The Sixers are four games into the 2021/22 NBA Season, and it doesn’t seem too early to wonder, where in the world is Isaiah Joe?
When Isaiah Joe was coming out of Arkansas in 2020 to enter the NBA draft, word was that Darryl Morey had given his word that Joe would be a Sixer. The 21st pick in the first round would have been a huge reach, and with Tyrese Maxey falling into the Sixers laps, there was no chance that they would pass him up in the draft. As the second round played out, Joe was there at the 49th pick, and the Sixers made good on their promise.
While at Arkansas, Joe was a gunner. There’s no way around saying it. He averaged just over nine three-point attempts per game over two college seasons, connecting on 38% of them and setting an Arkansas Freshman record of 113 made three-pointers for the year.
His rookie year in Philadelphia was pretty much as expected. There isn’t a lot of room for a second-round pick that doesn’t put the ball on the floor and shoots a ton of three-pointers. Not when the team has Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, all getting minutes and players like Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey coming off the bench.
Joe could learn from the veterans, improve his game, and become a better player each day. Learning to put the ball on the floor and not just taking long-range jumpers was something that he worked on and even more over the off-season.
As a rookie, Joe averaged slightly over nine minutes per game, although with some players out for Covid protocols in early January, he averaged twenty-nine minutes and 12.4 points over a five-game span while connecting on 43% of his three-point attempts. But, once the team was back to full strength, Joe saw his minutes dip back down to the bare minimum.
Over the off-season, Joe has put in the work, and it showed in the Sixers preseason games. While they’re not being played against top-level stars, Joe was putting the ball on the floor, playing good defense, and shooting the lights out. He averaged 17 points per game in the preseason on an insane 60% shooting from the three-point line.
This had a lot of people wondering what his contribution would be for the Sixers this season, as they can always use more quality shooters.
“Isaiah, we call him a flame thrower,”
Doc Rivers said.
“Give yourself a chance. That’s what we keep telling him. He’s range-less. He can shoot the ball, but what I still like is that he’s finding places to shoot the ball, he’s moving well without the ball, he’s putting the ball on the floor, and he defends. He sticks his nose in there, so that’s good.”
Rivers had hinted that he could see Joe cracking the rotation for the Sixers this year. Yet, to start the season, that hasn’t been the case at all. Shake Milton has been out since October 7th, and Tyrese Maxey has been getting the bulk of the point guard minutes. Seth Curry has been on fire for the most part to open the season, and Korkmaz and Green have had good games as well.
The big part is that whether it’s a good game or not, the minutes are being taken up by the starters and top reserves. Korkmaz and Georges Niang both space the floor really well with their shooing, and Andre Drummond and Matisse Thybulle are both defensive machines. With Milton set to return in the next week, Joe’s limited nine minutes per game this year may even go down.
So, where does this leave Isaiah Joe, and will we see him get any sort of quality minutes this year? Barring injury to a few players, Joe doesn’t seem to be ready to truly crack the lineup, despite the praise and words of coach Doc Rivers. What he can do is continue to come in and try to improve for when his time comes.
Prior to the regular season, Rivers said,
“If he gets those same shots in the regular season, he’ll shoot 60-percent in the regular season; he can just shoot the ball.”
Now, it’s up to Doc to get him those minutes and see if he can get those shots up. If not, we’ll be wondering where he is for quite a while.