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Stay or Go: Does Shake Milton’s possible return hinge on James Harden?

Shake Milton found himself in and out of the rotation all season, but didn’t receive any meaningful playoff minutes. Will he be back with the Sixers?

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers, led by Daryl Morey, have plenty of questions to answer this summer. They recently addressed a major one in their next head coach, hiring Nick Nurse. Heading into free agency, they’ll have several key rotation players they’ll look to retain in free agency.

As of right now, they have zero draft picks in the upcoming draft, so playing the free agent market well could make or break their chances for a redemption year.

Continuing this series, we’ll evaluate key members of last year’s Sixers team and ask the simple question: Should he stay or go?

Shake Milton, unrestricted free agent

Shake Milton quietly had a productive year for the Sixers, averaging 8.4 points on 48 percent shooting, and 3.2 assists in only 20.6 minutes per game. He was a consistent rotation player for the Sixers during the regular season.

Milton’s best moments this season came when the Sixers were without Tyrese Maxey and James Harden. From Nov. 11 to Dec. 2 (right before Harden’s return), Milton averaged 20.6 points, six assists and five rebounds per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the field. He was a major reason the Sixers didn’t implode while facing numerous injuries to key players.

Like years past, Milton’s minutes eventually faded. It wasn’t necessarily due to a lack production, rather that the Sixers’ rotation was getting smaller with the postseason on the horizon and that Harden, Maxey and De’Anthony Melton were simply better than him. Apart from a few sprinkled stints, we barely saw any of Milton in the postseason at all.

Now, Milton has a chance to test free agency as an unrestricted free agent. This means he can sign with any team of his choosing, without the Sixers being able to match it. They do own his Bird rights, meaning they can sign him to whatever they choose regardless of their salary cap situation.

Shake has proven to be a capable NBA player and the Sixers should maintain some level of interest in re-signing him — especially if Harden departs in free agency. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Shake stays if Harden stays put or if they replace his production with another point guard, however. Maxey and Melton aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and I’d imagine the front office wants to give Jaden Springer a chance next year. Shake has shown capability to produce given minutes and consistent playing time might be the most important thing for him moving forward.

Milton’s season and situation echos the Washington Wizards and Tomáš Satoranský in the 2019 summer. Sato was a tall guard with skill, much like Shake, who produced good numbers on solid efficiency during the regular season, before struggling mightily in the postseason. He eventually inked a $30 million deal over three years in a sign-and-trade to Chicago.

It’s a guard’s league, and Milton is still young enough for emerging teams to consider. The 2023 free agent class features several talented guards outside of the obvious star talent, headlined by Fred VanVleet, Jordan Clarkson and Gary Trent Jr. Milton is in a tier right below them and should log a solid payday.

The new CBA makes it difficult to build a team with massive spending, which means Milton might get priced out of what the Sixers are willing to offer. Factor in a talented backcourt and one could argue that Milton might be the most unlikely free agent to return this summer. It all might just hinge on if Harden departs or stays — depending on the Sixers’ desperate need for players who can dribble a basketball.


Should Jalen McDaniels stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    (1166 votes)
  • 13%
    (181 votes)
1347 votes total Vote Now

Check out the entire Stay or Go series thus far:

Paul Reed

Jalen McDaniels

Georges Niang

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