Philadelphia 76ers: For Isaiah Joe, making the team is only step one

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

Isaiah Joe entered the Summer League with a lot to prove.

For one thing, Kyle Neubeck suggested that a poor showing in Utah/Las Vegas could be enough to cast his long-term status into question and ultimately get the front office to take the bottom of their roster in a different direction.

Fortunately for Joe, he balled out like most expected to see the third-year pro do, and ultimately left Las Vegas as one of the most hyped-up performers on the circuit. Boasting a NET rating that was higher than Day’Ron Sharpe (10.4 vs. 9.3), a WARP higher than Chet Holmgren (1.18 vs. 1.15), and a WARP/G higher than eventual Summer League MVP Keegan Murray (.24 vs. .23) all according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, most teams would consider Joe an asset worthy of a steady roster spot moving forward if for no other reason than to get a thousand or so minutes under their belts before the playoffs roll around.

Unfortunately, Isaiah Joe “plays” for the Philadelphia 76ers, and thus, finding a spot in Doc Rivers’ rotation is going to be a whole lot easier said than done, even if Joe has a unique player profile the likes of which few other players on the roster can boast.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to test Isaiah Joe’s mettle on the court this fall.

1,000 minutes seems like a lot of time to be on a basketball court over the course of a regular season.

Sure, 82 games is a lot, and there will inevitably be occasions where even a team’s 12th man is thrust into heavy minutes due to injuries, absences, designated rest days, or a combination of the three, but a few outliers that start with a three aren’t going to magically overcome a few dozen more that start with a zero.

And yet, if a player averages just 12.2 minutes per game over a full 82-game season, they clear the 1,000-minute mark without much issue. Kick that number up to 18 minutes per game, and the number rises up to 1,476 minutes over a full season, and if a player can just log half of the minutes in any given game, he will close out the season with 1,968.

Over the 2021-22 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers had nine players who recorded 1,000 regular season minutes, with Andre Drummond and James Harden both likely having hit that mark, too, if they played the entire season in a Sixers uniform. One player who did not hit the 1,000-minute mark in 2021-22 was Isaiah Joe, who, despite having played 96 regular season games with the Sixers, has yet to hit 1,000 total minutes over his two seasons in red, white, and blue.

Now on paper, Joe’s usage as a rookie made sense; he was one of the lightest players in the NBA at 6-foot-4, 165 pounds, and he simply couldn’t hold up on the defensive end of the court against the sort of guards/wings he would be rotated onto by a savvy offensive coach. But in 2021-22, with a more filled-out Joe returned for a second season in South Philly, his stop-start spot in Doc Rivers’ rotation proved detrimental to his on-court development, especially considering his reputation as a volume shooter.

Though Joe’s minutes nearly doubled from his first to his second season, he still had 28 games where he logged single-digit minutes versus only 10 games where he was on the court for over 20. While this isn’t unusual for a deep bench guy, one would assume that when Seth Curry made his way to Brooklyn in the Harden trade package, he would be the beneficiary of a few choice dimes from Philly’s most noted wine connoisseur. Instead, Joe just had three games where he logged double-digit minutes in the same game as Harden was active for.

Considering Joe has established himself as a solid defender, there’s little reason why he shouldn’t be a fixture of the Sixers’ offense this fall, especially in lineups that also feature “The Beard.”

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Realistically speaking, Isaiah Joe isn’t quite ready for a spot in the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting lineup. He also isn’t going to serve as the team’s sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, or even 10th man this fall, with those roles being filled by De’Anthony Melton, Matisse Thybulle, Danuel House, Georges Niang, and Paul Reed, though maybe not in that order. Still, there’s no reason Joe shouldn’t see some run this fall to the same level as performers like Shake Milton and above the likes of Furkan Korkmaz, Charles Bassey, Jaden Springer, and whoever earns the 15th and final roster spot between Michael Foster Jr. and Trevelin Queen; if anything, giving Joe a propper go early on could define how Daryl Morey and company decide to handle the 2023 trade deadline.