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5 players to watch as Sixers open Summer League slate

The Sixers will start their Summer League schedule in Utah Monday. Here are five players to keep an eye on.

2022 NBA Salt Lake City Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sixers on Monday will tip off their Summer league schedule starting with three games in Salt Lake City before heading to Vegas for five more.

No, it’s not like the years where guys like Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz participated, but there’s still intrigue around this Summer Sixers squad. With the roster in flux and the new CBA making roster building more difficult for big spending teams, finding diamonds in the rough is more important than ever.

With that in mind, here are five players worth watching on Monday and the games going forward.

Jaden Springer

The Sixers’ 2021 first-round pick has yet to get an extended look with the big club, but has impressed in spurts. Who could forget his performance against the Hawks, a day after leading the Delaware Blue Coats to the G League title and winning Finals MVP?

Though the signing of Patrick Beverley could muddy things for Springer a tad, there’s still a good chance the Tennessee product could factor into the team’s rotation. This has the potential to be a huge offseason for Springer. Nobody has spent more time at the Sixers’ practice facility, according to people around the team. He continues to work on his jumper, the swing skill that could mean the difference in him getting minutes in 2023-24. He hit just 31.9 percent from deep in the G League, but did go 9 of 19 in four playoff games.

Springer has the tools to defend at a high level in the NBA already. He shows real promise as a slasher and finisher, capable of absorbing contact and drawing free throws. Though it won’t assure him anything, a dominant summer league couldn’t hurt his stock — especially while Nick Nurse is doing the coaching.

Somehow, Springer is still just 20 years old. Even though he’s been in the organization for two years, he might be arriving right on time.

Filip Petrusev

The Serbian big was the Sixers’ first second-round pick in 2021. After playing at Gonzaga, Petrusev has been stashed overseas while the Sixers still maintain his rights. It’s clear he believes he’s ready to bring his game to the NBA.

“I think I showed I can play before and in Europe,” Petrusev, 23, told reporters Saturday. “The biggest thing here is just compete, bring the energy, and the rest will come, I think.”

Petrusev spent the 2022-23 season with KK Crvena Zvezda in Serbia. There he averaged a little over 11 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per game. His potential as a stretch big (35.1 percent from three this season) is intriguing. The Sixers haven’t had a true backup stretch big on the roster since Al Horford. Daryl Morey has said that’s the type of big he prefers, but while Doc Rivers was the head coach … well, the bigs he played do not fit into that category.

The team still intends to bring back restricted free agent Paul Reed, but beyond that, the team could use another five. Plus, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Reed and Petrusev could spend time at the four (Petrusev mentioned he’d done just that this past season).

Giving Petrusev a look is a better use of a roster spot than bringing in another Montrezl Harrell or Dewayne Dedmon. We’ll see if he can impress Nurse and company over the next couple weeks.

Ricky Council IV

All the Sixers’ business on draft night occurred after the draft. Morey was quick to agree to terms with three players, with Council as the headliner. Over the weekend the team officially signed the Arkansas product to a two-way deal. The easiest thing to notice about Council is his athleticism. The high-flying wing has future dunk contest champ written all over him.

But there’s a lot more to his game. After spending two years at Wichita State, Council spent his junior year with the Razorbacks where he led the team in scoring (16.1). Council is a legit slasher with a decent handle and good touch around the rim. He’s also a high-effort defender with tools to be excellent in that regard.

The big issue with Council is the shot. That’s likely why he fell out of the draft. He regressed as a three-point shooter over his college career, shooting below 30 percent this past season. While his touch inside the arc shows he has potential, his form from deep likely needs to be completely retooled.

Still, Council is intriguing and should shine in the summer league setting. He should also flourish in the G League where he’ll get time to work on his three-point stroke.

Tre Smith

Like Council, the Sixers acted quickly to secure Smith’s signing after the draft. He also signed his two-way deal over the weekend. And like Council, the “fun factor” is off the charts with the NC State product.

Smith was a high-volume shooter and scorer. He’s willing and ready to fire as soon as he steps in the gym. In his two seasons with the Wolfpack, Smith jacked up over eight threes a game, hitting 35.2 percent. The sheer ability to put up that many treys at the college level is impressive.

With that comes some serious inefficiency. Smith averaged over 17 points a game in college, but took 15 shots a game to get there, shooting 38.8 percent from the field. Smith is rail thin at 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds. That led to issues finishing at the rim and absorbing contact to play make for others. It also hurt on the defensive end.

Flaws aside, Smith’s audacious shooting will also make him a fun addition to the Summer League and G League squads. If he can add a little strength and improve his playmaking a touch, he could develop into a microwave scorer off the bench some day.

Azuolas Tubelis

While it was reported that Tubelis would be signing a two-way deal with the Sixers on draft day, that did not become official this past weekend. We’ll have to wait to see what the situation there is, but Tubelis will be with the team in Salt Lake and Vegas.

If you squint your eyes really hard, Tubelis sort of reminds you of fellow Lithuanian Domantas Sabonis. The lefty big man has great touch around the rim, can put the ball on the floor a bit at 6-foot-11 and is a good passer for a big man. He had a strong season for a good Arizona team, leading the Pac 12 in scoring (19.8) and rebounding (9.1).

Tubelis is a combo big, but he’ll need to shoot three ball much better to hang at the four on the NBA level. Like Council, his touch inside the arc gives you hope, but he hit only 31.3 percent of his threes in 2022-23. Whether he can keep up with the athleticism of NBA bigs is also a big concern.

Tubelis seems to thrive more in a team setting, so maybe the Summer League won’t cater to his game especially well. But once he’s down in Delaware, he should be able to have an impact for the Blue Coats.

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