We hear it every year, as the whispers of “He’s has had the best offseason of his career” and “He looks ready to take the next step” get louder and louder. These are usually said about starters looking to break out, but every now and then we get these quotes about a role player who has shown flashes of incredible talent. This seems to be the case with Shake Milton this year. Head Coach Doc Rivers raved about the bench guard all offseason, even telling the media, “Shake’s been amazing, he’s faster than I thought. It’s funny, he had a big game against [the Clippers last season], but most of that was jump shooting. You know, when I was with the Clippers, he made a bunch of jump shots. I didn’t see his ability to get to the rack and make plays. He played with the first group today because we keep moving groups around, and he was unbelievable.” All Milton has done so far through the first four games of the season is prove his backers to be correct; he has been impressive in all aspects of the game.
Last year, Milton came on the scene due to several injuries that forced him into bigger minutes. He played well, but it still felt like somewhat of a flash in the pan and not something that could be done consistently day in and day out. Milton continued to play well in the Bubble, and has since seen his stock skyrocket in his new role as the Sixers’ sixth man. His play over the last few months has convinced a lot of detractors that he belongs in the rotation and he has made the necessary adjustments to make sure he sticks.
One of those adjustments has become very clear over the first few games this season: Milton has gotten stronger and will no longer be pushed around. Previously, my main concern about Shake Milton was that he was a bit too weak, and while he had shown that the success with his jump shot translated to the NBA, he would need to be able to handle himself physically in order to get those shots off and stay on the court.
Shake showing off more of that improved strength, giving the stronger Russell Westbrook trouble down low pic.twitter.com/kgUS6EyGnB— Tyler Monahan (@TMon_19) December 24, 2020
However, where he has shown the most significant improvement using his strength is on defensive end. Milton is no longer getting blown by, he is taking tough assignments and making the opposition work for baskets. Something as simple as that is going to allow him to continue to play big minutes as a key contributor down the stretch.
Shake Milton continuing to impress me with his growth defensively. The added strength definitely helps here as he keeps Barrett in front of him and forces him into a tough jumper instead of getting to the rim pic.twitter.com/sp78ohJhl7— Tyler Monahan (@TMon_19) December 27, 2020
This play on RJ Barrett has been my favorite play from Milton so far this year. Barrett started the season scorching hot because of his ability to out-muscle smaller players. Milton uses his added strength to keep Barrett in front of him and forces him into a contested jumper, a shot you will live with giving up. It’s still very early in the year, but if Milton can continue to use his added strength on both sides of the court, he has a real chance to contend for Sixth Man of the Year.
Shake Milton has always been a prospect worth developing, it was just up to the Sixers to see that too. He showed his potential last year and now the Sixers seem fully prepared the reap the rewards of bringing their sixth man along slowly.