Philadelphia 76ers: Waiving Willie Cauley-Stein was a mistake

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

DeAndre Jordan checks in for (Paul) Millsap, giving Philly four extra inches of washed at the 5.”

This quote, masterfully tweeted out by The Athletic senior NBA columnist/ex-Memphis Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations John Hollinger during the Philadelphia 76ers‘ 113-106 win over the Miami Heat, pretty firmly describes the opinions of most fans of the red, white, and blue. In a game without Joel Embiid, a game against the best team – record speaking – in the East no less, Doc Rivers chose for the umpteenth time to bypass his dynamic young duo of Charles Bassey and Paul Reed in favor of two older centers who don’t exactly look destined for meaningful playoff minutes.

Of the two 80s-born bigs, Millsap arguably turned in the better performance, picking up three more points, one more block, and one fewer turnover than Jordan in two fewer minutes. While he was out-rebounded 2-1 by Jordan, Millsap put in effort in his first game since March 5th and hustled around the court in a way his counterpart hasn’t really shown since making his way from Los Angeles to the City of Brotherly Love.

Surely this game versus the Heat had more good than bad, but Doc Rivers’ unwillingness to play a center old enough to rent a car has gone from a simple stylistic preference to a borderline zealoted commitment that only Daryl Morey’s decision to outright release Paul Millsap and DeAndre Jordan could curb. If Paul Reed and Charles Bassey will never get any run in Rivers’ offense, why did the team release Willie Cauley-Stein, a 28-year-old former lottery pick out of Kentucky, who theoretically plays like a much younger version of Jordan with a lot more gas left in the tank?

WCS should probably be the Philadelphia 76ers’ backup center right now.

On paper, what does optimal DeAndre Jordan bring to the table? Well, at least back in the day, he was a good post defender, a better rebounder, an efficient screen-setter, and a hopper capable of blocking shots/throwing down lobs. In 2022, Jordan can still do all of that. But the flashes of his former brilliance have become fewer and farther between, with far more missed assignments filling up his game film.

Now what does Willie Cauley-Stein bring to the table? Well, like Jordan, he defends the post well, can rebound the ball at an efficient clip, set some screens, has a switchable perimeter presence, and even makes plays above the rim when given an opportunity. Outside of having Doc Rivers as a reference, there isn’t a thing Willie Cauley-Stein can’t do on a Basketball court that Jordan can, which unfortunately for the Philadelphia 76ers can’t be said the other way around.

So why, dare I ask, was WCS waived for Jordan? It can’t be because he played poorly on his 10-day contract, because frankly, it’s impossible to know, because he only played six minutes in two games. Were his reps at practice that bad? Has Rivers simply not watched Jordan play a game since he was a member of the Lob City Clippers? Either way, it’s hard to watch Jordan getting minutes over Paul Reed, Charles Bassey, and even Paul Millsap and not cringe at the thought of how Greg Monroe-e it will look in the playoffs.

Sidebar: Do you know who else can do everything DeAndre Jordan can do on the basketball court right now? Paul Reed and Charles Bassey, though at this point, complaining about that feels like a waste of time, as it won’t change a darn thing.

Next. Pair Shake Milton and Tobias Harris with Joel Embiid. dark

Look, I’m gonna level with you, I don’t think keeping Willie Cauley-Stein was the magic pill that would fix the Philadelphia 76ers’ playoff rotation. Their backup center will get picked on no matter who is in the game, and even Charles Bassey and/or Paul Reed could get exploited depending on the matchup. But goodness, to paraphrase John Hollinger, what’s worse than having one washed center? Two washed centers, and in Willie Cauley-Stein, the Sixers at least had a player in the correct age range for Doc Rivers’ rotation. It’s just a shame he’ll be watching the playoffs at home while DeAndre Jordan continues to play double-digit minutes per game.