The Utah Jazz, led by Danny Ainge, did the Sixers no favors when they extended an offer sheet to restricted free agent Paul Reed last week. The finer details might have caused some hesitation in matching the deal, but the Sixers ultimately did, keeping their young backup big man for the long term.
The reactions were mostly positive as fans have loved Paul Reed and his style of play on the field. But some may look at the eight-figure figure and think that’s high for a large backup. While $23 million is a huge amount, Reed’s contract should benefit both himself and the Sixers going forward.
The Sixers finally lock down a big backup
The Sixers’ never-ending carousel of backup bigs in the Embiid era has finally come to an end. Even newer fans can remember Amir Johnson, Greg Monroe, Boban Marjanović, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, Montrezl Harrell and Dwayne Dedmon. Some of the above shone brighter than others, but there was never a sense that they had a long-term solution when Joel Embiid was sidelined.
Now the team has an answer for a minimum of three years. Reed is far from a flawless player, but he is far superior to all of the players above when it matters. The bar for the Sixers when Embiid is off the court is low, and at the very least, Reed can be a neutral player.
Last season we saw Reed progress throughout the year. During the regular season, he excelled in the pick-and-roll game with James Harden and became a skilled and reliable finisher at the rim. When called up, we saw Reed not only stay afloat in the postseason, but thrive with notable performances against the Brooklyn Nets and in Game 1 of the Conference Semi-Finals against the Celtics.
At this point, we know what Reed’s floor for production is. He is 24 years old and still has plenty of room to grow before he reaches his prime. There’s a solid chance he can develop further and turn what appears to be a fair contract now into a bargain in the future.
How it compares around the NBA
It’s easy to look at an eight-figure number and think, “Damn, that’s a lot of money for a big backup.” While that is indeed life-changing money for Reed, it compares to players around the league who fill a similar role.
Let’s look around the league landscape and compare what some veteran backup bigs in the league will do next season:
Robin Lopez: $3,196,448
Mason Plumlee: $5,000,000
Javale McGee: $5,734,280
Paul Reed: $7,723,000
Jock Landale: $8,000,000
Thaddeus Young: $8,000,000
Isaiah Hartenstein: $8,195,121
Kevon Looney: $8,500,000
Larry Nance Jr.: $10,375,000
Richaun Holmes: $12,046,020
Daniel Gafford: $12,402,000
Marvin Bagley: $12,500,000
Naz Reid: $12,950,400
Factoring in age and possible room to grow, you can see that Reed’s value is quite reasonable when set against his peers. An ever-increasing salary cap should also improve the optics of his contract going forward.
No hard feelings in the NBA business
Things can sour quickly when restricted free agents look for contracts outside of their home markets. In Reed’s case, it is seems as pursuing an offer sheet was his camp’s preference. After all, he’s still young and there were a few rebuilding teams with cap space to take a flier on him.
As noted above, the structure of the deal Ainge is offering was meant to deter the Sixers while also benefiting Utah if it wasn’t matched. From Reed’s perspective, it would have been much more advantageous for the Sixers to match.
Assuming it wasn’t matched, there’s an almost certain chance his second and third years would be non-guaranteed. The Jazz are still young in their rebuild and it is borderline impossible to imagine them making the playoffs let alone winning a first round next season.
On the court, the Jazz’s frontcourt is filled with All-Star Lauri Markaneen, Walker Kesser, John Collins, Kelly Olynyk and Taylor Hendricks. The Jazz have invested heavily in all of the above players, and it’s hard to see where Reed would fit into their puzzle.
For both parties, it was best for the Sixers to match Reed’s contract. I imagine his camp appreciates the gesture as well.
Do contract guarantees really matter?
Arguably the biggest factor against the Sixers matchup was the guarantees included by Utah. Barring a massive setback, the Sixers are likely to advance to the Conference Semi-Finals next season (right?). This means Reed’s second- ($7,723,000) and third-year salary ($8,109,150) will be fully guaranteed going forward.
Should this matter? I would argue that it really doesn’t. The only negative to this would be the fact that the Sixers couldn’t just waive Reed next summer to quickly create some cap space. As we all know, they won’t lack flexibility next summer and already have plenty of space to play with.
Speaking of waivers, it doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Reed right now. It’s clear that there’s a pretty big market for Reed around the NBA. It’s hard for restricted free agents to get an offer sheet, let alone a competitive one. Thanks to Reed and his agent for getting it done.
We’ve already gone over his salary, and I imagine there would be plenty of teams lining up for Reed’s services if the Sixers made him available. Even if the Sixers wanted to trade Reed, they would have to guarantee his salary before making a trade anyway.
Paul Reed’s contract negotiations might have stressed the Sixers fan base, but they’ve reached a point that makes sense for both sides. Other question marks may linger, but the Sixers have finally answered a big question regarding their future backup.