The Sixers defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 107-106 in the Sixers’ first Summer League game of 2019. After building a strong lead and maintaining it for most of the game, the Sixers nearly gave this one away as the Bucks pulled within a point with 19.5 seconds remaining. But Philly was ultimately able to squeeze out the victory in what was one of the funner Summer League games I can recall, with Zhaire Smith and Norvel Pelle slamming home dunks at every opportunity.
Below are some of my takeaways from the win.
Marial Shayok looked good shooting the ball, he has a quick release on catch-and-shoot threes. But he’s lacking in the athletic department without any explosiveness. He’s got more length than I expected, maybe that will come in handy for the rookie out of Iowa State. But from today’s showing, I’m concerned with how Shayok profiles defensively, whether he has the quickness or awareness to stay in front of anyone. He led the Sixers in scoring, with 19 points on the day (7 of 13 from the field, 3 of 6 from three) scoring from deep, the mid-range and at the bucket.
Zhaire Smith looked very spry. He’s just so bouncy, athletic and muscular. The man can jump out of the arena and there’s an absence of gravity on planet Zhaire with hang times that felt like an eternity. Shake Milton found Zhaire for at least three monster alley-oop dunks thanks in part to opportunistic, well-timed basket cuts from Zhaire. I’d like to see Smith try to create some more from the perimeter and get to the rim (he settled for a few long twos), but ultimately it seems like his game will look even better with more skilled teammates around him who can help him take advantage of his off-ball instincts. Smith did run a nice pick-and-roll with Norvel Pelle that ended with a Pelle alley-oop slam.
Smith had his own dunk contest within the game:
Thybulle had an up-and-down showing. His length was on display early, with a block on a corner three close out and a steal on a drive-and-kick attempt that was really impressive. He’s very light on his feet on defense and he navigated screens well, but he did over-pursue on a handful of occasions, getting beat with head fakes or pure decisiveness. Offensively, Thybulle struggled in some key areas and he appeared to be rushing things. His handle was loose and he lost the ball on a couple drives. He didn’t shoot very well, going from 2 of 6 the field. In the end, there were some things to like, others not as much, and Thybulle looked like a rookie.
Thybulle did find the bottom of the net on an action you could easily see him running in the Sixers offense:
Milton spent the afternoon frequently taking on point guard duties. In the halfcourt, Shake looked comfortable running the offense but he lacked the quickness to really take advantage of defensive lapses. I was more impressed with Milton’s ball-handling and passing when in transition, where he was always scanning the floor and looking to pass a teammate into an easy bucket. Milton fed both Norvel Pelle and Zhaire Smith a handful of alley-oops. One thing I feel confident saying about Milton is that he’ll need to develop some go-to scoring moves on the drive, because he’s mostly pretty bland in that respect. He went just 2 of 14 from the floor. He also almost threw the game away after being triple teamed with less than 5 seconds remaining in the game.
Koumadje is gangling and raw, but shew, is he looooong. He had a block on a high-arching layup attempt where he hardly even left his feet. He’s a long way from being an NBA player, but he’s an interesting project for the G-League team.
Highsmith didn’t get a ton of opportunities to show what he can do with the ball, but when he did, it felt like good things happened. The Sixers should do their best to keep Highsmith in their system and I wonder if there comes a day when we look back and say they should have rode with Highsmith as one of their two-way guys (not that he’ll ever be a stud, but I think he does have some NBA skills).