Sixers

Sixers Have a Lot to Look at in Summer League

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Legends are born in Summer League.

They may quickly die once preseason starts, but for a few weeks, second rounders and undrafted free agents reach the heights of Olympic athletes. It’s a glorious experience as we raise our collective hopes for guys that will be end-of-the-rotation options.

This, however, is an especially important summer. Dreams of Kyle Lowry were dashed with his move to Miami. In addition, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal dreams are just about dead. Every fanbase loves a big acquisition, but the Philadelphia 76ers needs depth.

That’s where Summer League comes in. Depth on reasonable and affordable contracts could make up the backbone of the 2021-2022 roster. With the release of the Summer League roster, let’s talk about our intrigue and excitement for each player based on their potential impact on the 2021-2022 Sixers and beyond.

Group I: Undrafted Free Agents

Mitch Ballock, Braxton Key, Lamar Peters, Aaron Henry, Charles Matthews

The level of intrigue is akin to a modicum of interest. It will take a big showing for anyone from this group to pop. Names like Matthews and Henry raise the modicum to a morsel given their backgrounds from major college basketball programs. A standout from this group would be a surprise to the general masses.

After Game 1: Only Key really stood out among this group with a 11 points in 16 minutes. Most noticeably was his being used as a small ball five in stretches. That type of versatility could make him their version of Bruce Brown.

Group II: Veteran Free Agents

Frank Mason III, Rayjon Tucker

Both names are more familiar given their time on NBA rosters in their short careers. Tucker’s offense is his strength, which presents as a glass slipper to Philadelphia’s lack of offense outside of Joel Embiid. He has the benefit of having spent time with the team last year, even logging some regular-season minutes. In 2019-2020, he thrived in the G League, averaging over 23 points per game across 19 contests. Shooting with more consistency from three will be vital to his future with the team. 

Mason III, the former Kansas All-American point guard, is a more familiar name to most. He was drafted by the Sacramento Kings as an early second-round pick in 2017. Since his first two years there, he’s bounced around a bit with stops in Orlando and Milwaukee. Size is a bit of a concern with him at 5’11”, but he’s stuck around.

Being a veteran point guard makes Mason III a very attractive option heading into the season.

After Game 1: Tucker has shown why the Sixers signed him to a two-way contract this season. In the open floor, his athleticism and relentlessness are on full display. With 12 points in 15 minutes, he’s doing everything possible to one day crack the rotation. If he can keep this up, Doc will have to find a creative way to use the 23-year-old dynamo.

Group III – Someone, anyone, to relieve Embiid

Felip Petrusev, Charles Bassey, Paul Reed

This is where things get really interesting.

It was a bit eye-brow raising when the Sixers paid $2 million to buy a late second-round pick. What did Morey have up his sleeve that he couldn’t accomplish with his other second-round pick?

Turns out he needed multiple shots at landing a big that could make this roster. Even with the addition of Andre Drummond, more depth is critical.

With both picks, Morey picked up a pair of high-ceiling big men. Charles Bassey is a former top-10 high-school recruit who vacillated between stretches of dominance for a mid-major in Western Kentucky, and rehabbing a serious season-ending knee injury. His junior year saw him average over 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game. He projects as a rim-running big, with the athleticism to catch lobs and be a dangerous pick-and-roll partner.

Felip Petrusev, arguably, has the most intriguing path to the NBA than anyone on this roster. He’s a former Gonzaga player whose calling card was his post game.

Instead of relying on that, however, he transitioned overseas to develop a perimeter game and became the Adriatic League MVP with averages of 23+ PPG, 7+ RPG and 41% 3PT. To play one style in college and develop another style overseas against professionals must be tantalizing, showing the ability to grow and adapt quickly. The mixture of post and perimeter offensive skills would give the Sixers a more dynamic big-man option that could play in a variety of lineups.

At 6’11”, he’s the tallest big on Philly’s Summer League roster, and that size plus offense could translate very quickly.

Paul Reed barely saw any time last season on the main roster, but going into his second year, he’ll have every opportunity to carve out a pivotal role in the post. We’d expect nothing less from a G-League MVP. His averages during his last year at DePaul were very encouraging– 15+ PPG, 10+ RPG and 2.5+ BPG. What he lacks in girth (listed at 210 pounds) he makes up for in athleticism and hustle– an ideal multi-positional defender with the lateral quickness to be comfortable on switches. 

