76ers: Dissecting Daryl Morey’s recent comments on The Rights to Ricky Sanchez

James Harden, Daryl Morey, 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
James Harden, Daryl Morey, 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. /
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(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The backup center position

“We feel comfortable with PJ, and Paul Reed, and Dedmon as our group”, said Daryl. Whether the omission of Montrezl Harrell was intentional or not, Daryl did not back track to include Montrezl when Mike responded and said “it’s notable that you named three.” I don’t believe Daryl meant to throw Montrezl under the bus by omitting his name, but I believe it’s telling that the Sixers don’t view Montrezl as a playable option for the playoffs.

What is notable, however, is that Paul Reed has not only played, but has been the primary backup center in every single game since this podcast was released. The job appears to be his to lose. Even in the March 1 game against Miami, where Joel Embiid sat on the first night of a back-to-back, PJ Tucker started as the small ball five with Reed playing 29 minutes off the bench. Despite Embiid’s absence, Montrezl Harrell didn’t leave the bench.

It’s also noteworthy that when Morey was an executive for the Rockets, he traded away starting center Clint Capela for former Sixer, Robert Covington. That move overextended the 6-foot-5 PJ Tucker to play a small ball center role the remainder of the season and the playoffs, but it showed Morey had confidence for Tucker to play an extended role as a center. I am sure this is a scenario that Daryl and Doc Rivers have discussed. While Tucker may not be able to play center in a full time role, he is definitely able to play the role to spell Joel Embiid for six minutes at a time when Embiid is on the bench.

Daryl further went on to explain “there’s centers that went for up to five second round picks that are non deferential to the ones that we picked up.” Aside from the Jalen McDaniels-Matisse Thybulle trade that occurred at the trade deadline, the Sixers’ other pick up was former Heat center, Dewayne Dedmon. Daryl also stated Dedmon is a guy the front office has liked for “quite some time.” While many fans were requesting that the Sixers waive the newly signed Dedmon or Montrezl Harrell for Nerlens Noel once he was bought out by the Pistons, that never appeared to be likely.

If Morey believes Harrell is not an option in the playoffs, then bringing in Dedmon was essential. Harrell was never going to be bought out or cut because he has a player option on his contract next year that would become guaranteed money against the Sixers books if he’s cut. Dedmon, meanwhile, is an excellent rebounder and can relatively stretch the floor with his shooting ability. In that regard, Dedmon is a very similar player to Paul Reed except the grizzled veteran has far more experience and likely won’t infuriate Doc Rivers with the occasional mistake that Reed may make.

The Sixers have continuously made the same mistake utilizing backup big men that are very old school in the aspect of being back to the basket bigs who can rebound and play in the post, but can’t shoot or defend the perimeter. Recent examples include Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, and even Greg Monroe or Amir Johnson. While he may be chaotic or erratic at times, watching Reed’s hustle plays, shooting touch, and ability to move his feet laterally is refreshing, and I think Daryl would agree. In fact, my theory is that Daryl, who drafted Reed with the 58th pick in the 2020 NBA draft, always knew Reed would eventually secure the job behind Joel, just as he did in last season’s playoffs.

According to Cleaning the Glass, this is the second best season net rating differential that the Sixers have had with Joel Embiid on and off the court in Embiid’s career. The best year in terms of that number was the 2019-20 season, and that can easily be explained by the fact that Al Horford was essentially the Sixers backup center.

To make a long story short, Daryl Morey is clearly comfortable with the roster he’s constructed. Despite the backup center position being viewed as a liability, it’s the least important position the team needs, especially when you have Joel Embiid playing 38 minutes a night in the playoffs. While bench players like DeAnthony Melton, Shake Milton, Jalen McDaniels, and Georges Niang can be interchangeable and play with numerous types of lineups, the back up center role will be limited to play only during the stints Embiid sits and likely won’t play aside from that. And that’s assuming they don’t utilize Tucker at all in that role. It isn’t a good allocation of resources to invest much in a backup center when you have a guy like Joel Embiid, which is why the position is always a recurring issue for the Sixers. Daryl knows this, and that’s why he didn’t invest anything into adding another one when Paul Reed is already on the roster.