Sixers make shocking decision to waive two young players

Isaiah Joe, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah Joe, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sixers steered hard into controversy on Thursday morning. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Philadelphia has waived both Isaiah Joe and Charles Bassey. After long debates in the fandom about who might claim the 15th roster spot, the Sixers have decided to leave that roster spot open ahead of the regular season.

Joe, the 49th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, will be especially missed. He seemed on the precipice of carving out a real role for essentially his entire career. Until this offseason, of course, when Philly acquired several veteran 3-and-D wings. Joe was scarcely seen in the preseason, and now we know why: he wasn’t in the Sixers’ long (or short)-term plans.

Bassey, the 53rd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, played sparsely as a rookie before being essentially ignored this preseason. The Sixers multiple times went to Michael Foster Jr. late in games ahead of Bassey, which led many to speculate that he was on his way out the door. It’s surprising, however, that he and Joe are parting ways together.

The Sixers have an open roster spot; now what?

Here is the most likely motivation behind Philadelphia’s decision to cut both Joe and Bassey: money. While the Sixers have been willing to spend big on a championship-contending team in recent years, do not put it past ownership to try and squeeze out every ounce of profit on the margins. Neither Joe nor Bassey were going to play this season, and now another move or two could get the Sixers out of the tax entirely.

I would expect the dealing to stop for now. Morey doesn’t have a ton of great trade chips on the roster: Tobias Harris’ contract is too big to garner real interest from other teams, while the likes of Furkan Korkmaz and Georges Niang simply are not melting GM phone lines. The Sixers entered last season with an open roster spot and seem prepared to operate similarly in 2022-23.

There aren’t a ton of free agents on the market who would justify cutting Joe, a talented shooter who has proven his chops as a defender in the NBA. My expectation is that Joe will find more opportunity with his next NBA team. He’s a real player, and it’s a shame the Sixers had to give him up for what could presumably be penny-pinching on ownership’s part.

That being said, I can already feel the overreactions bubbling up around the fandom. Joe and Bassey were straight-up not going to play this season. Isaiah Joe was recently buried beneath an avalanche of quality wings and Charles Bassey was firmly the fifth-string center behind the Embiid-Tucker-Reed-Harrell quartet. You don’t need five centers. Both were in the final years of their partially-guaranteed rookie contracts. Neither was particularly likely to stay beyond the 2022-23 season.

Joe has potential, but his performance at the NBA level up to this point has been quite underwhelming. He shot 35 percent from the field last season. The Sixers never gave him much of a chance, but the newly acquired depth basically ensured that chance would never come in Philly. Doc Rivers should have played Joe more last season, but alas, hindsight is 20-20.

Philadelphia has an open roster spot to play with in trades and free agency. If a juicy veteran gets bought out, expect Daryl Morey and Co. to get right on the phone. We’re looking at you, Eric Gordon.

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