The Philadelphia 76ers have had glaring problems with the backup center position since “The Process” era has begun and this 2022-23 season is no different. Despite leading with that, this team as currently constructed is the best top to bottom since Joel Embiid has been playing at least 50 games per year.
One problem that has spanned across multiple iterations of Joel Embiid-led teams, is the backup center in the playoffs. The agonizing problem has motivated me to look into the Sixers’ options at the backup center spot. I came up with three low-risk backup center signings for the Sixers.
How might the Sixers address their backup center woes?
The first option is Hassan Whiteside. A big man that is familiar with the big fella Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers fans due to playoff clashes between the Sixers and the Miami Heat some years ago. Whitside is on the older side as this 2022-23 season would be his age-33 season. Whiteside played in 65 games, started eight, and averaged 17.9 minutes per game, 8.2 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game on .652/.000/.623 shooting splits.
Whiteside is nowhere near the athlete he once was but he is still a very large presence in the paint. Whiteside’s physicality and length can contribute to the Sixers’ defense by adding better rim protection and rebounding. Those two areas are two of the teams’ weaknesses. Theoretically, the move can work. Especially on the offensive end where all Whiteside has to do is set good screens and roll hard to the rim.
The second option is Killian Tillie. The third-year player is already a free agent. Tillie, out of Gonzaga, played his first two seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies. Tillie has played in 54 games, made four starts, played 11.9 minutes per game and has scored 3.2 points per game on .339/.311/.737 shooting splits. Tillie adds a stretch big aspect to the Sixers that clears the lane for the team even more.
Besides that, Tillie would have to become an absolute weapon on Harden pick-and-pop actions to bear with his defense. Tillie is a lanky, 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward. If the Sixers were better on the defensive end at a more consistent level, then Tillie’s skillset would be helpful to the team. But the team is doing its best at getting out of the one-way player trend in the playoffs. Consider Tillie to be the least likely out of the three options because he is only a shooter.
The third option is Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica coming to the Sixers, sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s never too late I guess, right? The Croatian veteran forward joins the team five years after he backed out of playing with the team. Bjelica has a serviceable skillset and recently was a part of the Golden State Warriors championship team. Bjelica played in 71 games, averaging 16.1 minutes per game, and 6.1 points per game on .468/.362/.728 shooting splits, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 2.2 assists per game.
Bjelica’s shooting and vision as a connecting passer may not be enough if acquired as it is on par with current Sixer, Georges Niang’s abilities. Bjelica’s signing would some depth and optionality on the offensive end of the floor.
The Philadelphia 76ers have time to evaluate their roster, including their backup center situation. The three players are just a few possible names that the team presumably has on a whiteboard or an Excel spreadsheet. No matter who it is, the 76ers need to consider an external option at the backup center position.