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June 09, 2024

Is Paul Reed's future in Philadelphia?

Because the Sixers did not advance to the second round of the 2023-24 NBA Playoffs, Paul Reed's salary for the next two seasons is not guaranteed. Should the Sixers consider moving on from the fan favorite?

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Paul Reed 6.8.24 Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports

The remaining two seasons of Paul Reed's contract are non-guaranteed. Should the Sixers consider moving on?

The Sixers' first-round elimination at the hands of the New York Knicks last month was, of course, a crushing blow for everybody involved with the organization. But it was a bit different for backup center Paul Reed.

Because of a unique clause in the offer sheet that the Sixers matched after he signed it with the Utah Jazz last summer — longtime Sixers foe and current Jazz CEO Danny Ainge designed it to make it inconvenient for the Sixers to match — the Sixers' failure to advance beyond the first round of the 2023-24 NBA Playoffs means that the final two seasons of the three-year deal are non-guaranteed.

Reed — who is scheduled to make just over $7.7 million in 2024-25 and about $8.1 million in 2025-26 — could theoretically be released this offseason with zero guaranteed dollars coming his way. He would then become an unrestricted free agent.


With the Sixers known to be chasing their maximum possible amount of salary cap flexibility, it has become common for people to wonder if the team would be better off waiving Reed, signing a veteran center to be Joel Embiid's primary backup on a cheaper deal and saving a few million dollars in the process.

In short: probably not.

When a team is deliberating on a player's non-guaranteed contract or team option, a good litmus test is to think about it this way: if the player was a free agent on the open market, would they be able to get a deal under these terms if they wanted to? For Reed — an established backup center with supreme athleticism entering his age-25 season — a two-year deal worth $15.8 million would likely not be challenging to command.

Reed is far from perfect, certainly — that is one of the reasons why his optimal role is as a backup center — but even during periods where his play can frustrate fans, he is easily worth the contract he is on right now. He is one of the better and more versatile defensive backup bigs in the NBA thanks to his combination of the aforementioned athleticism and an impressive wingspan, he is a shot-blocker who can switch and guard perimeter players in a pinch, and his motor is off the charts.

The answer to the question of whether or not Reed should be waived seems pretty cut-and-dry. But does that actually mean the 24-year-old must remain a Sixer?

It is fair to wonder if Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and his front office should explore Reed's value in a trade. Other teams — particularly younger, rebuilding organizations, one would imagine — may have interest in acquiring the man who has blossomed since being made a second-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Some may even believe that Reed's potential is being capped in Philadelphia, that being a true starting center is firmly within his range of outcomes.

Then, the Sixers must weigh: how valuable is it in reality to have a cemented backup center who they appear to trust and believe in? 

There are two schools of thought: one is that, due to Embiid's lengthy injury history and the team's historic struggles with him off the floor throughout his career, it should remain a priority to solidify the backup center position. But others might argue that — like in the Knicks series — their struggles without Embiid are far more about the former NBA MVP's most noteworthy supporting cast mates than they are about whoever his backup is. On top of that, one may make a case that if the Sixers are ever going to be successful at the highest levels of playoff basketball, their backup center would only be playing around 10 minutes per game to begin with.

Not surprisingly, the true answer regarding Reed's value is somewhere in the middle: the importance of Embiid's backup will always be paramount given his inability to stay healthy over the course of an entire season or playoff run, but that player will never be as crucial as the ones who are playing upwards of 30 minutes on a nightly basis.

If the Sixers had a more typical cap sheet heading into this offseason, Reed being traded would seem much less likely. But Morey is always working the phones seeing if he can upgrade his team by any means necessary — and the easiest way to do it is often via trade -—and Reed is the only Sixer under contract with what one might call a "medium-sized" salary. The only other players under contract for the team right now are Embiid at a gigantic number and near-minimum salary players Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Ricky Council IV.

Player2024-25 salary (* = non-guaranteed or team option)
Joel Embiid$51,415,938
Paul Reed$7,723,000*
Jeff Dowtin Jr.$2,196,970*
Ricky Council IV$1,891,857*

If the Sixers can use Reed in a trade to attain a guard or wing who can be relied upon on both ends of the floor and play non-insignificant minutes, they should probably pull the trigger. But, they must have one hell of a contingency plan as far as the backup center slot goes, because otherwise it will start to feel like 2019 all over again.

Because Reed makes a noteworthy amount of mistakes throughout a regular season and is clearly imperfect, sometimes people lose sight of just how dire the team's backup center situation was for such a long time before he asserted himself as a viable NBA player. He was not created in a lab to be the sport's ideal player, but through energy, athleticism and chaos, he makes it work. The Sixers cannot underestimate the value of his presence on their roster.

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