The Utah Jazz, led by Danny Ainge, didn’t do the Sixers any favors when they provided restricted free agent Paul Reed with an offer sheet last week. The finer details might have caused some hesitation in matching the deal, but the Sixers ultimately did, retaining their young backup big man long term.
Reactions were mostly positive, as fans have adored Paul Reed and his style of play on the court. However, some might look at the eight-figure number and think it’s high for a backup big. While $23 million is a massive amount, Reed’s contract should benefit both himself and the Sixers moving forward.
Sixers finally lock up a backup big
The Sixers’ never-ending carousel of backup bigs in the Embiid era has finally come to a close. Even newer fans can recall Amir Johnson, Greg Monroe, Boban Marjanović, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Montrezl Harrell and Dwayne Dedmon. Some of the above shined brighter than others, but there was never a sense that they had a long-term solution when Joel Embiid was off the court.
Now, the team has an answer for a minimum of three years. Reed is far from a flawless player, but he’s far superior to all the players above when it matters. The bar for the Sixers when Embiid is off the court is low, and at minimum, Reed can be a neutral player.
Last season, we saw Reed progress throughout the year. In the regular season, he excelled in the pick-and-roll game with James Harden, becoming a crafty and reliable finisher at the rim. When called upon, we saw Reed not only stay afloat in the postseason, but thrive with notable performances against the Brooklyn Nets and in Game 1 of the Conference Semi-Finals against the Celtics.
At this point, we know what Reed’s floor for production is. He’s 24 years old and still has plenty of room to grow before hitting his best years. There’s a solid chance he can develop further, turning what seems like a fair contract now to a bargain in the future.
How it compares around the NBA
It’s easy to look at an eight-figure number and think, “Damn, that’s a lot of money for a backup big.” While it is indeed life-changing money for Reed, it’s comparable to players around the league who fill a similar role.
Let’s look around the league landscape and compare what some veteran backup bigs around the league will make next season:
Robin Lopez: $3,196,448
Mason Plumlee: $5,000,000
Javale McGee: $5,734,280
Paul Reed: $7,723,000
Jock Landale: $8,000,000
Thaddeus Young: $8,000,000
Isaiah Hartenstein: $8,195,121
Kevon Looney: $8,500,000
Larry Nance Jr.: $10,375,000
Richaun Holmes: $12,046,020
Daniel Gafford: $12,402,000
Marvin Bagley: $12,500,000
Naz Reid: $12,950,400
Factoring in age and possible room to grow, you can see Reed’s value is quite fair when pinned against his peers. An ever-increasing salary cap should also improve the optics of his contract moving forward.
No hard feelings in the NBA business
Things can sour fast when restricted free agents search for contracts outside of their home markets. In Reed’s case, it seems like pursuing an offer sheet was his camp’s preference. After all, he’s still young and there were a few rebuilding teams with space to take a flier on him.
As mentioned above, the structure of the deal offered by Ainge was meant to deter the Sixers while also benefiting Utah if it wasn’t matched. From Reed’s perspective, it would’ve been much more beneficial for the Sixers to match.
Assuming it wasn’t matched, there’s a near certain chance that his second and third year would be non-guaranteed. The Jazz are still young into their rebuild, and it’s borderline impossible to imagine them making the playoffs let alone winning a first-round series next season.
On the court, the Jazz’s frontcourt is loaded with All-Star Lauri Markaneen, Walker Kesser, John Collins, Kelly Olynyk and Taylor Hendricks. The Jazz have invested a great deal into all of the above players and it’s hard to see where Reed would fit in their puzzle.
For both parties, it was best that the Sixers matched Reed’s contract. I’d imagine his camp appreciates the gesture, too.
Do the contract guarantees really matter?
Arguably the biggest factor against the Sixers matching was the guarantees included by the Utah. Barring a massive setback, it’s likely that the Sixers will advance to the Conference Semi-Finals next season (right?). This means Reed’s second- ($7,723,000) and third-year ($8,109,150) salaries will be fully guaranteed moving forward.
Should this matter? I’d argue that it really doesn’t. The only negative to this would be the fact that the Sixers couldn’t simply waive Reed next summer to generate some room quickly. As we all know, they aren’t lacking flexibility next summer and already have a ton of room to play with.
Speaking of waiving, it doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards for Reed anytime soon. It’s clear that there’s a pretty large market for Reed around the NBA. It’s hard for restricted free agents to get an offer sheet, let alone a competitive one. Credit to Reed and his agent for getting that done.
We’ve already gone over his salary rate and I’d imagine there would be plenty of teams lining up for Reed’s services if the Sixers made him available. Even if the Sixers did want to trade Reed, they’d need to guarantee his salary before doing a deal anyway.
Paul Reed’s contract negotiations might have stressed out the Sixers fanbase, but they’ve gotten to a point that makes sense for both sides. Other question marks may linger, but the Sixers have finally answered a big one in regards to their backup big of the future.