The Uncertain Sixers Future of Isaiah Joe

Philadelphia 76ers
Memphis Grizzlies forward Santi Aldama (7) drives between Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed Jr. (44) and guard Isaiah Joe (7) during the first quarter of an NBA summer league basketball game Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger)

There was a great amount of excitement when the Sixers drafted Isaiah Joe with the 49th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Rumors leading up to the draft indicated that the Sixers had a major interest in the sniper, with some even suggesting they were planning on using the 21st overall pick, which was used to select Tyrese Maxey, to take Isaiah Joe. Regardless, the Sixers made good on their promise and added the Arkansas product in the second round.

Coming out of college Isaiah Joe was known as a volume shooter. During his second and final year of college, Joe averaged 16.9 points per game and launched 10.6 three-pointers per game. The Arkansas sniper tied for 9th among all Division 1 NCAA basketball players with 275 three-point attempts on the season.

With a skillset the Sixers needed, and the only real red flag was his thin frame, there was plenty of reason for optimism for the future of Isaiah Joe. However, now two seasons into his NBA career, he has played under 1000 NBA minutes and failed to crack the regular rotation. The 23-year-old is faced with a make-or-break moment in his NBA career and has a lot on the line.

Isaiah Joe’s Contract

Second-round picks are not guaranteed contracts, but Isaiah Joe managed to receive an offer with the Sixers. The 6’4″ guard was handed a three-year deal worth roughly $4.2 million. However, this upcoming year is non-guaranteed, and the Sixers are able to cut him prior to the start of the season without owing him anything.

This is especially noteworthy considering the Sixers currently have 16 rostered players for 15 spots. Many have perceived this to believe that Daryl Morey is not done making moves, and this still could certainly be the case. However, there is no guarantee a deal will materialize, and the Sixers could be forced to make a decision on who to cut. Paul Reed, Charles Bassey, and Trevelin Queen are also on non-guaranteed contracts; however, Queen was given $330,000 guaranteed at signing, which is fairly high for a player in his situation. As the roster currently sits, Reed and Bassey are the only other true big men on the roster other than Joel Embiid, which would likely indicate their roster safety.

Fit on the Sixers

In some regards, it is extremely frustrating there is not more of a sample size the Sixers can judge Isaiah Joe off. He fits a skillset the team needs but has failed to carve out a role for himself even amid the struggles of Furkan Korkmaz and Matisse Thybulle last season. Fair or not, his make-or-break NBA skill will likely be his three-point shooting. In his two NBA seasons, Isaiah Joe has shot 84 for 241 on three-point attempts. This 34.9% three-point percentage is solid but still slightly below the NBA average, which was 35.4% last season.

The Sixers are also finding out he seems more of a rhythm player than an off-the-bench sniper. It is difficult to ask a player to come in cold and let it fly in the way it is expected with Joe. The SEC All-Freshman team member has looked better in extended minutes in the limited opportunities he has received.

There is still a lot to like about Isaiah Joe’s game. He is an impressive movement shooter, above-average as a spot-up threat, and has shown progress as a ball-handler and passer. He is just 23 years old and still has time to grow. Joe took some massive steps forward as a leader among the youthful summer league roster and impressed greatly with his play. Giving up on him now could prove to be a decision the organization regrets and will certainly be one they do not hope to make. However, the Sixers have little time to be patient and are looking for win-now players. Joe still does not quite fit the description.

The best-case scenario is still for the Sixers to find a trade that solves their roster problems. A potential deal that could ship off Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmaz for a two-way role player makes a lot of sense. There also is good financial flexibility in moving these two contracts as they combine for roughly $10 million. However, it takes two sides to make it happen, and the Sixers will need a suitor for this to be the case. If they do end up having to make a cut, don’t be shocked if things do not break right for Isaiah Joe.