Throughout his basketball career, JJ Redick has been known for one thing. It’s not rebounding.
“Ten rebounds, I never thought the day would come,” the 34-year-old told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters after the Sixers’ 118-114 win Tuesday over Hornets (see observations). “I never thought the day would come.”
Along with grabbing a career high in rebounds, Redick made a bunch of long range jumpers in Charlotte, something he continues to do at a very high level. He scored 27 points, 21 in the first 17 minutes, and made 7 of 14 three-point shots, while his teammates hit just 4 for 18. And forget about his first career double-double — he was two assists away from a triple-double. He even made a pivotal defensive play, taking a charge late in the fourth quarter.
As Jimmy Butler told reporters, “JJ had an outstanding game. He was out there hooping.”
Redick is an easy target for criticism when he isn’t making shots — he’s a below-average defender and good teams sometimes make him look like a bad one. Futile isolation matchups against Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on Feb. 12 and Mo Harkless on Feb. 23 are two recent examples that come to mind. Sure, Redick competes defensively, but it often isn’t nearly enough.
To be a positive player for the Sixers, Redick usually can’t afford off shooting nights. Sometimes, it almost feels as if he’s a kicker in the NFL whose value and professional reputation rests on executing one particular skill under intense pressure. All Redick can do, or so it seems, is trust his shot, know the slumps aren’t going to last forever, and believe the percentages will eventually balance out in his favor.
That's not to say Redick is exactly like a kicker in the sense that he only has one useful trait. Redick perpetually circles around screens, makes opponents account for the countless options off his two-man game with Embiid, sets sneaky screens, gives his teammates slivers of space to work that are impossible to quantify.
This season Redick has checked off a couple of nice, clean milestones. He reached 10,000 career points in December and, on Tuesday night, passed Robert Covington for the second-most three-pointers made in a season by a Sixer. He has a chance to break Kyle Korver’s franchise record of 226 in the 2004-05 season.
Those stats are convenient tools to understand Redick. They are, without a doubt, helpful. But, after watching him play 137 regular-season games as a Sixer, it’s obvious they’re not sufficient.
Perhaps the best way to make sense of Redick and what he means to the Sixers is by considering the impact of Redick’s absence. The Sixers have a minus-1.1 net rating when Redick is off the floor this season and a plus-6.4 net rating when he’s on the court. That differential is, of course, boosted by Redick’s minutes with Embiid and the Sixers’ best players, but it’s impressive regardless. It’s not a fluke.
And in the bigger picture, the Sixers’ offense without Redick is … not really the Sixers’ offense. Sure, pick-and-rolls and isolations with Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris or post-ups with Embiid don’t rely on Redick, but the 13-year veteran is central to so much of what the Sixers do offensively.
Redick is a flawed player. Brett Brown might need to pull him for defensive reasons at times in the playoffs. On nights when he’s not threatening triple-doubles, he generally needs to nail jumpers. All of those things are true, and they don’t prevent Redick from being a critical piece of the Sixers.
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