The new-look Philadelphia 76ers have been impressive with their best lineup on the floor, but once Joel Embiid takes a seat and Doc Rivers has to go to his bench, the team looks completely different.
Signing DeAndre Jordan was supposed to be the answer. He’s a capable rim-runner, a 14-year NBA veteran, and a locker room favorite in this league. Only, Jordan’s minutes off the bench have been nothing short of disastrous for the 76ers, and considering Rivers doesn’t trust any other big man on the roster, Philly is staring down a ticking time bomb that could explode in the playoffs.
Trading Andre Drummond created a massive hole in the 76ers’ rotation
The 76ers made an aggressive move at the NBA trade deadline to deal for Harden, and the results have been encouraging thus far, but adding Andre Drummond to the trade package has hurt the team maybe more than it expected.
During his brief stint in Philadelphia, Drummond was one of the most dependable backup centers in the league. He grabbed 17.3 rebounds and blocked 1.8 shots per 36 minutes, and he even filled in when Embiid was inactive and led the Sixers to a few notable wins.
When Drummond was shipped off to the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia’s bench struggled to replicate his production. Rivers experimented with Paul Millsap as the backup five for some time, but he proved to be too small and too slow for that role.
Realizing they needed more help, the Sixers signed former top-10 pick Willie Cauley-Stein to a 10-day contract earlier this month. He barely saw the floor and didn’t last past his 10-day window.
So, in a last-ditch effort to solve its backup center problem, Philly signed Jordan after he was released by the Los Angeles Lakers. After 11 games with the 76ers, it’s quite clear why the Lakers parted ways with him.
The Sixers have a DeAndre Jordan problem Doc Rivers has no plans of fixing
On the surface, Jordan seemed to be a decent fit with the 76ers. He enjoyed his most successful years under Rivers while with the Los Angeles Clippers, he has experience running pick-and-roll action with James Harden, and he adds another veteran presence that can become an invaluable addition come playoff time.
But the results on the court thus far have been pretty abysmal.
Jordan has been a turnstile on defense against virtually every big man he’s faced, and he hasn’t even been effective in pick-and-rolls and finishing around the rim. The 33-year-old is shooting just 47.2% from the field, which would be the worst mark of his career for a single season. He’s never shot worse than 60% in his previous 13 years in the league.
When he’s not missing bunnies near the rim, he’s turning the ball over at a ridiculous rate. His 23.9% turnover percentage would also be the worst of his career, and it’s already the worst on the 76ers’ roster.
On the defensive end, he’s allowing opposing teams to score at will. Jordan’s defensive box plus/minus is also the worst on the roster (-1.8), as opponents continue to generate easy baskets near the rim whenever he enters the game.
The biggest problem for Philly? Rivers is familiar with Jordan from their Clippers days, and he simply doesn’t trust anyone else on the roster to play meaningful minutes behind Embiid. It doesn’t matter whether or not he sees what everyone else sees. Rivers is going to stick with Jordan now and throughout the playoffs.
That’s a strategy destined to blow up in his face.
History may repeat itself in devastating fashion
The 76ers have reached the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, but they haven’t made it past the second round partly due to their dreadful bench. Once Embiid takes a seat, no lead is safe for this team. That’s the same story in 2022.
In 2019, when the Sixers were legitimate title contenders with Jimmy Butler, backup center Greg Monroe played just two minutes in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Toronto Raptors. He somehow recorded a plus/minus of -9 in those two minutes, and the Sixers ended up losing by two.
The troublesome Jordan situation has a serious possibility of replicating Monroe’s performance in the 2022 playoffs. And if it does, the 76ers will only have themselves to blame.