The Philadelphia 76ers should begin and end games with J.J. Redick on the floor.
J.J. Redick exploded in Saturday night’s win over the Orlando Magic, scoring 31 points and drilling eight three-point shots off the bench. If it weren’t for his offensive firepower and late-game heroics, chances are the Philadelphia 76ers would be 1-2.
The Orlando game was unique in that Ben Simmons missed the final three quarters with injury, but it still speaks to a larger issue at hand. The Sixers got off to a slow start in that game, which didn’t change until Redick checked in. He needs to start.
This is a case we’ve made before, but the reasoning continues to evolve. The Sixers’ offense doesn’t look great when Simmons and Markelle Fultz share the court right now, so giving them more spacing and some extra movement could help loosen things up.
One reason for moving Redick to the bench was rest, something Brown emphasized upon making the decision. Moving Redick to the starting lineup — where he would replace Dario Saric — doesn’t necessarily equate to more minutes, though. It just means shifting Redick’s current minutes to new slots.
With Redick on the court, the Sixers might be able to avoid slow starts like the Magic game. He’s still their third-most important offensive player behind Embiid and Simmons, something that won’t change until Fultz finds his groove.
One of Redick’s most effective offensive sets is the dribble hand-off with Embiid. Look at how many defenders have their eyes on the action as Redick comes around the screen — four, minus the defender stuck on Embiid’s screen. If Redick decided to attack the closeout instead, Fultz would have found an easy cut to the rim.
As currently constructed, the starting lineup needs another avenue to creating offense outside Embiid and Simmons. While Saric and Robert Covington are both valuable floor spacers, Redick creates open looks by weaving through screens and constantly gunning to open space.
Even if he’s not another “shot creator” in the traditional sense, he’s someone the Sixers can scheme open given his ability to hit shots on the move.
Redick opens up the Sixers’ offense unlike anyone else on the roster. Developing Fultz and getting him reps with the starting group is important, but right now, the Sixers need Redick’s off-ball movement and shooting to make things tick.
In moving Redick to the starting five, the Sixers would still have options to limit his minutes. We also know that Redick and Embiid have excellent chemistry, meaning Redick can start and finish the first quarter next to Embiid (and presumably Fultz), rather than playing the middle chunk with Simmons.
Saric would then go on to play more minutes without Embiid and/or Simmons on the floor, increasing his playmaking opportunities on the perimeter and in the post. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
If Fultz is going to last in the starting five, he’ll eventually need to start offering more value off the ball (a.k.a. shooting). If Fultz can confidently hit corner threes, in turn stretching the defense, his value as a secondary ball handler skyrockets. It’s all about assertiveness and confidence for the 20-year-old.
For the time being, however, Redick makes the offense flow in ways it simply can’t without him on the floor. His services are needed early (and late) in games.