Philadelphia 76ers: Summer League might actually be good for Paul Reed

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

When news broke that Paul Reed would be included on the Philadelphia 76ers‘ summer league roster, it generated some pretty pessimistic reactions.

On one hand, any chance to see “BBall” on the court is a treasure worthy of note, as the pride of DePaul will leave it all on the court whether he’s playing against the Miami Heat or the North Philly Recreational League of Fishtown but goodness, after averaging 11.7 minutes in the playoffs, did the soon-to-be third-year player really need to be playing in the summer with a bunch of 19-year-olds?

Fortunately – or not, depending on your opinion – Reed’s summer league minutes came as advertised. He led all players in points at 20, rebounds at 15, and steals at four, while looking like a man among boys on the defensive end of the court.

Heck, Reed even hit a 3, which may not seem impressive but considering he only accomplished that feat on three occasions last season, it is notable nonetheless.

So what gives? Is this another example of the Philadelphia 76ers keeping a player in the Summer League one season too long a la Tyrese Maxey last year, or is there a method to the franchise’s madness? In my humble opinion, it might just be the latter.

Paul Reed needs to showcase his versatility with the Summer Philadelphia 76ers.

Paul Reed is an undersized center.

Now granted, in the modern-day NBA, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and might actually be a good thing in some situations. Franchises NBA-wide have developed varying degrees of infatuation with the concept, and even if a team has an elite center like Joel Embiid, they still need to have a small-ball option for matchup purposes both during the regular season and especially in the playoffs.

With that being said, for a small-ball center to truly transcend their role and become a full-time contributor, they really need to be able to play alongside a proper center at the power forward spot. Draymond Green has to play next to Kevon Looney as Otto Porter and Giannis Antetokounmpo log minutes next to Brook Lopez and next to Bobby Portis, and Chet Holmgrom began his first summer league game at the four, with Aleksej Pokusevski at center.

For Reed to become the same sort of contributor – maybe not a full-time starter, but at least a top reserve coming off the bench – the Sixers really need to feel comfortable playing him next to Joel Embiid instead of just in place of him.

Fortunately, Game 1 of the Utah Summer League offered the first glimpse of that prospect, and the results were encouraging to say the least. Starting at the four next to Charles Bassey at the opening tipoff, Reed provided his typical level of strong-nosed defense, played the lanes looking for loose balls, and blitzed into the paint when Bassey was cooking in the hopes of recording an offensive rebound, of which he had seven. Reed then moved to the five when Michael Foster Jr., the breakout star of the game, entered the game and provided his usual production, be that layups around the basket, playmaking out to his teammates, or even serving as a pick-and-roll man, which is a play the team should run far more often when Jaden Springer is on the ball.

If Reed can continue to bomb the ball from deep, set solid screens, and rebound the ball effectively at both ends of the court, he’ll be well on his way to earning a more expansive role this fall – assuming Doc Rivers is watching the games and actually taking notes.

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Will Paul Reed remain with the Philadelphia 76ers when they take their Summer League four on the road from Utah to Las Vegas, where his Blue Coats won the G-League showcase last season, or will the former G-League MVP ride off into the sunset like Tyrese Maxey back in 2021? Either way, the next two games may prove to be vital for his projections heading into training camp, as BBall Paul, the backup five who can play the four too, is a whole lot more valuable to the team’s plans than a static small-ball five.