The Philadelphia 76ers will open their 2019 Summer League schedule at the Thomas & Mack Center against the Milwaukee Bucks on ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, July 5. The Sixers have not officially announced their roster for Las Vegas, but one would believe all eyes will be on Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, and Shake Milton; however, it’ll be hard to miss Christ Koumadje. He’s really tall.
The Sixers selected Thybulle with the 20th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, after sending picks 24 and 33 to the Boston Celtics. Elton Brand, after the draft, explained to the media that he got his guy. Along with Thybulle, it’s speculated that Smith and Milton will play alongside the rookie.
Zhaire Smith had a difficult rookie season, battling an illness stemming from a food allergy, which set him back a ways, but he made his debut with Philadelphia late in the season. Milton spent a load of his playing time with the Delaware Blue Coats, signed as a two-way player. Milton developed nicely with Delaware and Philadelphia, and he could very well see valuable minutes with the Sixers in the 2019-20 season (maybe on an NBA contract).
Then, there’s Christ Koumadje. The Chad native wasn’t drafted, however the 76ers signed him the next day, according to Mark Deeks of Sky Sports.
The Philadelphia 76ers will sign Christ Koumadje, undrafted 7'4 centre out of Florida State, to a free agent deal. Koumadje started all 37 games last season and averaged 6.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 15.5 minutes per game.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) June 21, 2019
Yesterday, the 76ers announced that Haywood Highsmith was placed on waivers, thus clearing a two-way spot. Last season, he and Shake Milton served as the Sixers’ two way representatives. Demetrius Jackson was originally assigned a two-way slot, but was eventually released by the Sixers, leading to Highsmith’s audition. Assuming Shake Milton will have a real opportunity to earn himself an NBA contract, this could mean that there will be a real battle for the second slot.
Why not a battle for both? Nothing has been announced yet, but signs are pointing to Marial Shayok occupying the first two-way slot. Shayok was selected at 54, which was Philadelphia’s own second rounder and their only second-round selection of the night. The 76ers went into the draft with four picks in the second round (33, 34, 42, 54). Ironically, the Sixers acquired another second rounder, 57, as a result of trading out of 34, but they then sold the 57th pick to the Detroit Pistons, who received the rights to Jordan Bone.
After the draft, Elton Brand mentioned that Shayok will have a role in some capacity with the 76ers; so, let’s say the Sixers sign Shake Milton to an NBA contract and Brand awards Shayok with a two-way contract. The second two-way slot auditions begin in the Las Vegas Summer League on July 5.
The God’s honest truth about Christ Koumadje
Koumadje is an extremely raw prospect. He started playing basketball when he was 15 years old, and he has a lot to learn. He spent four seasons at Florida State after attending Montverde Academy, where he was briefly teammates with current member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons.
Koumadje grew up in N’Djamena, Chad, which he considers a third-world country, and now the 22-year-old has an opportunity to impact those back home. His opportunity stems from flashes of potential he showed with the Seminoles over the last four seasons, but the most intriguing characteristic about Koumadje is something you can’t teach. He’s 7’4″.
Most players his size will lumber up and down the court, however Koumadje can run. He has quick feet for a guy his size, which may stem from playing soccer as a child, much like another big man we’ve gotten to know from Africa, Joel Embiid. Yes, there will be moments when Koumadje makes a mistake on offense, or commits a few fouls in a short span, but the kid is a blank canvas.
In his four years at Florida State, he averaged 12.1 minutes per game, 4.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. He shot 62.2 percent from the field in his NCAA career on 3.1 field goal attempts per game. Here are his per-36 numbers: 13.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks.
What do I see there? I see potential. This summer, Koumadje may look like he belongs, but he also may look lost or fatigued at times. The NBA created the two-way slot to allow teams the ability to hang on to prospects who may not get the opportunity to earn minutes with the big boys. Each team is allowed to roster 15 players, but two-way contracts give franchises the ability to hold on to 17 players at a time.
Could Christ be the One?
This past season, the Sixers’ bench was exposed; most notably, the backup center position. Joel Embiid is one of the most valuable assets in the NBA, but moving forward, the second man in the depth chart at center behind Joel Embiid may arguably be one of the most important roles in the league. The importance of Embiid needing rest during the regular season cannot be stressed enough, as is the necessity of having a capable big man behind him in key stages of the latter part of the regular season or in the playoffs.
Christ Koumadje is not ready to be the One that spells Joel Embiid in April or May basketball games. He may not be ready for a couple of seasons; and the truth is, he may never be ready, but the Philadelphia 76ers are bringing him in and giving him an opportunity this summer. With his size, agility, and natural defensive ability, the Sixers would be smart to give Christ every opportunity to prove himself.