Shake Milton looks to improve and increase his role on the 76ers this season. Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL.

The Philadelphia 76ers will soon start playing games in the annual NBA Summer League. 

It’s hard to remember about summer league with NBA free agency currently underway. While most people have been focusing on the reports about whose going where, NBA teams have been holding mini camps to prepare for Summer League in Las Vegas. 

 

The Philadelphia 76ers have an exciting roster of featured players, along with a fair share of storylines to go with it. Here are five storylines you should keep in mind while tuning into this years’ NBA Summer League:

Storyline #1: The New Guy

The Sixers traded up in the 2019 NBA Draft to pick #20 and selected Washington’s Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle was deemed as a defensive stud who could develop into a great role player with the Sixers.

This will be the first showing that many people will see Matisse Thybulle play in. People will be looking for a lot of things in the young prospect. 

Shooting is everything in today’s NBA, and it’s what people mostly look for. Thybulle was a streaky shooter at Washington, shooting 40% from deep his sophomore year and 30% his senior year. Summer League will give us a small sample size of Thybulle’s jumpshot at the next level. 

Summer League will also be the first time we see Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle playing together, a combination we could see a lot during the regular season. The hope is they both become a powerful one-two punch on the defensive end. 

Thybulle’s defense will also be shown to a wide audience. Defense is his bread and butter, and Thybulle will gain the opportunity to show off his athleticism and wide wingspan on a national level. 

Storyline #2: Zhaire Smith’s Return 

Technically, this isn’t Zhaire Smith’s return to the NBA. He did indeed play seven games for the Sixers’ last season. However, the majority of those minutes were inconsistent at best and/or in garbage time. 

This Summer League will give Smith a chance to showcase his improved game in consistent minutes with a major role. The Sixers will run a lot of sets for him, and he’ll likely have a large role on offense. 

 

Zhaire Smith had a solid summer league last season, even putting together a 16 point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers. I think it’s safe to bet he will have a much improved Summer League on both ends of the floor. Smith has had time to rehab from his injuries and work on his game. 

Look for Zhaire Smith to form an exciting backcourt with our next storyline, Shake Milton. 

Storyline #3: Shake Milton

Shake Milton recently received a brand new NBA contract for the next four years. He showed tremendous growth throughout last season playing games for the Sixers and Delaware Blue Coats. 

Shake Milton has a chance to compete for backup point guard minutes alongside new Sixer Raul Neto. 

Shake Milton came into the league as a combo-guard, or a guard that can play either point guard or shooting guard. The Sixers will likely want to develop him as their backup point guard, and the team can get a good idea on where his development is.

The team will likely start Milton at point guard throughout summer league. Milton has the chance to be exactly what the team needs while coming off the bench. He brings shooting and has developed a playmaking ability. 

Milton’s play will ultimately give us a small glimpse into how his game has evolved over the past season. Pay close attention to Shake, he may end up being a bigger part of the Sixers’ upcoming season than you know. 

Storyline #4: Christ Koumadje

How do you make your summer league team more entertaining? How about adding a 7-foot-4 center to your roster. Yeah, that’s Christ Koumadje

Koumadje has the chance to really make a statement in summer league and prove that he is a valuable shot blocker to an NBA team. Koumadje went to the same high school as Ben Simmons before attending Florida State. He was a complete mismatch for other teams, with them having to often double team him to limit lobs or easy layups. 

Koumadje is someone the Sixers may seriously look at as a Boban replacement, a massive body capable of bringing energy in short minutes. He has a real shot of making the training camp roster, come October. 

Pay attention to how he defends guards or mismatches. That will ultimately make or break him as a NBA prospect. 

Storyline #5: Haywood Highsmith’s return to the Sixers

Haywood Highsmith was an exciting story for the Delaware Blue Coats, as he was called up to the Sixers via a two-way contract. There were plenty of comparisons to Robert Covington, an excellent “3&D” NBA player. 

Highsmith was never given consistent minutes with the Sixers, and most of his time was spent in Delaware with the Blue Coats. He managed to play a few games at the end of the NBA season, before being waived just a few weeks ago. 

Luckily, Haywood Highsmith was given his own spot on the Sixers’ summer league team. The Sixers appear to be giving him a chance to show he’s indeed worth a two-way contract of some sort. He has the intangibles to become an excellent wing defender, the major question mark will be the consistency of his three point shot, as the percentage of it dipped throughout the year. 

 

As you can see, the Summer Sixers have a ton of talent and they will definitely be a joy to watch play. While these summer games are somewhat meaningless, they have a chance to be a huge variable in the Sixers’ upcoming season.