The Sixers are thin up front. Aside from Joel Embiid, the roster lacks a true big to make their living in or around the post (though I’m crossing my fingers Ben Simmons becomes their full-time four this upcoming season). With the loss of Dwight Howard and backup bigs getting snatched up left and right in free agency, the Sixers need one of these guys to pop early. Despite Embiid’s “healthiest” season to date, the Sixers still need to find ways to be anything above abysmal when he’s not on the floor.

After Game 1: We got just about what we expected from this group. It was disappointing for Bassey to be held out by his agent, but Reed and Petrusev acquitted themselves nicely. The two combined for 12 rebounds and seven blocks. The immediate defensive impact is encouraging even as their offense still has a ways to go.

Group IV – A Danny Green Replacement?

Jaden Springer, Isaiah Joe

The Sixers re-signed Danny Green, but that shouldn’t preclude the Sixers from having as many capable wing players as possible. Jaden Springer can operate in the same mold. Springer’s strengths are his defense and spot-up shooting, making him an ideal fit in any lineup if he shows he can play immediately.

Right now, Springer needs to show that those two calling cards from his lone season in college are transferable to the NBA. It’s not ideal for the Sixers to rely on a late first-round pick to contribute immediately, but those traits split the difference between the all-defense/no-offense contributions of Simmons and Matisse Thybulle (THIGH-BULL!) and the all-offense/so-so defensive contributions of Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton.

Fans may cry foul that the Sixers haven’t signed another highly regarded outside shooter, but that does violence against what they already have in Isaiah Joe. He came into the league from Arkansas as an outside threat and has kept that reputation through the G League and his limited time on the main roster. At this point, he may already be a better outside shooting option than Milton or Furkan Korkmaz.

He just needs reps. He clearly wasn’t shy about chucking it from deep, averaging 12 attempts from downtown in the G League this past season, making almost 40%. On other teams, being a more deliberate, selective shooter might be one of his main criticisms, but for Summer League, look for him to let it fly with no regard.

After Game 1: Shooters gonna shoot. That seems to be Joe’s motto as an NBA player. All four of his made baskets were three-pointers. His aggressiveness and accuracy from deep will make him a mainstay in the regular season rotation. Springer also showed aggressiveness throughout the game. His 12 shot attempts were second only to Maxey’s 15. Although he struggled — particularly in the first half — that didn’t stop him from attacking. His defense is as advertised, which should be enough to keep him on the main roster early.

Group V – The anomaly 

Daishen Nix

For a longshot, Nix is a very intriguing roster addition. The difference with Nix is that he is a true point guard.

One of the reasons for the Lowry and Lillard murmurs is because the Sixers lack someone who can set up a halfcourt offense. For a team with title aspirations, that’s a pretty big deal. Nix struggles defensively and he shot a low percentage from deep last season, but he has a feel for the game that may be more advanced than the Sixers’ other options at guard.

He’s far from being a contributor on day one, or even much during the regular season this upcoming year. Still, he’s worth investing in and can become a quality NBA point guard. He was a top-20 recruit in the 2020 class and is massive for a point guard at 6’5”, 214 pounds.

Aside from Maxey, he arguably has the highest upside of any player on the Sixers G-League roster.

After Game 1: He didn’t exactly light it up in the first contest, but a more traditional point guard won’t leap out of the screen the way Joe or Maxey will. Nix was solid with three steals and three assists. His turnovers (2) will need to be kept low if he he wants to win the trust of the coaching staff. He still remains their most intriguing traditional point guard option.

Speaking of Maxey:

No Maxey?!

I get it. How is Maxey not included as someone to watch for in Summer League? After Game 1, Maxey has shown that he’s already outgrown Summer League.

It’s simple. The playoffs showed us all we need to know about Maxey. He’s a one of one on this squad. He’s going to be a vital offensive sparkplug for the Sixers, someone unafraid when his number is called. His place on the Summer League roster is more a formality than anything else. 

We don’t know that of anyone else on the roster. Based on what they’ve shown so far, fans have a reason to be excited about the Group III-through-IV options. It beats overspending in free agency. It may be the minority to be more excited about young players slowly developing than a splashy trade or free-agent acquisition. Nevertheless, we can still be hopeful for this group and what they can bring to the team.

Hope may not be a strategy, but it can sometimes be a cure. After last season, we can use hope wherever we can find it.

Follow us on Twitter @SixersLead for the latest 76ers news and insight. 

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