Paul Reed proved himself once again; It’s time Doc Rivers noticed

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 17: Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers looks on during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on January 17, 2023 at Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

It has been a frustrating start to the NBA career of Paul Reed. The third-year big man has been limited in opportunity and had an extremely short leash in the minutes when he has been on the court for the Philadelphia 76ers. Reed has played a career-high 446 minutes this season but is averaging just 9.9 minutes in each game.

However, Reed deserves a ton of credit for staying ready for whenever his moment does arise. This was the case during last night’s Sixers’ victory over the Miami Heat, in which Joel Embiid was unable to suit up.

Despite not getting the start in Embiid’s absence, as the Sixers elected to go small-ball and play P.J. Tucker at center, Reed’s fingerprints were all over the victory. The scrappy big man clocked 28:44 of gameplay tallying 16 points, 14 rebounds, and a pair of blocks. Reed shot 7-10 from the field and recorded a team-high +26 +/- rating.

“Honestly, coming into this game, I was taking it personal,” Reed said after the game. “We lost to this team in the playoffs last year, and we lost to them the other night. So I really had a chip on my shoulder tonight, and I really wanted to prove a point,” per Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

While the chip on his shoulder was clear in Reed’s play, it may have been more about proving his own ability than getting revenge on the Heat.

Reed’s Fit Within Versatile Lineups

One of the notable takeaways in the victory was Donc Rivers’ different lineups that were rolled out. With Embiid unavailable, it forced the veteran coach to get creative.

This included giving Danuel House Jr some extended minutes and keeping Georges Niang off the floor completely. House Jr is coming off four consecutive games in which he did not see the floor at all, and he has failed to receive any minutes in 13 of the last 18. He clocked 17:11 of game minutes in the victory over the Heat, with many of them occurring alongside Reed.

The lineup of James Harden, De’Anthony Melton, Jalen McDaniels, House Jr, and Reed provided a notable spark. The unit seamlessly switched on defense and played with an increased pace that is not traditionally seen from the Sixers. The jolt of athleticism on the floor was notable and a welcomed change for a Sixers team that often is overmatched in this area.

This also speaks to what Reed can bring to the table. While he may not be a traditional big man in the way that Doc Rivers has pictured, his work rate and versatility are an asset. Reed is a more than capable shot blocker while still being able to switch onto guards and defend on the perimeter. He also has come a long way as a screen-setter on the offensive end, and his activity on the offensive boards is a pleasant change. Reed tallied five offensive rebounds in the victory over the Heat, which is a positive change for a Sixers team that ranks 27th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game on the season. 

Has Reed Earned the Backup Center Job?

It is clear that Montrezl Harrell no longer looks to be in the running for the minutes at the backup center. Despite some high hopes after the Sixers signed the former Sixth Man of the Year, Harrell lacks the necessary verticality and athleticism that he once possessed. He has been locked to the bench for six of the last seven games for the Sixers, and Rivers’ willingness to explore other options is telling of Harrell’s outlook.

The other part of the equation that has yet to be answered is what Dewayne Dedmon’s role will be for the Sixers (if any). The 33-year-old was the prized addition of the buyout market for Philadelphia and filled the available roster space that was kept open for flexibility after the team elected to move on from Isaiah Joe and Charles Bassey.

Dedmon is much more of the traditional center that Rivers seems to value, but there are legitimate concerns regarding how much he has left in the tank. He struggled in the first half of the season with Miami before being released. The veteran clocked just 350 total minutes before the two sides elected to part ways. When guys reach the buyout market, there is typically a reason, and the Sixers have not yet had a chance to see what Dedmon can do on the court.

While he has been on the Sixers roster for the past four games, Dedmon has remained inactive due to what has been labeled a hip injury. Rivers has downplayed the significance of the injury, but seeing the injury occur before he has clocked a minute in a Sixers uniform is not an encouraging sign.

Despite the rotating group of big men at the bottom of the roster, Reed has done an impressive job continuing on his course and controlling what he can control. He has made a positive impact in just about every opportunity he has had. With the Sixers’ backup center an all-too-familiar weakness, there are just 21 games for them to make some final decisions on their best chances of surviving the minutes in which Embiid is off the floor.

The Sixers have already come to the conclusion that Harrell cannot cut it in the playoffs. There is fair reason to be skeptical of Dedmon’s ability to make an impact, and he is not healthy enough to show it on the floor. Going to Tucker at the small-ball five can be effective in spurts, but there is no reason to further burn out the 37-year-old as the playoffs were the true reason he was brought in.

There is no better time than now to give Reed his fair chance to prove he can be a viable backup center option for the Sixers come the postseason. There will not be another opportunity to allow him to play through his mistakes and see if he can contribute to the team in a positive way. Reed has earned the opportunity at the minimum, and there is evidence as to why the Sixers could be rewarded.