped along the way as well, replacing last year’s bouts of frustration towards Reed with much more helpful approaches to keep him in the right places — physically and mentally.

“I think the biggest thing with him is the players — his teammates. Last year, the amount of frustration … if you were in our practices, you couldn’t even believe the other guys. And that hurts your team when they’re frustrated,” Rivers said. “This year, when he makes a mistake, they tell him in the right way, which I had many talks about. He handles it in the right way, and we’re better for it. So I think it’s not only growth from Paul, but growth from his teammates too with Paul.”

And Reed is ready to take up the challenge, bringing what he learned last postseason to this year’s run.

“What I learned from last year is how much more physical the playoffs are than the regular season and now the officiating changes so much from the regular season,” Reed said at practice Thursday. “Now it’s just preparing my body and my mind for that type of energy.”

Going through the motions on the floor regularly has aided Reed in that preparation this time around. He featured in all of the Sixers’ last 29 games of the regular season, a consistency that has helped him learn not only what he should do, but how to best work with the teammates around him. Last season, Reed rarely appeared in more than three games in a row before the postseason.

“I feel, like, 10 times more comfortable — really, 100 times more comfortable — just knowing everything I know now that I didn’t know last year about spacing and about my teammates,” Reed explained. “With our chemistry, I feel a lot more comfortable, and I’m pretty sure my teammates feel more comfortable with me,”

Reed and the Sixers kick off their postseason run hosting the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday afternoon for Game 1 of the first round. He says he and his teammates know exactly the position they are in, the opportunity at their feet, and what they need to do to make it a reality.

“We know what’s on the line here. We know the opportunity we’ve got, so we know how much we need to concentrate, lock in and focus on details — and really just execute all the details so we can come out and get the championship. We’re a team that’s got an opportunity to make it all the way, and we all know that. We’ve all just got to focus in even harder,” Reed said.

“I feel like for everybody on our team, this is the most important time of all of our lives.”

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