After losing a close game in their Summer League opener to Boston (we’ll always have the Furkan game), the Summer Sixers were blown out in consecutive games by the Lakers and Wizards. Now, entering the tournament portion of the proceedings in Sin City, Coach Kevin Young and his motley crew of mostly future G-leagues and overseas players will look to put their 0-3 start behind them. Unfortunately, they’ll be up against the Summer League version of the Warriors, the 3-0 Phoenix Suns.
Undoubtedly, some people will try to make this meeting a referendum on the draft night trade between the two clubs, playing up the Zhaire Smith-Mikal Bridges matchup. I’m sure any video clips of one scoring on the other will be pure social media catnip. However, the two players couldn’t be in more different situations on their respective Summer League rosters.
Whereas the Sixers don’t have a single lottery pick on the team in Vegas (technically, Smith went 16th overall), Bridges is just the fourth-highest drafted player on the Phoenix squad (behind DeAndre Ayton, Josh Jackson, and Dragan Bender). The Suns are a few years into a full rebuild, and while it remains to be seen whether they can rise above the dregs of the NBA standings this season, they certainly have more than enough young firepower to dominate in the desert.
First overall pick DeAndre Ayton has been the main cog for the Suns, averaging team-highs of 16.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks across the first three games. As for Bridges, after shining in his professional debut to the tune of 14 points on 4-5 shooting from behind the arc, the Villanova alum has since struggled, tallying just 5 points against the Kings and going scoreless against the Magic. In all, Bridges is averaging 6.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in 20.0 minutes per night. We’ll see if any desire to prove the Sixers should have kept him for longer than 20 minutes on draft night will focus Bridges’ efforts.
As for the Sixers, while prevailing over a talent-stocked Phoenix group might be too much to ask, it’d be nice to see their relevant players get back on track. No one expects Furkan Korkmaz to drop 40 again, but an improvement over his 0-12 mark from behind the arc the last two games would be welcome. I want to see Jonah Bolden avoid airballs on his outside shots and tally more than his average of 2.7 defensive rebounds per game. Zhaire Smith has done a good job showing off his defensive prowess and athleticism at the rim; can he keep it going against upper lottery talent?
Discuss all tonight’s action in the comments below.
Time: 6:30pm EST
Location: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV