Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t laugh off the idea of signing Hassan Whiteside

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Heading into the offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers had a pretty sound strategy lined up at center. Sure, they could have gone out and signed a big named backup, with Isaiah Hartenstein being the most intriguing option on the proverbial board, but Daryl Morey took his assets in another direction, instead choosing to upgrade the wings with 3-and-D talents.

Why? Well, because the presence of Paul Reed and Charles Bassey made that a viable possibility.

On paper, the idea was sound; Reed could log the bulk of the team’s minutes behind any given game as a switch-happy defender who could be a force around the hoop, and on the off chance an opposing team had a bigger center, well, then Bassey could enter the game and shore that right up.

And yet, after watching Bassey play less than inspired basketball during the Summer League, can the team really count on him to play double-digit minutes against a bigger team like the New York Knicks? Or what about in games where Joel Embiid is unable to go? Can Bassey realistically hold things down for half of a game, or are those contests more or less destined to be losses?

If that concern is echoed by the coaching staff and front office professionals at the Philadelphia 76ers’ Practice Complex in Camden, then it may be worth reaching out to another former Joel Embiid rival to see if he’s down to play a limited role as the bigger counterpart to Paul Reed.

Hassan Whiteside might just be the best vet minimum free agent for the Philadelphia 76ers’ needs.

Alright, so let’s address the elephant in the room right from the jump: If Doc Rivers automatically plays a veteran center over Paul Reed just because of his experience in the NBA, this conversation is over; Paul Reed deserves to be the Philadelphia 76ers’ backup center in 75 percent of situations, and blocking his path to that role in this, his contract year, is a borderline basketball sin.

If, however, the Sixers are willing to get creative, play Reed a little at the four depending on how well he can play off of Embiid, and stay big against bigger opponents, then why not pursue another center who can play behind Embiid, play with Embiid Minnesota-style – leave me alone in the comments section, it was a semi-joke – and play alongside Reed in James Harden-focused lineups?

Why not sign Hassan Whiteside?

Now, I know what you’re (probably) already thinking: Whiteside is a bum who Miami had to practically beg to get off of their book; why would the Sixers want to sign him?

Well, because Whiteside is actually a very good defensive center who is worth a contract in the $2.36 million range according to FiveThirtyEight. He’s maintained a positive Defensive Raptor rating in every season since the stat started being recorded in 2013-14 and a DBPM of 1.4 in 2021-22, which is identical to P.J. Tucker’s number.

Whiteside can soak up big minutes if need be in Joel Embiid’s absence, as he averaged over 27 minutes a night from 2014-20, but after averaging just 16.9 minutes per game over the past two seasons and choosing to sign with Utah despite already having a knockout center in place effectively proves that he’s accepted his lot as a backup big.

If Embiid can squash his beef with Whiteside Andre Drummond-style, and Doc slots Whiteside in third on his depth chart – which is easier said than done – then there’s no downside to throwing him a one-year, non-guaranteed contract to see what happens.

Next. Hey Indiana, still interested in Furkan Korkmaz?. dark

In a perfect world, the Philadelphia 76ers would be good to go with Paul Reed and Charles Bassey as their backup centers; it’d give the team a chance to develop two young performers, experiment with lineups, and eliminate the excuse for Doc Rivers to go with veterans based on experience, not the present-day merits. In practice, however, it might be wise to target a veteran, “traditional” center like Hassan Whiteside who can compete with Bassey and play in big-ball lineups for when Reed is getting beaten on the boards.