Sixers

Savvy Shake the Necessary Spark for Sixers

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Heading into Sunday night’s bout with the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers hold an East’s best 20-10 record.

Their success thus far has been typically achieved through tremendous play from Joel Embiid and the starting five. Seth Curry and Danny Green have elevated Philly’s outside arsenal, getting plenty of looks thanks to the man who has been running the show in Ben Simmons.

The point guard’s defensive versatility has been a valuable tool as well this season and is even garnering Defensive Player of the Year buzz. Tobias Harris has been the second option for Philly’s offense all year and has excelled at the role scoring north of 20 points per game. When all are healthy, the 76ers’ starting five have a record of 14-2 this season.

The Unsung Hero

However, it is Malik “Shake” Milton who is sorely in need of credit for the Sixers’ solid start. Shake is in his third NBA season and is having a breakout year. He presently sits at 14.0 points per game which more importantly, is fourth highest on the team.

Not only is Milton the scoring punch off the bench, he is also the lead facilitator of the second unit. While three assists a game does not jump off the page, his scoring threat draws an opponent’s defensive attention. That attention makes it easier for his teammates. Milton currently posts a 1.94 assist-to-turnover ratio. A good bench mark is typically 2:1 which exhibits Milton’s playmaking improvement from years past as his floor time increases.

Putting it Together

Shake’s game against Miami on January 14th is the best display of his skills and importance to the team. The highlights below showcase Milton’s shot-making, facilitation and activity on the defensive end.

Milton’s ability to bail the Sixers out of a rough possession is on full display. Miami’s roster was not at full strength. With that said, their renowned resilience and “next-man-up” mentality proved that their reputation proceeds them. The Southern Methodist standout’s terrific performance also allowed Embiid to rest and play just 23 minutes.

The Best Contract in the NBA?

Shake’s production has been excellent for this Sixers team, but with his contract it feels on par with the Louisiana Purchase. Milton is set to make $1.7 million this season and $1.8 million the following, capped off with a team option of just under $2 million in the 2022 season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Calling this deal a bargain is an incredible understatement. It’s comparable to a savvy NBA veteran taking a mid-level exception (MLE). These kind of contracts are what championship-caliber teams need to have in order to pay their stars and stay well-rounded. Milton is certainly on pace to be due for a serious raise though, when the time comes.

Milton’s Shaky Playing Time

A concern as of late has been Shake’s inconsistent playing time. In his first 12 games this season he saw an average of over 26 minutes of action and was the clear sixth man. In his next 10 outings, he saw that number drop to just over 21 minutes per game.

While it is important to acknowledge some noise here such as injury, opponent strength, and coaches experimenting with lineups, there is enough of an alteration in his play-time that is worthy of raising some eyebrows. The point is only magnified when the Sixers have been suffering a losing streak. Furthermore, their bench production has been noticeably lacking without the services of Milton due to injury.

Morey in March Could Shake Things Up

76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and former NBA Executive of the Year is well known for willingness or perhaps even audaciousness to trade and retool an NBA roster. The Sixers already explored the idea of trading Simmons for the services of James Harden.

While negotiations did not result in a move, many suspect Philadelphia will take part in the trade market before the March 25 deadline. Shot creators and more frontcourt depth have been reoccurring topics discussed in Philly sports circles. Milton should theoretically be safe from being a trade piece as of now, but that won’t stop teams from calling the Sixers.

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Sixers Must Give Milton a Fair Shake

Any 76ers fan can recount a trade horror story from their lifetime. Older fans may remember the Sixers trading away Charles Barkley for pennies on the dollar in 1992. Younger fans may remember Richaun Holmes being shopped away to Phoenix for $1 million in cash. Unfortunately, no one can forget the Andrew Bynum fiasco.

The Sixers must learn from these past mistakes so history does not repeat itself with Shake Milton. The guard’s value has been proven on the court and his contract assists the 76ers so well. On top of that, Shake lines up with Embiid and Simmons in terms of age extremely well. The potential is here to create a strong, youthful core around the dynamic duo headlined by Milton.

I only hope the City of Brotherly Love concurs.

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About Derek Stein

Contributor for TheLeadSM.com- Sixers Fan but cover all things NBA- Co-Host of The Three Man Weave Podcast

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