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Over the years, the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled to find the right replacement for their top center Joel Embiid when the big man is taking a breather on game night. When the Sixers signed Al Horford three offseason ago, he was viewed as the team’s starting power forward and backup five at times.

The Horford experiment in Philadelphia was a failure overall. And by the time the playoffs rolled around, the Sixers were swept by the Boston Celtics in round one. The following offseason, Horford was moved to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sixers signed Dwight Howard a minimum deal to come in and back up Embiid for a season.

During the regular season, the Howard experience was fine. Once again, when playoffs rolled around, the Sixers had a hard time relying on anybody behind Embiid. After Howard returned to the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2021 NBA offseason, the Sixers pivoted to Andre Drummond.

Many argued that Drummond could become Embiid’s best backup since the MVP finalist joined the 76ers, but he couldn’t stick around. As the Sixers’ front office looked for a home run trade to close the book on the Ben Simmons saga, the 76ers needed to include Drummond in the trade that landed Philly Hames Harden from the Brooklyn Nets.

After unloading Drummond, the Sixers acquired Paul Millsap in the deal with Brooklyn and went out and signed DeAndre Jordan, who the Lakers waived. Out of the two veterans, both struggled to prove they deserved to backup Embiid full-time down the stretch.

The chances of Jordan and Millsap returning to Philadelphia are slim based on what they put on display during the regular season and the playoffs. Many might assume the Sixers will go out and search for another veteran to replace Drummond, but it seems the team is leaning towards giving the backup five-spot to one of their home-grown youngsters.

According to Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice, the Sixers “feel good” about their young bigs Paul Reed and Charles Bassey. While that certainly doesn’t rule out the Sixers bringing in a veteran big to compete for a rotational spot in training camp this year, it hints they are confident that Bassey or Reed could adequately develop into a reliable backup going into the 2022-2023 season.

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“The Sixers do seem to feel good about their young bigs, the hope being that one (or ideally both) of Paul Reed and Charles Bassey will step forward to take a full-time role next season. In an ideal world, the Sixers use their resources this summer on upgrading the guard and wing depth while Reed and Bassey fight for minutes behind Embiid.”

Throughout the 2021-2022 season, Reed and Bassey rarely picked up consistent minutes. As Reed struggled to master Doc Rivers’ system during his sophomore effort, the Sixers' head coach was hesitant to use him throughout the regular season.

Fortunately for Reed, Rivers had no choice but to utilize him late in the regular season and during the playoffs. Following the 2022 postseason, it seems Reed has won Rivers’ trust, which is a good sign going into year three for the young veteran.

As for Bassey, he spent some time playing in the G League with Philly’s affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. In 17 games, Bassey averaged a double-double as he put up 18 points per game and came down with 10 rebounds per game.

Although Bassey’s playing time on the main roster was limited as he only averaged seven minutes on the court over 23 games, the young big showed value in the defense and rebounding department. Neither Bassey nor Reed is guaranteed the role of becoming Embiid’s backup next season, but it seems the Sixers are operating as if one of them will win the position. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.


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