The Sixers’ G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, are on a four-game losing skid after a 7-0 start. They’ll soon be receiving a reinforcement in Sixers rookie Isaiah Joe, who should have a chance to play substantial minutes he’s not currently getting in the NBA.
The team announced Sunday morning that Joe, the 49th pick in this year’s draft, has been assigned to the Blue Coats and will join Delaware in the G League bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Just a week ago, head coach Doc Rivers went with Joe over Furkan Korkmaz and said the 6-foot-4 wing would receive a “look” in the Sixers’ rotation.
“He’s playing well,” Rivers said. “I thought defensively, he was absolutely fantastic, and that’s what we need. This is not football. You’ve got to be a basketball player and you play both ways, offense and defense. I thought he did that tonight.”
Rivers’ plans shifted quickly, though. Seth Curry was sidelined by a left ankle sprain for the Sixers’ next game, and Korkmaz started in his place. He briefly found the rhythm he’d been seeking throughout this season, scoring 16 first-quarter points against the Raptors. Korkmaz was the spot starter again Sunday night, replacing the injured Tobias Harris, and Joe didn’t play at all despite Rivers admitting after the game he was searching for “just anybody with speed or pace, or someone that would play hard.” Instead, Tyrese Maxey entered the rotation in the second half.
Before the season began, Joe was asked about this specific scenario. He’s appreciated learning from the Sixers’ veterans, but his preference is to play.
“Yes, I’ve put a lot of thought into that, but the 76ers as a team, we’ve had a lot of contact,” he said. “They’re willing to give me a shot. Nothing is given, so I’ve got to go in there and work my tail off, beat out the next man. This is a team that doesn’t have any G-League aspirations for me.
“But, if it came down to it, I would rather play in the G League. I feel like that’s how you get your game better; you don’t get your game better by sitting on the bench. That’ll be a way that I can better my game and hopefully get called up to the next level. But the 76ers, like I said earlier, I feel like it’s going to be a great fit because they really stress the need for shooters.”
Joe’s assignment to the G League does not indicate he’s permanently excluded from the Sixers’ rotation, of course. All it means is that, barring an emergency, he’s likely to not take part in the team’s final two games before the All-Star break. The Blue Coats, meanwhile, have four regular-season games remaining, the first of which is Monday afternoon against G League Ignite.
As Rivers’ praise last week suggests, this assignment is also not a sign that the Sixers are dissatisfied with Joe’s progress. He’s fared well in difficult situations as a rookie, including a four-game stretch in January where he shot 14 of 28 from three-point range for the shorthanded Sixers.
The initial decision to use him over Korkmaz was sensible, too, given Joe’s high-level defensive effort and solid understanding of scheme and role. At the moment, however, the Sixers seem to be leaning toward Korkmaz’s greater experience and ability to occasionally score in spurts. Again, as we’ve seen recently, there’s a good chance that doesn’t last forever.
Joe should be back in the NBA soon. For the time being, he’ll have an opportunity to let jumpers fly the way he did at the University of Arkansas.