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Shake Milton is TOO GOOD for the G-League

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When Shake Milton first injured his hand on February 5th, it was quite the disappointment. Milton had been showing positive signs, and even if he wasn’t able to impress the Sixers coaching staff enough to warrant playing time down the stretch, it was exciting to watch a young Sixers wing developing before our eyes. Around the time of the injury, Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice quoted Brett Brown as saying that Milton would be “out for a while”. However, Milton made a somewhat surprisingly quick return to action, joining the Delaware Blue Coats on March 8th.

Since his return, Milton has played four games for the Blue Coats, and let’s just say the injury has not seemed to affect his play whatsoever. In those four games, Milton is averaging 29.2 points, 8.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per-36 with a true shooting mark of 60.6% (eFG% = 55.2%).

Shake hasn’t been flawless. By the numbers, it seems like Milton has room to improve when it comes to ball security. But going over some of his film, the rookie appears to be very comfortable on offense, specifically scoring. One thing that’s really stood out in his highlights is his body control and finishing at the rim — not necessarily his conversion rate (which is around average), but his ability to use his dribble and to manipulate space and his opponent’s momentum, and his willingness to absorb contact. When he decides he wants to get to the rim, he’s typically able to put the ball on the floor and dribble his way into a good look. He’s got this step-back he pulls out while driving down the side of the line where he slows everything down and waits until he’s got just enough space to release a soft floater-jumper hybrid. Shake’s taking more mid-range shots than typically ideal, but from what I gather in the highlights, many of them are in scenarios where he’s just too open to not pull the trigger.

Shake’s been fulfilling initiating duties often, and his usage rate is anywhere between 27%-31% in his last four appearances. He’s not a flashy passer, but he’s demonstrated an awareness of his teammates positioning, often pulling the ball out of the lane to hit an open teammate at the perimeter. As far as a complementary guard role goes, Shake appears to be comfortable spotting up as well as running the point on occasion.

Shake is clearly better than talent he’s matching up against. He’s playing with a ton of confidence, and I’m not sure he has much else to gain in the G-League other than consistent minutes. It’s tough to know how much of the Milton’s recent performances are on account of development or simply taking advantage of weak competition, and so it’s understandable if the Sixers coaching staff is uncomfortable trying to incorporate Milton with the playoffs on the horizon. But it’s absolutely possible (I’m leaning likely) he has more to offer than some of the players currently in the wing rotation.

P.S.: If you’d like to check out Shake’s G-League performances, I’ve found that the best way to do it is to go to the G-League’s YouTube channel and using the search feature within the channel, search for Shake Milton. (That link will do just that.)