Entering the 2022-23 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers were facing a squad crisis. Even after Trevelin waived Queen during training camp, he had 16 players on contract (excluding two-way players), which was one over the regular season 15-man roster limit.
To fix that, the Sixers waived third-year sniper Isaiah Joe and sophomore center Charles Bassey before the season began, leaving themselves a clear roster spot into the year. The San Antonio Spurs signed a two-way deal with Bassey, while Joe quickly signed a three-year, $6 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Both Joe and Bassey are adored in their new home, which may cause the Sixers to feel a bit of seller remorse. However, they had to balance their short-term and long-term outlooks as they entered the season, which explains why they prioritized financial flexibility over two relatively unproven prospects.
Since the Sixers signed PJ Tucker using his non-tax-tax mid-level exemption and Danuel House Jr. using his biennial exemption last summer, they have strict limits from now through June 30. That means they won’t be able to exceed the league’s $156,983 a million luxury tax apron at any point during the remainder of this league year in any case.
The Sixers currently have 14 players with a total cost of $151.4 million, which puts them roughly $5.5 million below the apron. They also have an open roster of points they can use to sign a 10-day contract with players starting Jan.
Still, they’ll need to leverage that flexibility to justify their decision to cut the bait to Bassey and Joe.
Bassey did not play in six of the Spurs’ first seven games, but has played a relatively stable role in the team’s rotation since then. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich praised the young tall man in typical Pop fashion after his 5-point, 14-rebound and 4-block win against the Milwaukee Bucks in mid-November.
Popovich told reporters, “Today was something else. He just plays. He doesn’t know what the hell we’re doing, but he understands the games right away and plays hard. He knows his role, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he runs on the court and he does it with great energy.”
The Sixers’ decision to waive Bassey was somewhat odd given their years of struggle to find a competent replacement for star center Joel Embiid. Bassey made just 23 regular season games for them as a rookie, but the 6’11” had a clear rim-protecting advantage with his 235-pound frame.
For most of the summer, Bassey looked poised to challenge third-year big Paul Reed for the Sixers backup center role. But Sixers veteran Montrezl Harrell’s signing of a fully-guaranteed senior-minimum contract in mid-September has complicated Bassey’s path to a permanent roster spot.
Of Bassey’s roughly $1.6 million salary for the 2022-23 season, only $74,742 secured training camp. The Sixers disposed of approximately $1.5 million from its ledgers, waiving it. Embiid seemed to prioritize this over hiring a development center that could have been their fourth-place option after Harrell and Reed.
Rebuilding the Spurs could also be the best thing for Bassey’s career. Instead of being buried on the bench in Philadelphia, he starts learning instantly as he learns from one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
“I wanted to play when I was a kid. [Popovich]He told reporters in mid-November, “He’s the coach you want to play for, work hard. He’s just so calm. When we win or lose, he’s calm and says the right words – the right things for a player to make you want to go crazy in the game. I wouldn’t be a part of this team.” just a blessing.”
Joe also makes his impact felt in the rebuilding of Thunder in limited minutes. He averages a career-high 6.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.7 three-pointers in just 11.9 minutes per game, and shoots deep with 46.2 percent. In 96 regular season games with the Sixers, Joe shot a total of 84 three-pointers while shooting only 34.9 percent from downtown.
It’s fair to wonder if Joe would’ve had more replays with an elite passer like James Harden in the end, if he had taken it off in Philadelphia as well. However, he faced an uphill battle to break the Sixers’ rotation at full strength. The off-season pickup of De’Anthony Melton pushed him back in the backcourt standings, so he’d be competing for scraps with Furkan Korkmaz and Jaden Springer.
Joe’s $1.8 million contract with the Sixers was completely out of warranty until opening night, so the Sixers waived him, taking no dead-bounds hits. Had they kept him on their roster after opening night and waived him later in the season, his $1.8 million salary would have stayed in their books, bringing them closer to the luxury tax apron.
It may disappoint Sixers fans to see Joe and Bassey land on their feet in Oklahoma City and San Antonio, but there’s no guarantee they would have done the same if they had stayed in Philadelphia. They’d probably be buried in the bench, and they’d spend the year back and forth between the Sixers and the G League.
It could be the best thing for all sides if the Sixers take advantage of the additional roster point and financial flexibility they’ve gained by sacrificing both Bassey and Joe. But if they don’t make a substantial addition, it would be fair game to wonder if they should hire Joe or Bassey instead.
Unless stated otherwise, all statistics NBA.com, PBPStats, Cleaning the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information Spotrac or realGM. over all rates FanDuel Sports Betting.