MILWAUKEE – JJ Redick is no longer just a sharpshooting role player.
These days, the 13th-year veteran is nearly as vital to the 76ers' success as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
He's a perfect fit for a Sixers squad in desperate need of an outside shooter for two reasons:
One, Simmons won't shoot from the outside.
Two, the Sixers need an outside shooter to keep defenses honest whenever Embiid posts up.
As a result, the reserve shooting guard always occupies a defender and spreads the floor for the Sixers. The team has elected to start Markelle Fultz at shooting guard. However, Redick gets the bulk of the minutes and closes out the games.
"You have two excellent post-up players [Embiid and Simmons] in there that can kick it out and you have another shooter like Redick and he's in constant motion," Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. "So your game preparation is geared around a guy like JJ Redick.
"You can't forget about him for one second, because he doesn't stop moving."
Teams are realizing that the hard way this season.
Redick took a scoring average of 21.8 points into Wednesday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks. That average doesn't come close to explaining his early-season dominance.
Redick had 30 points in Tuesday's 133-132 overtime road loss to the Detroit Pistons.
That came two nights after he scored 31 in a 116-115 home victory over the Orlando Magic. He delivered the decisive blow with a three-pointer with 17 seconds left to put the Sixers up 116-114. Redick hit eight three-pointers against the team that selected him 11th overall in the 2006 NBA draft.
He made 17 of 39 (43.6 percent) three-pointers through four games. And the 34-year-old averaged 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 90 percent (10 of 11) from the foul line.
Defending Redick is considered a workout due to his constant movement without the ball.
"He's not like a playmaker," Simmons said, "but just the way he plays, he's able to let us make plays. We don't have that many guys that can make plays. Joel, me and 'Kelle [Fultz] are the main guys that are able to create and get guys open.
"But just the way JJ plays, he's able to do that in his own game without [physically] having to move the ball. So he moves that ball for us. So he's a playmaker by just the way he plays."
The Sixers' most effective play to date is when Embiid sets a screen on a dribble handoff to Redick. That's because Embiid is left open when the opposing post player helps to defend Redick. When he doesn't help, the former Redick is open for the jump shot.
Teams are finding out that the duo's two-man game has been tough to stop.
"I wish he was 24 years old so we could be here for 10 to 15 years, but he's old as [bleep]," Embiid jokingly said following the Magic win.
On the serious note, Redick is one of the best-conditioned athletes in the league regardless of age. That's because he works on his body just as much as getting up shots during offseasons. He's spent the past two offseasons working with renowned trainer John Madonia.
Redick even joked with the Sixers about only playing 24 minutes, 6 seconds against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 18.
"I'm like, 'My offseason workouts are harder than 24 minutes, man. Come on,' " he said. "So I think a lot of that is just preparing yourself for an 82-game season, and John has done a great job of that the last two summers."
Those workouts and being in the perfect scheme for him have a lot to do with Redick playing the best basketball of his career as a Sixer.
He averaged career highs of 17.1 points and 2.4 rebounds last season with the Sixers after spending the previous four with the Los Angeles Clippers. While it's early, Redick is on pace to surpass that scoring average this season.
"I think the thing here, there's really four quarters of opportunities for me," Redick said. "The Clippers, typically the beginning of the first, the beginning of the third, those were when I would really get opportunities to play."
As for closing out games, the Clippers' offense "was just Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin] two-man action," he said.
A lot of his Sixers production comes from having opportunities to score later in games, and he is making the most of them.