Photo by Austin Krell/The Painted Lines

The summer Sixers (2-1) took on the Minnesota Timberwolves (3-0) on Sunday night in Las Vegas. Paul Reed stuffed the box score with 27 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 4 blocks. But, the Sixers fell short in overtime.

Here are my observations from the Summer League contest.

First Half

Summer League is absolutely the time to test new skills and be bold. However, Paul Reed dribbling the air out of the ball in isolation seems somewhat wasteful. If he wants to take a matchup off the dribble and attack the rim or attempt a self-provisioned jumper, fine. But his desire to manufacture an AND1 video of dribble moves that ultimately lead to nothing is counter-productive. Those touches should be used to showcase skills that would keep him on the court in real NBA minutes this season. For instance, Reed could be proving that he’s a legitimate lob threat, real pick-and-pop big, or dunker’s spot fiend with a high motor for off-ball screening. Isolation dribble moves will get Reed benched, as they’re not going to result in productive utility of the shot clock. 

I am extremely curious as to what the organization’s vision for Rayjon Tucker is. He’s an athletic specimen who is still very young. However, I don’t see what his redeeming value on offense is. He attacks the paint with force and his completely unafraid of crashing into people, as I wrote yesterday. But, he is devoid of shooting touch and isn’t a crafty finisher. My hunch is that Daryl Morey sees some KJ McDaniels in him. If you recall, Morey acquired McDaniels from the Sixers in 2015 and then signed him to a three-year deal to stay with the Rockets. Tucker follows the McDaniels archetype fairly closely, and Morey clearly likes that ‘low risk, medium reward’ flyer.

The tangible positive that you can derive from Jaden Springer’s offensive game thus far is that he’s adept at finishing through contact. He finds ways to kiss the rock off the backboard regardless of how he gets to the final destination. That aptitude is why it’s so important for him to develop athleticism off one foot. If he can loosen up his body and unlock some explosiveness, Springer will have a real identity to build upon on the offensive side of the court.

The national broadcast is still attempting to push the idea that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons need to be split up because they lack the requisite chemistry needed to flourish together. It was an inaccurate assertion four years ago when that narrative began. It remained an inaccurate narrative up until the postgame press conference following the game 7 loss to the Hawks. I suspected some Summer League participants would mail it in. I didn’t think it would be the broadcasters. 

Second Half

He is, at best, an emergency point guard, but Isaiah Joe can credibly handle the ball. He played some point guard in high school, so perhaps it’s not all that surprising. Joe has demonstrated a degree of comfort and feel as a ball-handler in these Summer League games. Much of what he’s doing is making decisions out of Double Drag action in transition. Joe had a beautiful feed to a diving Paul Reed early in the third frame out of that action.

While the Sixers would’ve wanted him to put on some muscle mass this offseason, Joe’s situational comfort as a playmaker is an intriguing development. Perhaps that isn’t in the cards for the Sixers. But, it may be a selling point that Daryl Morey and company can use to their advantage as they look to structure a deal for Damian Lillard.

It’s probably a sad state of affairs that Aaron Henry–the Michigan St undrafted free agent on a Two-Way deal–is one of the Sixers’ six best players at self-provisioning jump shots. But, it’s hard to argue against such being the case. Henry has a knack for creating separation with strong dribble moves and then leveraging that space to sink silky jumpers from the elbows. Again, he’s on a Two-Way. So, don’t expect much run with the big club. But, Henry is an interesting youngster to keep tabs on. The Sixers have finally begun to value young depth. If they trade for Lillard, they’re going to have to start over in that department. Henry is not a bad piece to have in the bank.

It’s very obvious that Frank Mason III is the seasoned veteran, of sorts, for the summer Sixers. He was outstanding in the fourth quarter. Mason III was extremely decisive as a ball-handler, pushing the rim every time he had control of the rock. He showcased an array of crafty finishes, and made it clear that he isn’t afraid of physicality or contact around the rim.

Springer got a generous bounce on a triple from the left wing to give the Sixers the lead with less than fourteen seconds remaining in regulation. It must’ve felt great for the rookie, as he’s really struggled to shoot the ball from the perimeter in Summer League.  

Fast Break Points

  • Daishen Nix may never be a rotation player on a winning NBA team, but his intuition for playmaking out of dribble penetration is impressive. There’s traditional point guard instincts in his game. Perhaps his youthful age will give a team with a long-term vision some fascination worth hanging on to.
  • Isaiah Joe left the game in the second half after suffering what the Sixers are calling a left knee injury. It occurred on a contact play as he knifed his way through the paint. He did not return. The Sixers will provide more information at some time in the future. 

The Sixers will wrap up Summer League on Tuesday. Their opponent and game time is not yet known.