Sixers: Isaiah Joe will make them look foolish with OKC

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

The Sixers recently waived Isaiah Joe to increase financial flexibility ahead of the regular season. Philly now has an open roster spot and a few million dollars to play with beneath the vaunted tax apron. Joe was never going to play this season, nor was he particularly likely to stay beyond 2023.

So, it bears stating in the plainest possible terms: the Sixers are probably not going to live in true regret. Joe’s future with the team has been muddled from day one, and Daryl Morey’s excellent offseason provided a fresh wave of obstacles Joe wouldn’t be able to overcome. There are too many good wings on the roster right now.

That being said, Joe feels like the kind of player smart teams don’t simply cut. There is real NBA potential there, and his next team — the OKC Thunder, who signed Joe to a multi-year contract on Saturday — are primed to reap the rewards of Joe’s unique, NBA-ready skill set.

Isaiah Joe could make the Sixers look bad for cutting him

Joe’s primary skill is his long-range shooting. He was drafted out of Arkansas because of his insane blend of volume, efficiency, and shot versatility in college. He took over 10 triples per game with the Razorbacks and he did so from a variety of different spots on the floor. His ability to hit movement 3s running off screens or working out of two-man actions on the perimeter was especially appealing to the Sixers, for obvious Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons-related reasons.

While Joe flashed his elite shooting potential with Philly, he never played long enough to establish a rhythm. He managed a meager 33.3 percent from deep last season on 8.0 attempts per 36 minutes. He played sparsely over the course of 55 appearances, however, and was never truly part of the rotation. And that was when Philly was actively searching for quality depth pieces to fill out the rotation.

Some of the blame rests on Joe’s shoulders for never quite separating himself from the pack (Furkan Korkmaz is the pack) when given the opportunity. Some of the blame rests on Doc Rivers for never properly investing in Joe’s NBA development. Joe spent barely any time in the G-League because he’s is clearly too good for the G-League. But the Sixers never gave him consistent NBA reps, even with one of the NBA’s worst benches and no real difference-makers ahead of him in the rotation.

Now he’s with OKC. The Thunder are young and rebuilding, that roster being almost entirely characterized by its youth. The 23-year-old Joe should fit right in. He’s on the same timeline as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and the Thunder’s core. Joe can hit 3s and defend: he’s the perfect NBA role player on paper, and OKC has a distinct need for players like Joe. There isn’t enough shooting on that team and many of OKC’s recent draft picks have been invested in players who need the ball. Joe immediately occupies an important niche for that team. He is going to get minutes, and odds are, he will look pretty good in those minutes.

The Sixers should have gone through a period of trial and error with Joe when they still had the chance. This is a very deep and talented team — if Philly wins a title, no one will care much about Isaiah Joe — but there’s a good chance Daryl Morey let a rotation-caliber wing walk for nothing because Doc Rivers never gave him a chance. That’s a bummer.

Next. Sixers preseason grades. dark