Which five bench players should the Sixers use?

De'Anthony Melton, Georges Niang, Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
De'Anthony Melton, Georges Niang, Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Paul Reed, the Sixers’ backup center

Right now, it sure feels like Paul Reed is the Sixers’ backup center. There’s no way Montrezl Harrell will be kept out of the rotation entirely (nor should he be), but Doc Rivers has expressed considerable and unexpected confidence in his 23-year-old center. And he’s right to be confident: Reed shined in the playoffs and is, in this writer’s opinion, the best option to back up Embiid.

The stats don’t lie: Montrezl Harrell is an excellent regular season player, a former Sixth Man of the Year under Rivers in LA and a fruitful pick-and-roll partner next to James Harden once upon a time in Houston. And yet, the Sixers would be wise to stick with Reed. We can haggle over who’s the “better” regular season player, but the Sixers are building toward the playoffs. And there’s no debating who will be more functional when the games matter most. It’s Reed.

When the playoffs come around, it is imperative to have a reliable defender at the center position. There are various pathways to achieving such status — Embiid can protect the rim, P.J. Tucker is switchable, Reed has swift feet and a bloodhound’s nose for the ball. But in the end, you cannot survive a subpar defender in the middle of your defense. Harrell is too small to protect the rim and too slow to defend in space. He cannot guard the likes of Bam Adebayo or Giannis Antetokounmpo in the post, nor can he chase the small-ball Nets along the perimeter. Reed can handle a variety of different matchups with aplomb.

Harrell is without question a better offensive player right now. But the Sixers have shooters and playmakers generating points elsewhere in the rotation. Reed’s defense and rebounding are much more valuable, especially when you consider the potential for development. Reed works hard and should grow considerably as he gets more NBA reps under his belt. The offense is a work in progress, but the flashes are there. Reed can hit 3s and he shows remarkable confidence facing up and attacking off the dribble.