The Sixers are waiving center Norvel Pelle, a source confirmed Thursday night to NBC Sports Philadelphia. The 27-year-old center’s contract would have been guaranteed for $1.5 million in the upcoming season if he’d stayed on the roster past Saturday. The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey first reported the news.
Pelle earned an NBA contract in February last season after beginning the year on a two-way deal. Before reaching the NBA, he played in Delaware, Italy, Taiwan and Lebanon. He had a couple of memorable nights at Wells Fargo Center characterized by a frenetic and fearless style of play. His main NBA strength was his rim protection; he had 31 blocks in 232 minutes, though he wasn’t always victorious in his jousts at the rim.
“At the end of the day, I'm a shot blocker, so if I get dunked on, I get dunked on — that's my mentality," he said. “Next play."
Though an athletic screening-and-rolling threat, Pelle is limited offensively. That, along with issues fouling excessively, help explain why he wasn’t able to nail down a spot despite his high-flying, high-effort brand of basketball. As a rookie with a circuitous route to the NBA on a team well-stocked at center, that was always going to be a difficult task.
Pelle and Kyle O’Quinn alternated between third and fourth in the center pecking order after Pelle’s promotion to the 15-man roster. O’Quinn is now an unrestricted free agent, while Al Horford, the Sixers’ main backup center in 2018-19, is moving to Oklahoma City in a trade.
It’s unclear exactly how president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will change direction at backup center, though he obviously has different priorities at the position than the Sixers’ past regime.
“I do think you like to have optionality in how you play behind Joel,” he said Thursday morning. “I think (head coach Doc Rivers) and his staff could get very creative with unique lineups where Ben is featured and we sort of build a system around him like I’ve done in the past and Doc’s done in the past. There’s a chance to play really unique, up-tempo, spacing, shooting lineups.
“But I also like adding a big just so Doc has all the tools to basically attack who we’re playing in different ways. I think the main thing is never force anything. Actually having a perceived opening of a big often allows Doc to go to work and use his amazing recruiting skills, which I think is the best I’ve ever seen at the coach position, to get top players to consider here because they see a path and an opportunity."
Free agency negotiations are officially permitted to start Friday at 6 p.m. Pelle will be searching for a new team, while the Sixers will surely be exploring new options to play behind Joel Embiid.