The Philadelphia 76ers will wage war with the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs. While the matchup has considerably less juice than it did a couple months ago, the Sixers still have to put their best foot forward. Brooklyn is no pushover.
Undoubtedly, Doc Rivers and the coaching staff are still in the planning phase: how will the offense tackle Brooklyn’s rangy defense, and vice versa? How does the Sixers’ defense contain Spencer Dinwiddie at the point of attack, how do they keep the revenge-starved Mikal Bridges in check? Also, who should be in and who should be out of the rotation?
Doc Rivers traditionally runs 10 or even 11-deep in the regular season, often deploying all-bench lineups to steal extra minutes of rest for Joel Embiid and James Harden. One has to imagine that will change in the postseason — or at the very least, it will go away quickly once Brooklyn annihilates whatever all-bench unit Rivers cooks up.
That being said, here are two reserves who should survive the inevitable rotation shortening, and two players who should probably be cast aside.
2 players who should be in 76ers’ playoff rotation
1. Paul Reed
There has been a lot of conversation this season about P.J. Tucker essentially taking over backup center duties once the postseason arrives. He had a lot of success in small-ball groups with James Harden in Houston and the Sixers’ coaching staff has not always felt completely faithful in Paul Reed.
That said, Reed did crack the playoff rotation last season and he has been the Sixers’ full-time backup five since February. And frankly, Reed has earned those minutes in the postseason. Embiid’s minutes will ultimately be cranked up, but the 8-10 minutes that he sits should belong to the man who is out the mud.
Reed is a nimble and versatile defensive backbone. At 6-foot-9, he’s comfortably battling with physicality in the post or switching onto the perimeter. He still gets into foul trouble, but that’s less problematic when his job is to provide relentless energy for two four-minute stints per game. The Sixers can afford a couple extra fouls in Reed minutes if it ultimately results in a consistent presence on the glass and a disruption of Brooklyn’s offensive flow.
Tucker has been wayward all season, but he’s still a reliable perimeter defender. Key word, perimeter. His small-ball groups have struggled defensively all season because of the Sixers’ inability to rebound or protect the rim. There have been exceptions to the rule — Tucker stonewalling Jokic being a good example — but generally, the defense is better off with Reed supplying his unique brand of backline defense and unbridled chaos.