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The Sixers can make a compelling case that they have their league’s best player in Joel Embiid. The team’s G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, can do the same.
Paul Reed, a 21-year-old rookie on a two-way contract with a versatile, fast-paced, awkward-to-guard game, was named the G League’s Player of the Week for the opening week of the league’s condensed season in a Disney World bubble environment. He followed that honor up by totaling 46 points, 31 rebounds, six steals and four blocks in wins over the Greensboro Swarm and Iowa Wolves.
Delaware is now the only remaining undefeated G League team at 5-0, led by Reed’s 24.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.
“The No. 1 thing that stands out to me is that ability, that (desire) to get better,” Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said after his team’s second game. “He’s been the first guy in the gym and he’s been the last guy shooting every time we’ve had a practice. He’s been a sponge soaking up all the information from our coaches. I think that is a great foundation for any young player to work off of.
"I think we see his natural talent. I think we see his athleticism, I think we see his agility and ball handling for a player his size, but I expect him to just continue to improve. That’s very exciting.”
Reed, who’s listed at 6-foot-8 and 218 pounds, has been asked to do a little bit of everything defensively. The Blue Coats downsized this offseason and have mostly scrapped drop pick-and-roll coverage, meaning that Reed’s been asked to blitz ball handlers, switch on to guards and also protect the rim at times. That scheme seems to fit his strengths.
“That’s what the coach wants,” Reed said last Friday. “He wants us to be aggressive, he wants us to antagonize the offense as much as we can. … We want to play aggressive defense and force turnovers. I like it; I love it. That’s my style of play.”
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is well aware of what Reeds brings to the table and his early success in Orlando. Reed grabbed six offensive rebounds in his first extended NBA minutes during the seven-man Sixers’ Jan. 9 loss to the Nuggets. He’ll be back with the team whenever the Blue Coats’ bubble stay ends and, depending on what the team’s roster looks like after the March 25 trade deadline, perhaps have a chance to earn occasional frontcourt playing time in small-ball lineups.
“He’s a great kid,” Rivers said Wednesday. “Everybody’s happy for him. He’s a quirky player. Talking to Connor, he can’t tell you how he scored — he just scores. He’s just one of those guys that has a nose for the ball, plays extremely hard. And he’s also one of those what we call sunshine kids that just walks in a room and everybody’s happy. You can’t have enough of those type of people. You guys probably know it in your office or whatever. When you have a guy that lights the room up, you want him around. And he’s one of those guys.”
Beyond this season, the development of Reed’s jumper figures to be important. Reed is a willing shooter and has made 6 of his 19 three-point tries, but there’s a bit of a hitch in his jumper that appears to lead to inconsistency with how he transfers his momentum through the shot. If his shooting improves, the idea of playing Reed alongside Ben Simmons would certainly be more appealing.
That said, just about every other part of Reed’s unorthodox game has worked well thus far in the G League. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey called Reed “super underrated in our minds” after selecting him with the 58th overall pick, and we’re seeing more of why the team held that opinion.