What a year it has been for Sixers guard Shake Milton. He started the season on a blistering pace, leading the Sixers’ bench unit and looking like a legitimate contender for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. After that hot start, things have slowed down for Milton quite a bit. He’s still a key contributor for a team looking to finish first in the Eastern Conference, but his play over the last few weeks has been a bit concerning.
As of late, the Sixers don’t exactly know which version of Shake Milton they’re going to get. Some nights, it’s the cool, calm and collected guard that runs the offense like someone who has been in the league for years. Other nights, it’s the frenetic playmaker who is simply doing too much and seemingly creating problems for himself. While Milton is still averaging 13.2 points per game, he is doing so much less efficiently than he has in the past. His shooting percentage on two-pointers has dipped from 53 percent last year to 49 percent this year, and his 3-point shooting percentage dip is even more concerning (43 percent to 33 percent).
The addition of George Hill to the Sixers’ rotation wasn’t the sexiest of moves to close out the season, but it was much needed. Hill is a veteran leader who is much more equipped to handle the backup point guard role then Shake Milton. Even though Milton has kept the second unit afloat, he is much better suited to be a shooting guard who can focus less upon setting up his teammates for success.
Hill has also proven to be a reliable shooter from outside who isn’t afraid to get his shots up (40 percent from 3-point range on 3.8 shots per game). He still has to knock some of the rust off from a midseason thumb injury, but come playoff time, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Hill surpass Milton on the Sixers’ depth chart.
Once the playoffs roll around, the Sixers will assuredly cut their rotation to their top eight players or so. The starting five are going to do most of the heavy lifting, but it is up to those three or four bench players to fill in the cracks of the team and make a difference in their few minutes each game. As of now both Dwight Howard and Matisse Thybulle seem like locks to play a vital role in the playoffs. Furkan Korkmaz’s quick trigger might also earn him some run, so that only really leaves one spot left in the rotation. The spot won’t necessarily come down to Hill and Milton, it will more so be about how those minutes are split up between the two.
The margin for error in the playoffs is razor thin. For teams with a real chance at winning an NBA Championship, it’s all about making the chance of these errors as small as possible. The Sixers have the opportunity to do just that by giving George Hill the role that Shake Milton has filled admirably all season.