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Rotation Trust Level: It’s Groundhog Day... again

It appears the Sixers have a backup center problem (again).

Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Man, oh man, does this team need an innings eater.

If you’re not a baseball person, please bear with me for a second. Taijuan Walker, despite not appearing in playoff game in 2023, played a big role for the Philadelphia Phillies. He started 31 games for the Phillies over the summer, giving them an ERA of 4.38 (slightly below average) over 172.2 innings, leading the team with 15 wins.

He did a perfectly fine job, taking the field consistently over a months-long regular season to help keep his team afloat while keeping the big arms adequately rested for the postseason. The Sixers find themselves in a very similar situation with their backup center situation.

They aren’t getting crushed in minutes when Embiid sits like the days of Amir Johnson, Dwight Howard or Greg Monroe, and lord knows this team certainly isn’t going anywhere if Joel Embiid is sidelined with an injury in the playoffs.

But this team still has four months to get to the playoffs, and while a lot of that will just be killing time, the Sixers should be gunning for the two seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ve chased the Milwaukee Bucks for that spot for much of the season by a game or two, and as they’ve learned in recent history, having homecourt for the second round can make a world of difference.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that if the Sixers want the second seed, they’re going to need a center to play the role of an innings eater. Not a guy they need to count on for important playoff minutes, but a guy who can help them win the second leg of back-to-back in February.

After falling in overtime Wednesday night, the team is currently 2-7 when Embiid is out of the lineup. With the big fella still managing his sprained ankle as well as dealing with swelling in his knee, the Sixers should be ready to play around 5-10 more games without the reigning MVP this regular season — if not more. He’s already been ruled out for Friday’s contest against the Sacramento Kings, the reported day he hoped to return to the lineup.

This week’s edition will once again evaluate the rest of the centers on the roster, and how they’ve performed in these shorthanded games.

Paul Reed

Mr. Bball has just seemed off this entire season. As previously mentioned, the team has done a solid job this season in games when Embiid is playing but goes to the bench. They don’t hemorrhage points like they used to, but it feels like they could be getting a whole lot more out of Reed.

He has not been as good on the boards, or as good at creating deflections as he has been prior in his career. His rebounding percentages, along with his block and steal percentages, continue to be career lows, per Cleaning the Glass.

It feels like many of Reed’s issues have showed themselves when the team has asked him to scale up his minutes. He certainly looks like a player who should have less offensive freedom, not more. Nick Nurse seems to be losing trust in Reed, as he immediately benched him in Atlanta after Reed attempted to go coast-to-coast unsuccessfully in transition. Nurse opted to close that game with his other two options, Reed not seeing the floor in crunch time at all.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Paul Reed?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    A lot
    (1066 votes)
  • 41%
    Meh
    (902 votes)
  • 9%
    Little to none
    (201 votes)
2169 votes total Vote Now

Mo Bamba

Despite a bounce back in Atlanta, the play of Bamba has inspired the talk for the need of an innings-eater. Bamba was 2-of-4 Wednesday night, and actually put up a three, the first he has attempted since Christmas night.

He blocked three shots against the Hawks as well, but even when he has success guarding the rim, teams like Atlanta are still able to put him in trouble when they’re able to get him out in space. If Philly was able to get that type of performance more consistently, they probably would be able to get by with just Reed and Bamba, but these games happen too infrequently.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Mo Bamba?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A lot
    (118 votes)
  • 44%
    Meh
    (529 votes)
  • 45%
    Little to none
    (545 votes)
1192 votes total Vote Now

Marcus Morris Sr.

With Robert Covington approaching milk carton status, Morris is the team’s only option as a small-ball center since it appears Nurse is unwilling to use Nicolas Batum in that role. As has been well-documented, Morris needs to be hitting threes, and he needs to be hitting them at an elite clip, to stay on the floor and be effective.

That was very evident in Morris’ recent slump. Before making six three-pointers in the last two games, Morris shot 22% from deep in the previous eight games. Even on a night like last night when he’s hitting shots, the team is still scrambling to help him out defensively.

He ended last night with a -10, and while that’s a very flawed stat for one player, especially in a single game, the eye test matches up. Nurse wanted to go with a small lineup in overtime, but actually elected to stay with Bamba after he blocked a shot and pulled down an offensive rebound.

Poll

How much trust do you have in Marcus Morris Sr.?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    A lot
    (216 votes)
  • 54%
    Meh
    (825 votes)
  • 30%
    Little to none
    (466 votes)
1507 votes total Vote Now

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