If Markelle Fultz moves into the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting five full-time, Dario Saric — not J.J. Redick — should be moved to the bench.
The Philadelphia 76ers unveiling a surprising rotation wrinkle in their preseason opener against Melbourne United, running Markelle Fultz alongside Ben Simmons in the backcourt. Brett Brown moved J.J. Redick to the bench as a result, citing Manu Ginobili‘s role and longevity as reasons why.
At 34, Redick is considerably older than the Sixers’ core. Moving him to the bench and allowing younger players to man the starting five makes sense. Letting Redick fill in for Marco Belinelli‘s volume in the second unit is another plus.
When it comes to fit, however, Redick was too important to the starting five’s success last season. His off-ball movement and spacing unlocked several actions in Brett Brown’s offense, in turn making things easier on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
There’s a good chance that this becomes a marginal issue without serious consequences, as Redick will still get major playing time and the chance to close out games regardless of his role. But his fit in the starting five is superior to that of Dario Saric, which should factor into Brown’s decision making.
Playing alongside Embiid and Simmons, Saric hasn’t had the opportunity to unlock his entire skill set. He isn’t being misused, there just aren’t enough on-ball possessions to go around.
He’s a talented post-up threat and an underrated playmaker, traits that don’t get maximized as the fourth option. Allowing him to spend time without Simmons and/or Embiid on the floor would not only benefit Saric, but give the Sixers another dynamic threat when their stars rest.
When Embiid sits, Saric can take on more possessions in the post, using his craft and forcefulness to maneuver around the block, create contact, and score at the rim. When Simmons sits, Saric can take on more playmaking duties and set up teammates from various spots on the floor.
There are ways Saric benefits the second unit that Redick simply can’t replicate. He’s a more dynamic all-around player with a less-ideal fit in the starting five. It seems like a hand-in-glove fit on paper.
Moving Saric to the bench would ultimately shift the frontcourt rotation, potentially leading to fewer minutes for both Amir Johnson and Mike Muscala. He would also open up minutes on the perimeter, either for T.J. McConnell or Jerryd Bayless, pending the severity of his knee injury.
Assuming he finishes the preseason strong, Fultz has a good chance to start on opening night. For now, Redick seems locked into the sixth man role in that scenario. As the season goes on, however, Saric’s evident fit with the second group should tempt Brown to alter that decision.