Philadelphia 76ers: Does claiming Justin Patton make sense at center?

After a surprising trade and release to the Dallas Mavericks, should the Philadelphia 76ers claim third-year center Justin Patton off waivers?

For the first time in quite some time, the Philadelphia 76ers finally got some good news on the injury front.

That’s right, after watching Josh Richardson become the latest casualty of the Sixers’ injury curse, it was announced that Joel Embiid would return to practice for the first time since suffering a gnarly finger injury against the OKC Thunder and was eyeballing a return before the All-Star break.

Phew, thank goodness that nightmare is finally over. But, and I know this might sound crazy, what if it isn’t though?

Sure Embiid may come back and be ready to rock out for the final sub-40 games of the season, and maybe he’ll even do some without missing more than a handful of games, but in his absence, the Sixers’ depth took a notable hit due to an uptick in workload.

You see, after making his debut against the New York Knicks on 11/29, undrafted 26-year-old rookie Norvel Pelle quietly became a staple of Brett Brown‘s big man rotation, leapfrogging 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden and eighth-year-vet Kyle O’Quinn in the process.

Was he perfect? Well, no, but it’s safe to say Pelle brought excitement, energy, and a one-man block party that made opposing drivers think twice before entering the Nor-Fly Zone. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see if Pelle continues to progress down the line, as he has officially used up all 45 days of the NBA eligibility afforded to him in accordance with his two-way contract and must spend the rest of the season in Delaware.

In summation, Embiid may be back, but the team’s third option at the five has become a massive question mark.

And no, as fun as it is to watch, adding center to Ben Simmons‘ list of responsibilities, even for a handful of minutes a game, isn’t a long-term solution.

But what is there to do? Oh my goodness, do the Sixers now have to try to trade for a center too in addition to a top-tier backup point guard, a near 50 percent 3 point shooter, and an All-Star-caliber 3-and-D combo forward with a massive mohawk and a love of snakes?

Well, no, in a weird twist of fate, an intriguing, high-upside center just became available who has a near-full season of experience in Brett Brown‘s scheme.

You see, after combo big man Dwight Powell suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, the Dallas Mavericks made it known league-wide that they needed a massive upgrade to bolster their frontcourt alongside 7-foot-3 finesse forward Kristaps Porzingis and the position-less wonder Luka Doncic. With less than two weeks to go before the trade deadline, Mark Cuban and company wasted little time making a move and flipped forward Isaiah Roby to the Thunder for third-year center Justin Patton.

On paper, this seemed like a minor move, but a quality one none the less.

And then things got a bit wacky.

Minutes later, NBA fans were greeted with another Mavericks related WOJ Bomb (or Shams Bomb) informing that Dallas had traded for another center, this time veteran starter Willie Cauley-Stein for the low, low cost of a single second-rounder.

Okay, now that makes more sense, but who would the team waive to make room for the former Golden State Warrior? Well, none other than Justin Patton.

So in less than an hour Patton went from a Thunder(men?) to a Maverick to unemployed, hopefully before he purchased a plane ticket to the great state of Texas.

While this move may be most notable for the now uber-rare Justin Patton Mavericks jerseys that will certainly become mad collectible if he ever pops off, it also adds an interesting wrinkle to the NBA’s pre-agency period – a wrinkle the Sixers could exploit without having to surrender an asset.

Initially joining the club as the fourth piece of the Jimmy Butler trade that also included Dario Saric and Robert Covington, Patton spent the better part of six months in South Philly before eventually being waived to make room for the meh addition of Greg Monroe. Granted, Patton only played 21-minutes for the Sixers over three games towards the end of the season, but that in large part was an unfortunate byproduct of a September surgery on a broken foot.

Finally healthy, Patton made waves earlier this season for a 45-point performance with the G-League OKC Blue. While this again didn’t lead to a ton of NBA opportunities, as Patton was limited to only 25 minutes over five games, he did make his first 3 as a pro, one less than Simmons has made in as many seasons (too easy).

Next: The historical significance of Joel Embiid’s All-Star hat trick

Could Justin Patton immediately come in and fix all of the Philadelphia 76ers’ issues? Probably not, but if the plan is to keep Norvel Pelle on a two-way deal through the end of the season without even negotiating a multi-year extension, Patton presents a ton more upside than Kyle O’Quinn and a more conventional big man backup than Jonah Bolden as a traditional center. Will it happen? Eh, probably not, but if the Patton passes through waivers, I imagine the Delaware Blue Coats wouldn’t mind getting a second crack at the third-year pro now that he’s playing at full strength.

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