Even the most ardent supporters of The Process would admit that watching Philadelphia 76ers basketball in recent years was often an arduous slog. In a league where outside shooting has become increasingly vital to both success on the scoreboard and the aesthetic of the game, the Sixers were decidedly ill-equipped to compete. Over the previous four seasons, the highest Philadelphia finished in 3-point percentage was 24th, never shooting better than 34 percent. That level of brick-laying may have been conducive to acquiring top talent via the draft, but it neither made for a palatable viewing experience nor satisfied the new front office’s desire to take the next step in the rebuild.
Now, with the Sixers poised to move from accumulating assets to accruing wins and playoff appearances, improving the marksmanship rating was a top priority for general manager Bryan Colangelo. Finding shooters on the wings was especially vital for Philadelphia, given the unique challenge of playing a 6-10 non-shooter at point guard, Ben Simmons. Colangelo was understandably thrilled to land arguably the top shooter in this summer’s free agency, J.J. Redick, on a one-year, $23 million deal.
Redick has been one of the most accurate perimeter shooters in NBA history, draining 41.5 percent of his 3s across his 11-year career. Still performing at the top of his game, the former Duke star showed no signs of slowing down in his age-32 season, shooting 42.9 percent behind the arc last year with the Clippers.
In two preseason games, Redick has been exactly as advertised in Philadelphia. Redick has sunk all five of his 3-point attempts, averaging 11.5 points per game in just 20.4 minutes of action. As hoped, he’s the perfect weapon to have when Simmons begins a foray down the lane:
As Simmons drives to the hoop, Redick’s defender is stationed in the restricted area to wall off the path to the basket. Simmons wisely kicks to a wide-open Redick in the corner, who drives past the close-out for two points. The play demonstrates why the two players will work well in tandem. If the defense fully commits to Simmons, Redick is left wide-open for a high-percentage look behind the arc or an easy secondary drive to the basket. If opposing teams study more in-depth scouting reports and individual game plans during the regular season, they’ll be coached not to come off Redick, affording Simmons an easier journey to the rim.
Beyond Simmons being in the game, Redick will create more efficient offense for the Sixers regardless of who is at the controls. Often in recent years, the Sixers’ offense was essentially one or two players running either an isolation or pick-and-roll, with the rest of the team standing around:
Here, T.J. McConnell finds himself surrounded under the basket. Redick wisely shifts down from the wing to the corner to provide an easier passing lane for McConnell on the kickout. The end result was a 4-point play on a sequence Sixer fans could easily have envisioned resulting in a turnover in the past.
Finally, Redick doesn’t just help his teammates by providing elite spacing, but he also allows head coach Brett Brown to expand the playbook and call sets specifically to free him for a 3-pointer:
On the above play, Redick comes across the court and receives a pair of screens from Nik Stauskas and Jahlil Okafor. A pump-fake lets Terry Rozier fly by on the closeout, before Redick calmly resets and cans the 3. Brown has a plethora of plays from his San Antonio days that he wasn’t able to use when the roster consisted of borderline NBA talents who might have just met before the game. The talent upgrade on this year’s roster, of which Redick is a big part, will finally let Brown spread his wings.
Joel Embiid, Simmons, and Markelle Fultz will ultimately determine the ceiling for the Sixers franchise, but any team hoping to reach its ceiling needs role players to climb up the rungs of the ladder, and J.J. Redick is one of the premier role players in the league. Simmons, T.J. McConnell, and every other Philadelphia ballhandler will be happy to have Redick out on the court, and so will Sixer fans watching from home.
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