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Checking in on the Delaware Blue Coats

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NBA: Summer League-Philadelphia 76ers at Memphis Grizzlies Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Delaware Blue Coats season is eight games deep and the team sits at a below-average mark of 3-5. While anybody would find that record uninspiring, not too many people care whether or not the Blue Coats are developing a championship formula. What matters for our purposes is how potential Sixers prospects are performing.

The Blue Coats currently roster two Sixers players on two-way contracts: Shake Milton and Demetrius Jackson. Jonah Bolden has also made three appearances for Delaware this season. As far as NBA opportunities go, there’s a path for all three of those players. Bolden has already played in six games for Philly this season, and will likely play in more, albeit sporadically. Judging by our own David Early’s reporting as well as Keith Pompey’s (Philadelphia Inquirer), Markelle Fultz may get moved or be out for an extended timeframe, opening the door for Jackson to get the occasional call up when TJ McConnell or Ben Simmons come under attack of gastroenteritis as Sixers players seemingly often do. Milton has a less realistic chance of NBA action than the previous two, but he was a 2018 draft pick who can play some wing minutes in garbage time if the Sixers should find themselves thin on bodies at some point.

With that said, let’s take a look at how those players are performing in the young G-League season.

Demetrius Jackson

Jackson is thriving in the G-League so far, though he’s played in just four games this season. He’s 4th in the G-League in scoring, averaging 27.3 ppg. But Jackson’s point totals aren’t the most impressive aspect of his campaign. What’s more notable is that Jackson is in the midst of improving each of his raw shooting percentages (FG%/3PT%/FT%) for the second straight season.

Demetrius Jackson Shooting

Season FG% 3PT% FT%
Season FG% 3PT% FT%
2016-2017 42.0 27.5 79.4
2017-2018 46.5 35.3 80.7
2018-2019 49.4 36.7 90.0

There’s plenty of time for Jackson to regress, but the current trend is encouraging. And it’s not the only upward swing: his assists have nearly doubled from last season (4.5 to 8.3). Year-to-year traditional stats figure to go up when a player’s minutes increase, as they have by ~7 minutes for Demetrius, but to nearly double his previous mark is impressive nonetheless. Jackson has been active on the defensive side of the ball, prying the ball from opponents at a rate of 1.5 steals a game.

While Jackson seems to have a G-League anchor tied around his waist, the Sixers gave him a two-way contract for a reason (I think). To commit to a player with limited upside seems to signal that the organization trusts Jackson. I wouldn’t expect him to become a full time Sixer, but he’s a backcourt injury or two away from being called up at any point. That’s previously been a scary thought given the struggles we’ve seen Jackson have against NBA competition, but more and more, he seems to be capable of heading north on I-95 toward the Wells Fargo Center and giving the Sixers deep-bench point guard minutes for short stints. Maybe sort of like a “pray you don’t need him, but feel comfortable that you have him” type of guy?

D.J. Hogg

Texas A&M v Michigan Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I didn’t touch on Hogg in the intro, but if you recall, there was a short time frame when Sixers internet was intrigued with D.J. Hogg as a project player. The Sixers signed Hogg to an Exhibit 10 contract in October; here’s the very brief profile we wrote of him at the time:

Hogg is a 6’8” small forward who played college ball at Texas A&M as a junior in 2017-2018. He was undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft, but went on to play in Summer League with the New Orleans Pelicans. During Summer League, he averaged 7.5 points and 1 assists over 13.4 minutes

The key part of that, and the reason for fan interest in Hogg, is “6’8” small forward”. The Sixers were and still are thin on forwards. Unfortunately, Hogg won’t be providing relief any time soon. He’s seeing just 21 minutes a game through eight games, and making marginal contributions. Per-36, Hogg is averaging 14.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists with, ahem, 4.2 turnovers. He’s shooting just 41.0% from the floor, and hitting only 33.3% of his threes.

Shake Milton

Milton’s start to the season was disappointing. Through his first three appearances, Milton shot just 18-47 (38.3%). But in his last two games, Milton has turned things around. Against the Raptors 905, Shake dropped 33 points and racked up 10 rebounds to give him his first double-double of the season. He shot 12-20 in that game, hitting 3-6 from 3PT. Then, in the next game, Milton’s line was solid with 15 points (6-12 FGs, but an inefficient 1-6 3PT), 6 rebounds and 3 assists. One area of concern with Milton is his turnovers. He’s had games with 6, 4 and 3 turnovers, and only one game in which he had zero. Another aspect of the game the SMU product has struggled with is distance shooting. While he’s attempted at least 6 threes in every game, he’s converting at just 29.0%.

Shake seems to be developing useful NBA tools. But I’m not sure if he’s going to see any NBA action this season other than garbage time minutes late in the season, if at all. I’m not worried about his shooting percentages — he shot over 42.0% on 5.1 3PA over a three year college career — I think they’ll come around. But he needs to put a lot of shots up to be effective, and those shots won’t be available for him on the Sixers. It’ll be best for his development to get as much G-League action in as possible.

Overall, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Milton. He’s got a quick trigger from 3PT and he’s willing to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.

Jonah Bolden

Jonah’s in a weird position. He’s maybe too good for the G-League, but not good enough to get consistent exposure in the NBA (though some might argue he should be getting consistent minutes given the Sixers lack of fours).

Outside of shooting poorly against the Maine Red Claws back on Nov. 4th, Jonah has performed well in his three G-League games:

Many Sixers fans desperately want Jonah to be a stretch four, and during his Blue Coats run, he’s looked the part. He’s gobbled up at least 14 rebounds in every game, and while he’s underwhelmed from a 3PT efficiency standpoint, he’s been more than willing to fire away with 20 3PA. It’s unclear how much more action he’ll see for the Blue Coats, and maybe it’s time for Brett Brown to experiment more frequently with Bolden on the Sixers considering the departure of Dario Saric.