No knock on MFJ, who was a fine player for the G-League Ignite playing alongside the likes of former Sixer Amir Johnson, but his status as a tweener big proved a tough sell on a roster that already had a small-ball center with power forward potential in Paul Reed and a raw yet toolsy center in Charles Bassey in place.
Factor in the late addition of Trevelin Queen, who earned a partial guarantee on the first year of his free agent contract, and the prospects of finding a spot for Foster this fall felt sort of hard to find.
Then again, if Michael Foster Jr. can continue to play like he did in his Utah debut with the Summer League Philadelphia 76ers, that’ll be a good problem to have, as his game jumped off the court anytime he stepped onto it.
Michael Foster Jr. might make the Philadelphia 76ers’ decision for them.
Heading into the Philadelphia 76ers’ Utah Summer League bout against the Memphis Grizzlies, Michael Foster Jr. was slated as the team’s first big coming off the bench. He wasn’t going to start over Charles Bassey, and definitely wasn’t going to start over Paul Reed – who probably shouldn’t be playing but did commit some great play to tape at the four spot- but when the former came off of the bench, which kicked the latter to the five, Foster was afforded a chance to slide right in at the four.
That, my friends, is where Foster shined.
Taking the court in a number 41 jersey – which probably won’t be his final number if he makes the team – Foster looked like a natural power forward despite largely playing the five with the Ignite. Though he only scored five points in 15 minutes, going 2-6 from the field but a perfect 1-1 from 3, Foster finished out the game with a plus-minus of 4, tied for the second-best mark on the team alongside fellow bench performer Aminu Mohammed. His defensive efforts were impressive too, showing an ability to switch across the four and five spot, defend on the wing and in the paint, and he even picked up a steal for his trouble.
Really, the only aspect of Foster’s game that wasn’t thoroughly tested in the contest was his ability to steadily post up on the likes of Kenny Lofton Jr. or Xavier Tillman Sr. and consistently win the matchup, but on a team with Joel Embiid at center, the opportunities to do so, especially as a power forward, are slim to basically none.
While the Sixers don’t really need another backup center, as their 2021-22 roster composition proved that keeping five bigs who all need to play at the five can horribly tank depth in the backcourt and on the wings, if Foster can play around the four alongside the likes of Embiid, Reed, or even Bassey, his utility could absolutely warrant a spot on the team moving forward, especially since, at just 19, he has plenty of room to grow before he enters his NBA prime.
As things presently stand, the Philadelphia 76ers have 16 players under contract with two more, Julian Champagnie and Charlie Brown Jr., signed to two-way deals. *Spoiler alert* that’s too many; while the team can clean that number up, releasing a one or two-way player up to free up a spot or by executing a two-for-one trade, they would need to have a player actually worthy of stashing on the roster to justify such a move. Fortunately, if his Summer League debut in Utah is of any indication, Michael Foster Jr. might just be that caliber of prospect, which is good news for the team but bad news for one of his teammates.