In the first half of a preseason game at Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets, head coach Doc Rivers watches.
Since a number of years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled with the discussion of who will play the backup center position. The team’s most crucial player on both sides of the court is Joel Embiid, who leaves enormous gaps to be filled when he sits on the bench. The team recently completed a postseason in which Paul Reed gave the team some of his best production in this capacity. Additionally signed in free agency, Montrezl Harrell will no doubt see some court time.
However, Doc Rivers revealed another veteran who will be in the mix when speaking to reporters after practice on Friday morning. Rivers reportedly informed Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia that P.J. Before the preseason is over, they intend to experiment with this lineup, giving Tucker a chance in the backup center position.
A few things from Sixers practice:
Doc Rivers has returned. He hopes players take the B-W scrimmage seriously, but he states that the main objective is “health.” -Anticipates playing P.J. Tucker will start the season at center. Tucker claimed that Tyrese Maxey was the fastest player he had ever seen.
— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) October 7, 2022
Tucker’s Backup Center History
Despite being only 6’5″ tall, Tucker has experience playing center. With the James Harden and Daryl Morey-led Rockets, who prioritized the small ball and increased the volume of three-pointers, he first fully embraced this role. Over the past five years, he has spent at least 11% of his on-court time matching up with opposing centers.
With the Miami Heat, this was also true the previous year. While Bam Adebayo was the team’s main big man, Tucker was used as the center when he wasn’t on the court. According to Cleaning The Glass, the Heat outscored opponents by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in the 140 game minutes the veteran center played center.
Tucker makes up for his lack of size with tenacity and rebounding prowess. His career average of 5.6 rebounds per game do not accurately reflect how important he is on the glass. This was already made clear by the seasoned player during his preseason debut against the Cavaliers.
Sixers Backup Center Battle
It is encouraging to see such depth on the roster after years of being without a workable backup center option. Each of Reed, Harrell, and Tucker has unique strengths and weaknesses that will matter in various matchups. Charles Bassey may also be considered if he is successful in making the roster. Bassey is the most authentic big man in terms of his frame and manner of play, despite being the youngest and least experienced of the alternatives.
Coach Rivers is under much more pressure to choose wisely as a result of the variety of options available. Due to how much their fighting styles differ, Reed and Harrell’s matchup will be the most interesting to watch. Due to his adaptable defense, Reed’s influence was felt so strongly during the last postseason. Although Harrell is the Sixers’ most offensively talented backup player since the Embiid era began, his inability to play defense in the postseason was a weakness when Rivers was his coach with the Clippers. Tucker, on the other hand, has demonstrated success at center during the postseason.
Doc Rivers about defensive communication:
It’s very important. The louder, the clearer, and the more times you yell it, the more important it is. We have not yet done that, P.J. is incredible at it, but we need everyone to participate.
— Sam DiGiovanni on October 7, 2022 (@BySamDiGiovanni)
Rivers has two more preseason games against the Sixers to try out Tucker as the backup center. Numerous teammates have already praised him for his impactful leadership and communication. This will undoubtedly continue as the season goes on, and Tucker will undoubtedly be noticed regardless of the position he plays.
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