The last decade or so has often felt like a series of “those who got away” for the Philadelphia 76ers. Though Joel Embiid represents a major hit in Philadelphia’s “Process” era, the team’s recent history is rife with whiffs as well. Mikal Bridges, Jayson Tatum, and Brandon Ingram are all names that Philadelphia could have in a Sixers jersey now had they not instead gone with Zaire Smith, Markelle Fultz, and Ben Simmons.
And if Isaiah Joe continues playing this well, his name might be next on that list. Joe was a roster casualty in preseason along with Charles Bassey; fortunately for Joe, he was picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder shortly after his release.
And after never averaging more than 3.7 points per game in Philadelphia, Joe is now up to 8.1 points per night on 44.8% shooting from three with Oklahoma City. Even scarier, Joe’s per-36 numbers — 19.0 points, 5.1 rebounds — suggest he could have been a serious threat for Philly this season
Why the Sixers simply moved on from Joe remains baffling. Daryl Morey, for his part, has remained mum on the subject until recently. The Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations opened up to Philly Voice about the controversial decision recently.
“We’re not going to have playing time for everyone. So sometimes, we’re going to cut players who are very good players. And we’re happy for those that go on to do great things,” Morey explained when asked about cutting Joe last fall. “There’s a lot of factors that go into it, including the current contract or the goals of the season to win a title. We could start bringing in worse players so we never cut a good one.”
Sixers Could Use Joe’s Offensive Firepower
While Morey cleverly responded to Joe’s cut by ridiculing the idea of “bringing in worse players,” the truth is that the Sixers actually left worse players on the roster following Joe’s cut.
So far this season, Philadelphia has primarily relied on a 10-player unit, though just seven see more than 20 minutes per night (Georges Niang, is just under the cut at 19.8 minutes).
Beneath that tier, guys like Furkan Korkmaz, Danuel House, Jr., and Paul Reed are well on the periphery of the rotation. And if Philadelphia isn’t going to that trio during the season, there’s little chance any see big time during the playoffs.
Instead, of a slew of DNPs, the Sixers could have had a scorcher in Joe, who would have gone a long way toward boosting Philadelphia’s league-average standing in threes attempted. It’s a tempting thought to imagine a second unit that includes Niang, Joe, Tyrese Maxey, DeAnthony Melton, and Joel Embiid. In Niang, Maxey, and Joe, the Sixers would have three legitimate perimeter threats. In Melton, a decent defender. And in Embiid, an MVP frontrunner.
Ultimately, the Sixers aren’t starved for shooting off the bench thanks to Niang. But it never hurts to have a stable of reliable hot hands.
Morey Tips Hand at Sixers’ Trade Plans
Morey also revealed to the Philadelphia Inquirer that Philadelphia doesn’t intend to make many splashy moves ahead of the deadline. While last year’s Ben Simmons-James Harden swap was certainly a blockbuster, Morey feels much better this time around about the current team’s makeup.
“When we’re looking to improve the team, it’s frankly not easy to find upgrades who are better than our 11th guy,” Morey said. “We think the players are pretty good. Obviously, if no move happens, we’re going to feel like we have a very good chance to win the title.”
Morey also told Inquirer that he feels a responsibility to fans to build the best roster possible, but said other teams aren’t always willing to make big moves — especially with a contending team.
“We can go in with the goals of trying to give Doc [Rivers] more tools to win the championship, but it doesn’t always work out,” Morey explained. “It will either happen or it won’t. But it won’t be for lack of effort. We’re going to turn over every rock and try to help the team.”