His time with the Philadelphia 76ers may have been short-lived, but Isiah Joe’s impact was not. The Arkansas sharpshooter rapidly established himself as a fan favorite and maximized fans’ frustrations about Doc Rivers’ unwillingness to give young players a chance.
Joe played a total of just 96 minutes with the Sixers during his two seasons with the organization. With salary cap flexibility in mind, the Sixers elected to release Joe before the season. The 23-year-old made his return to Philadelphia on Thursday when he and the Thunder took down the Sixers 133-114. Joe opened up on his exit from the Sixers following the matchup.
“It kind of came quick, for sure, but leading up to it, you could kind of feel that there was something in the works, but my job was to, regardless of the noise that was going on on the outside was still to be immersed in the game, in the moment,” Joe said. “Even before I got waived, I was still playing in the preseason games or whatnot. I still have my focus on the court because that’s what I’m here for. I feel like if you do that, and you work your tail off, everything else will fall into place,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.
Joe’s Feeling on the Sixers
Joe reflected positively on his two seasons with Philadelphia after he was selected with the 49th overall pick in the 2020 draft. He revealed he still keeps in contact with a number of the players, especially Paul Reed and Tyrese Maxey, and believes these are connections he will maintain for a lifetime. Joe also spoke highly of Rivers and his relationship with the head coach.
“Doc’s always been wanting to be on my side,” Joe said of his former head coach. “I know a lot of people probably don’t know that, but he’s always been wanting to be on my side. He actually made some phone calls of his own afterward. He talked me up, gave me words of encouragement just saying he’ll always be there for me if I ever need him. Definitely a great coach, even better person. My years playing for him were really good, but he even supports me when I’m on the opposite side,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.
Rivers also has spoken highly of Joe throughout his tenure with the Sixers and following the release. While he may not have shown it in the 10.3 minutes per game and 96 total games he played the guard, Rivers has repeatedly shared the message that he believes he is an NBA talent.
What’s Next for Sixers?
The Thunder offered Joe a much more expanded role as they are in the midst of their rebuild. The third-year guard is recording career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, and three-pointers. His 42.2% three-point percentage ranks 11th in the NBA and Joe has grown into a legitimate weapon off the Oklahoma City bench.
While in theory it makes sense to allow Joe to seek another opportunity and provide the Sixers with more finical and roster flexibility, this only works out if a win-now player finds their way to Philadelphia. The Sixers continue to hold an open roster spot and high expectations for the season.
While they may not be franchise-altering players, allowing Joe and Charles Bassey to walk for free and watching them make a positive impact on their new teams should sting a little bit. Giving up effective young players without getting anything in return is not a recipe for long-term organizational success.
The Sixers sit at 25-16 at the mid-point of the season and in 5th place in the Eastern Conference. It has been an up-and-down start to the year with injuries providing a notable hurdle to figuring out how this team stacks up. It would be a massive waste if the Sixers allowed Joe to walk for free and go into the playoff stretch with an open roster spot. Expect Daryl Morey to be in search of the perceived missing piece of a playoff rotation in the near future- whether it be ahead of the looming trade deadline or via the buyout market.