Philadelphia 76ers: 1 question presented by Andre Drummond’s return

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Philadelphia 76ers fans, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Not in regards to the team’s biggest issue, mind you, as, per Brian Windhorst, the NBA trade market has effectively been put on ice as GMs search the world over for COVID hardship replacement players, but unlike Ben Simmons, a few Sixers players who have become fixtures of the injury report could soon find their way back onto an NBA court.

The first name off the COVID list? Andre Drummond.

That’s right, after being placed into protocol on December 19th, Drummond is officially back at practice with his teammates and could potentially play as soon as Thursday – alongside Shake Milton – when Philly takes an Amtrak up to Brooklyn for a showdown against the formerly New Jersey Nets.

On paper, getting some much-needed reinforcements is fantastic news, as it could allow Doc Rivers to finally generate some consistency in his rotation – fingers crossed – but with Andre Drummond back, how will the Philadelphia 76ers divvy up their reserve frontcourt minutes and,  more importantly, how should they divvy up their reserve frontcourt minutes?

Andre Drummond’s return could send some promising young Philadelphia 76ers to the bench.

Off the top of my head, the Philadelphia 76ers’ center depth chart probably looks a bit like this: Joel Embiid, Andre Drummond, Charles Bassey, Paul Reed.

Now granted, could Bassey and Reed flip depending on the matchup? Sure, not to mention the fact that Reed has also been known to log minutes at the four spot, but for the sake of argument, let’s go with it.

With Drummond out, the Sixers have largely rolled with Bassey as their second option behind “The Process,” with Reed rotating in as well once he returned to the team from a run in Delaware leading up to the G-League showcase.

The results? Encouraging.

Sure, neither player was able to individually replace Drummond’s statistical contributions, as the center oddly nicknamed “Big Penguin” is one of the most efficient rebounders in the NBA and is good for a little over six points per game as a result, but combined, Reed and Bassey are coming darn close in some regards and outright outperforming their veteran counterpart depending on the contest.

In Bassey, the Sixers have an ideal backup center. He measures in at 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, has a professional frame, and provides similar utility to Drummond at both ends of the court. If Bassey can translate his rebounding/blocking over from Western Kentucky and his stroke from beyond the arc from the G-League, he could undoubtedly develop into the sort of swing big capable of spelling Embiid for 18 minutes a game and maybe even playing alongside him for a few minutes a night.

And as for Reed? Well, he too can play backup five, but he does so in a much more modern fashion.

In Delaware, where the Blue Coats routinely run their offense through 44 when he’s available, Reed is a massive threat to score in a variety of different ways, including from beyond the arc, and has developed a deceptive ability to get his teammates involved as a secondary offensive facilitator. While that offensive production largely hasn’t translated to the NBA level, Reed’s defense has, and he could be a very useful rotational piece capable of switching onto opposing scorers three-through-five.

Sum the production of those two players together since Drummond went into protocol, and what do you get? 4.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, .6 steals, and .6 blocks in 19.3 minutes of action.

Not quite Drummond numbers straight up but not too far removed either.

So, with Drummond on his way back to the court, how should the Philadelphia 76ers reincorporate him into their rotation? That, my friends, is the question at hand.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the Sixers moved on from Drummond and simply rolled with their two young interior options, as his contract, when aggregated with that of Shake Milton, could help you secure a useful player at a position of need. Is that realistic? Sure, but if it does happen, it likely won’t come anytime soon.

So if that’s the case, what should the Sixers do to keep Drummond happy and their younger centers engaged? In my humble opinion, the answer is simple: Give BBall Paul consistent single-digit minutes at power forward and use Bassey as the primary backup center when Drummond or Embiid is out.

For all of the upside Bassey brings long-term, he really isn’t a better option than Drummond right now or doesn’t have the position flexible needed to play power forward. Could he eventually get there? Sure, but not before the February 10th trade deadline. Reed, by contrast, can play decently well at power forward defensively, even if his offense as a wing player is still a work-in-progress. Playing Reed in a Matisse Thybulle-style role when the pride of Washington is off the court could keep him engaged, on the court, and progressing while the team attempts to wade through their logjam in the paint.

Ideal? Hardly but it’s a start.

Next. The Philadelphia 76ers could really use Danny Green right now. dark

When the Philadelphia 76ers signed Andre Drummond, it felt like a steal. When he took the court early on and played well, it felt like that belief was vindicated, and even when he’d struggle, keeping 1 in the game felt like the best bet moving forward. But now? Now it feels like the Sixers will eventually turn the keys over to either Charles Bassey, Paul Reed, or even both, as their long-term reserve option(s) at center, even if it doesn’t happen until after the trade deadline or even after the season.