Few players ascended to the heights of fan favoritism as rapidly as Paul Reed. After the Philadelphia 76ers selected him with the 58th picks in the 2020 draft, Reed showed flashes unlike any big man the franchise had seen during the Joel Embiid era. His energizer bunny-like motor was refreshing especially contrasted against the string of veterans that have been brought in at the tail end of their careers. Despite Doc Rivers’ unwillingness to play Reed through the start of the year, he has been given some additional leash with his play so far this season and is proving why this should have been the case all along.
Where Reed Has Improved
The biggest area where Reed makes his presence known is on the defensive end. His ability to move his feet with smaller guards while standing up to big men makes him a capable defender in just about every matchup. Reed ranks third in the NBA in deflections per 36 minutes with 5.3 per game. He also leads the NBA in steals per 36 minutes at 3.9. His ability in pick-and-roll coverage has especially stood out compared to Embiid and Montrezl Harrell who have struggled in this role.
The DePaul product also has shown some growth in his third season at the NBA level. The most notable area of this has been his decision-making, especially around the basket. In years past Reed tended to have tunnel vision following offensive rebounds and constantly attempted to go back up with shot attempts. He oftentimes would attack the basket in an uncontrolled manner which resulted in ineffective shot attempts and empty possessions.
The 6’9″ big man has added a jump stop to his game which has been effective around the basket. Taking this extra second to compose himself and then going up for the shot attempt has made him much more productive around the rim. Reed has also shown more awareness as a passer and has not forced up shots when they are not there. His willingness and ability to kick out to shooters add another layer to the Sixers’ offense.
Reed’s growth in cutting out some of the nonsense in his game and playing within his role has also been notable. He ranks 8th in the NBA in screen assists per 36 minutes at 6.0 which is a credit to his growth in other areas offensively. During his 11.0 minutes per game, he is averaging 2.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals so far this season.
Where Reed Still Has Work To Do
He still is not perfect and the biggest red flag in Reed’s game continues to be his tendency to foul. His 7.6 fouls per 36 minutes lead the entire NBA and his inability to take a play off is both a blessing and a curse. The Orlando native fouled out in the most recent matchup with the Magic after his six points, seven rebounds, two assists, and one steal which he tallied in his 20 minutes of game time.
There have still been signs of growth in this area and Reed has cut his fouls down since receiving an expanded role in Embiid’s absence. His fouls per 36 numbers were above nine per game to start the season, but this is coming back down to a better mark. Reed recently put forth what was likely the most impressive performance of his career against the Nets. In his 31:13 of game-time, he produced 19 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Bball Paul also tallied just one foul in the matchup while making his impact felt on the defensive end throughout the entirety of the matchup.
These foul issues are also overstated considering the role he is destined for. When this Sixers team is at full health, Reed will not be called on for more than 12-15 minutes per game. If he uses all six fouls during this stretch then so be it. The biggest reason for continuing to give him extended time on the court is so he will be ready to fill the backup center role come playoff time.
Considering the well-documented playoff struggles of Harrell as the other backup center option, the importance of developing Reed is even more clear. There are necessary growing pains the third-year professional is going through but it is undeniable the impact he has made. Rivers and the rest of the organization deserve credit for buying into his development and must continue to make this the focus for the remainder of the season. Reed looks to be a diamond in the rough and is being further polished by the day.