Sixers: 3 position battles to watch in preseason

Shake Milton, Paul Reed, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Shake Milton, Paul Reed, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Sixers preseason position battle — Montrezl Harrell vs. Paul Reed

There has been talk of Paul Reed sharing the floor with Joel Embiid. While it’s promising to see Doc Rivers so interested in getting his young big man on the floor, I’m doubtful of Reed ever truly thriving at the four spot. At least next season, unless his offensive development behind the scenes has been truly transformative.

Reed is ultimately a backup center — and so is new arrival Montrezl Harrell, who signed a two-year minimum contract late in the summer. Harrell has been widely proclaimed as the favorite to eat up minutes behind Embiid, and for good reason. He’s a personal favorite of James Harden, he played the best basketball of his career under Rivers in LA, and he’s an established vet.

Harrell will probably “win” this battle. He’s one heck of an offensive player and every advanced stat qualifies him as great in the regular season. His fit next to Harden in the second unit is more natural and he’s going to rebound just as well as Reed. Here’s the thing, though: Harrell is an 82-game player, not a 16-game player. His defensive flaws are easily exploited in the playoffs, to the point where keeping him on the floor is often a grave error. Reed, as we saw last season, can survive and even thrive in the playoffs.

In Reed, the Sixers have a genuinely special defensive talent entering the final year of his rookie contract. It would behoove them to test the extent of his abilities before that contract runs out. Reed has been praised rather profusely at camp too: teammates and coaches alike have noted his work ethic, and he purportedly added eight inches to his vertical over the summer. True or not, Reed’s competitive spirit and drive to succeed can never be questioned.

There is also no doubt that Reed is driven to prove himself, especially after the Harrell signing. He is going to play hard in the preseason because that’s his approach to every game. He is going to play like he’s competing for minutes, because ultimately, he is. And if Reed plays up to his potential, he’s more than capable of planting the seeds of doubt in Rivers’ mind. Harrell is a great regular season backup, but that’s all he is. Reed has two-way upside that stretches beyond what Harrell is capable of offering.

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