Summer league has come and gone, and unlike last season when the free agency and trade season lasted until August 23rd and the completion of the Andrew Wiggins-Kevin Love-Thaddeus Young trade, we're about wrapped up for the summer barring unforeseen circumstances. Before we move on, let's take a look back at the activities from Las Vegas and Salt Lake City and highlight what we liked and didn't like about the 76ers. Dislikes will be up tomorrow.
1. Jahlil Okafor's Post Creation
Rich Hofmann, nee of Liberty Ballers, had a great breakdown over at the Philly Voice on Okafor's post-passing which you should check out. It'll tell you everything you can about the how. Why is that important? Sixers.com's beat writer Max Rappaport put together a nice chart from StatMuse showing the effectiveness that passing out of the post has on three point shooting, as well. And Zach Lowe recently highlighted that the post offense might not be dead.
This is all great news for the Sixers, having the best post prospect to come along in at least a decade. In SLC and Vegas, Okafor's moves dazzled but ultimately didn't produce much offense. I'd chalk that mostly up to a lack of even summer-level competent teammates. Okafor will be passing to shooters like Robert Covington or Nik Stauskas when games matter. That is exciting. J.P. Tokoto could only dribble aimlessly for so long before Jahlil's passing was rendered meaningless.
As the team started to look semi-competent toward the end of last season, the Sixers ran a ton of pick-and-roll and four-out offense. With Noel and Okafor likely playing together, along with no dynamic pick-and-roll operator currently on the roster, that will go away to some degree. An Okafor post-centric offense is coming. How often will the Sixers go to Okafor in the post? Is it the center of the offense or just a feature? Based on summer league, it might be the figurative and literal center of the Sixers' gameplan.
Post offense is best used in the current NBA as a vessel for creating other offense. Drawing double teams in the post is more effective in creating other shots elsewhere than it is in creating shots elsewhere in general, but in order to draw double teams you need to be effective enough in scoring one-on-one. Okafor was very much a willing passer when double teamed, but he also at times decided to attack double teams head-on to mixed results.
How often the Sixers go to Okafor in the post for offense, and how effectively he scores and passes out of the post, will determine if the Sixers can step up from "historically awful" to "just bad" or even better on offense going forward.
2. Signing Pierre Jackson and Scottie Wilbekin
The Sixers - technically - participated in free agency. The team is believed to have signed three free agent point guards to the now-maligned Hinkie Special contract: T.J. McConnell, Pierre Jackson, and Scottie Wilbekin. All three played throughout summer league with the team, though not all of them were overly impressive.
The best performer of the three was Wilbekin, who spent time with the Sixers last summer before playing in Australia's NBL during the 2014-15 season. Wilbekin, who shot 39% on threes in Australia, hit 46% of threes in summer league action and attempted a large number of attempts. For the Sixers, a willingness to take open threes (along with hitting them at a reasonably good rate) in particular is a valued skill. Wilbekin did that and will be asked to do that going forward. Wilbekin did primarily play as a shooting guard in Las Vegas due to the glut of point guards, which will not be the case during regular season action (if he makes the team).
Pierre Jackson had a relatively disappointing summer league. But because it was his first action since last July, coming off a devastating Achilles injury, maybe our expectations should have been lowered. McConnell is what he is: a caretaker point guard who can run a set play but may not be able to make plays.
The three will compete with Isaiah Canaan in training camp. Tony Wroten's status could be anything depending upon the reporter you cite, but Wroten being out is the safe and more widely reported assumption. All are smaller and limited in their skill sets. But the shooters, given that Okafor would seem to be the primary creator in the Sixers new post-based offense, don't necessarily need to be floor generals.
3. Furkan Aldemir's General Activity
Furkan Aldemir will get more attention for a game where he hit a trio of three pointers than for his gaudy rebounding numbers both in limited playing time last season and in summer league. And that makes sense: an oaky Turk that nobody really knows anything about is significantly more compelling when he converts spot-up threes. But his rebounding is what got him a contract and a chance to stick around. He averaged 13.3 rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes per game, an insane rate even for summer league.
Aldemir was unimpressive in his 41-game audition following his Eurpoean team's financial issues and his emigration to the United States. Furkan did not appear to be an NBA athlete, routinely late for rotations and lacking any explosion on offense. Part of the issue involved his conditioning being more appropriate for Eastern Europe than the NBA - he played center and strength was more important than speed or lateral quickness. He worked to improve that speed and his perimeter shooting - combining with his elite rebounding, he may round out to be an NBA player after all.
However Aldemir is probably the fifth big right now behind incumbent Nerlens Noel and newcomers Okafor, Jason Thompson, and Carl Landry. He took a step forward this summer and should at least challenge for rotation minutes. His guaranteed contract means he likely makes the roster anyway and showed this summer that at the very least he's not yet a sunk cost.
4. A Bigger Jerami Grant
Jerami Grant, if he wants to have long-term success with the Sixers, needs to lean more toward big three than small four. And maybe that's not the path with the current NBA, but the Sixers have clearly emphasized that they'll zig when everyone else zags, and playing big ball with size at every position is the best anti-meta strategy in the modern NBA. Jerami being a huge three would be a nice addition, especially if he's pegged as a starter this season.
Why would he be a starter? Defense - the lineup around Nerlens Noel as currently predicted projects as an awful defensive lineup. Replacing Nik Stauskas or Robert Covington with Grant makes those lineups much more palatable.
Jerami's been in Philadelphia recently, including being in attendance for his brother Jerai's games in The Basketball Tournament, including a loss to the Liberty Ballers team on Sunday. He looked bigger in person too.