Philadelphia 76ers: Jonah Bolden no longer serves a clear purpose

The Philadelphia 76ers no longer have a clear reason for keeping Jonah Bolden on the roster.

As trade season commences, one player the Philadelphia 76ers should look to deal is Jonah Bolden. While Philadelphia’s trade options are limited — especially in terms of high-profile targets — the Sixers have reason to work the margins and search for minor upgrades where possible.

For Bolden, there’s no path forward in Philadelphia. At least not one that’s abundantly clear the moment. He once harbored immense promise as a prospect, but his second season in the NBA has coincided with regression, not improvement.

The Sixers have severed Bolden from the rotation entirely despite ample opportunities for a young, up-and-coming big. It’s clear the Sixers don’t view Kyle O’Quinn as an everyday reserve, and both Joel Embiid and Al Horford are prone to missed games.

Yet, in recent weeks, it has been Norvel Pelle — not Bolden — who has received minutes in the absence of Philadelphia’s frontcourt stars. Pelle currently occupies a two-way contract, but now has 57 NBA minutes under his belt this season, which stands in stark contrast to Bolden’s lowly five.

Pelle garners more excitement than Bolden as well. He’s a bonafide rim protector, with elite athleticism and clear upside as a shot-blocker. He has foul troubles, not dissimilar to Bolden last season, but makes up for it with a far more consistent presence on the defensive end.

Whereas Bolden has struggled to find a role on offense, Pelle fits easily as a rim-running, lob-catching Nerlens Noel-type — a comparison even Brett Brown has made. He’s not on Noel’s level yet, and may never be. But the archetype is a valuable one.

If the Sixers view Pelle more favorably than Bolden, it’s only a matter of time until Pelle earns a true NBA deal. As Marial Shayok lights up the G-League, the Sixers could have a need for two open roster spots in the near future.

Bolden is the easy cut — only Zhaire Smith has played fewer NBA minutes this season on a fully guaranteed contract. There is still intrigue to Bolden’s skill set, but he simply doesn’t fit the Sixers’ long-term plans.

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For Philadelphia, a potential approach to the trade deadline includes the consolidation of assets. Since the bench consists mostly of veteran minimum contracts beyond Mike Scott and Matisse Thybulle, the Sixers will need to package multiple players in order to take on larger salaries.

It’s the perfect recipe for getting rid of Bolden and opening a roster spot for Pelle. Use Bolden as young, mystery-box trade bait, and hopefully add one more proven contributor to the second unit. Davis Bertans might stay in Washington, but plenty of names populate the rumor mill.

For someone like Zhaire Smith, an extended run in Delaware makes sense. He’s 20, and needs a concentrated environment to work on his skills — ball handling, shooting chief among them. It’s not the same for Bolden, an older prospect who received playing time last season and couldn’t take advantage.

The Sixers’ frontcourt is loaded, and Norvel Pelle is making real, serious inroads to Brett Brown’s rotation. It’s time for the Sixers and Bolden to part ways.