As Time Moves On, Redick's Game Moves Forward
When an opposing team prepares for the 76ers, who do you think is the ‘A no. 1’ player at the top of the scouting report?
Good chance it’s Joel Embiid, right?
But what about after that? Who’s next?
Jimmy Butler has a theory on the matter. And he doesn’t think he’d necessarily be no. 2 on the list.
Or fellow 2019 All-Star candidate Ben Simmons, either.
No, Butler believes that once the opposition is done going over the 7-foot powerhouse Embiid, the focus then shifts to the relentless, feisty 34-year old with the lethal shot, and ability to run circles around defenses.
The player in question, of course, is JJ Redick.
“JJ’s probably at the top of the scouting report, probably right behind Jo,” Butler said Monday, following a practice session in Camden.
On pace to set a new career high in scoring for the second time in as many seasons since joining the 76ers, Redick has proven to be an ideal match with his fourth NBA team.
And it’s not just that he fits from a personnel standpoint. He’s also really, really good, with an elite set of pro skills.
Butler continued: “I mean, JJ comes off [screens], doesn’t miss too many open shots. And if you do close in on him, he’s kicking it to the open guy. He draws so much help, just like Jo does.”
The senior-most member of the Sixers’ roster, Redick, ironically, is also the only player who’s so far appeared in all 40 of the team’s games. He’s second on the squad with an average of 18.3 points, and, as of January 8th, ranked seventh in the league with 115 3-pointers.
Digging a little bit deeper into the numbers, the Sixers’ net rating is at its best - 7.1 - when Redick is on the court. Put him in tandem with Embiid, and look out.
The duo’s 11.2 net ranking is 10th in the NBA among pairs that have logged at least 750 minutes together.
“The fit’s been good because there’s ball movement,” Redick said Monday, as the modest Duke product complied with answering a series of questions about the impact he’s having this season. “Every situation I’ve been in in my career, you just sort of adapt, and figure out where you can be effective. Playing with Joel specifically in that two-man game, it’s a hard action to guard.”
“I think he’s one of these players you really don’t always feel the need to call his play,” said Brett Brown, whose recruiting efforts were a significant factor in Redick choosing to sign with the Sixers two summers ago. “Over time, he and Joel have formed a relationship. Forget play calls, they just sort of find their way sort of as magnets on a court, and have been incredibly successful with that. Normally, that is the connection of the dots. People find success, so they want to continue to do it.
"I just think he’s learned how to take the system and make it work, and we certainly have taken the system and tried to cater some of it to him.”
Over the course of his 13-year stint as a pro, Redick feels he’s gotten better (statistics support this claim), which is saying something, since that Father Time only knows one direction - forward.
Take this season, for instance. If it’s looked to you like Redick has had a). more opportunities and b). been more efficient attacking the lane, then your hunch would be correct.
He’s taking as many shots per game this year off drives to the basket as ever before, is converting a career-best 50.0 percent of these attempts, and is scoring a greater percentage of his points off drives than he has previously.
As Brown said, Redick has found ways to make the most of the different actions and wrinkles in the Sixers’ scheme.
The 2006 no. 11 pick attributes his evolution to the constant attention he’s paid to skill development, strength and conditioning, and the intellectual side of the sport.
“When we think of an improved player, we often look for these huge leaps,” said Redick. “In terms of my career, it’s been a lot of incremental improvement slowly over time.
“If you’d ask me my second, third year would I ever average 18 [points] in an NBA game, 30 minutes a night, I’d say you’re crazy.”
This, however, is Redick’s well-earned reality. His routine - for practices, shootarounds, pregame, postgame, everything - is meticulous, all-encompassing, and exhaustive.
The standard he’s set is one of absolute professionalism.
“He’s having a career year, and the importance that he has in the program you see on game night, “ Brett Brown. “I see it much deeper - in locker rooms, on planes, at practice. He’s one of my favorite players that I have coached, and I’ve been coaching for a long time. I don’t just hoist that comment out. Everyone who talks to him knows what I know - he’s sophisticated, he’s intellectual, he’s curious, he’s prideful, and he’s good. I think he’s fantastic, on both sides of life - on the court stuff, off the court stuff.”
For the super-motivated and competitive Redick, who’s reached the playoffs every season of his career, the ultimate measure of his effectiveness is team play.
He knows that while the Sixers aren’t quite yet a finished product, the group, all things considered, is in an encouraging spot, at 26-14, and 3.0 games off the pace for the lead in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m no dummy,” Redick said. “So much of the NBA is just fit and situation, and I always say this, for 85 to 90 percent of the league, your performance is often dictated by your situation and your coaches.”
With teammates like Embiid, Butler, and Simmons, life has indeed been good for Redick. While those three might enjoy a different level of star power, Redick’s value to the construction of the Sixers can’t be questioned.
“I’m not going to say JJ gets overlooked,” said Butler. “He might not get all the hype [we] three other guys get on the team, but I think nobody’s just, ‘Oh, well, you’ve got no. 21, no. 23, no. 25, you can skip over no. 17.’ I don’t think that happens.”
Redick has made sure of it.