Sixers match Utah Jazz’s offer sheet to Paul Reed

Utah’s front office put together a unique deal to try and pry the emerging big man away, only for Philadelphia to retain him, despite the added years and dollars they’ll likely incur to do so.

Philadelphia 76ers' Paul Reed (44) dunks the ball in the first half during Game 2 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets, Monday, April 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Las Vegas • Most of the basketball world figured that restricted free agent center Paul Reed would be headed to the Utah Jazz, after the team gave him a uniquely-structured offer sheet over the weekend that would make it financially painful for his current team, the Philadelphia 76ers, to match.

However, Sixers exec Darryl Morey eschewed convention and decided to bring the emerging big man back to Philly, despite that resulting in the team now being overstuffed at the center position, and incurring a bloated payroll.

The Jazz saw an opportunity to bolster their own frontcourt depth by taking a swing on a player whose overall statistical production has not been particularly impressive, but whose potential has shone in the rare moments when he got extended playing time.

The 6-foot-9, 210-pound center averaged 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 59.3% from the field this past season. However, In the games where the 24-year-old played between 20-29 minutes, his averages jumped to 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. And when he played 30 minutes or more, he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.

As a result, Jazz general manager Justin Zanik put together an unconventional contract structure that should have given the team an excellent chance to poach Reed.

The three-year, approximately $23 million deal will effectively compel the 76ers to spend about $22 million on Reed in ’23-24 alone — about $8 million in salary, plus another $14 million in penalties for exceeding the salary cap.

Further, a provision in the contract would fully guarantee the final two years of the deal if the team that Reed plays for advances to the conference semifinals — the second round of the playoffs.

Given that the Jazz are still in the rebuilding stages, Reed likely would have become a one-year gamble for them; but considering the Sixers fancy themselves championship contenders, and have reached the conference semifinals each of the last three seasons, they seem likely to do again this season, thus making them commit the full three years to Reed.

Given that the 76ers have one of the best centers in the league in reigning MVP Joel Embiid, and also recently committed free agent resources to another pair of centers, in Montrezl Harrell and Mo Bamba, many NBA observers considered retaining Reed to be an improbable and unwise move.

As a result of Philly matching the offer sheet, Reed now has veto power over any attempt to trade him for a full year. Also, per NBA rules, he cannot wind up on the Jazz’s roster — through any transactional machinations — for at least a year.