After an up and down year in 2020-21, Shake Milton has earned much praise from both his Sixers teammates and head coach.
“Shake [Milton] had a great day today and overall, leading the second team,” Rivers said of the fourth-year guard on the second day of training camp. “You could tell he’s put a lot of work in at that position. Last year, honestly, he came into the year and had no idea he’d be a point guard. So, he’s been fantastic for us.”
Perhaps that’s the internal attribution of why Milton struggled to find consistency last season. Externally, that conclusion might manifest in both his playmaking metrics and shooting efficiency. Milton had an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 2:1 last season. The average point guard produced a ratio of 2.5:1 in 2020-21. Perhaps the struggles of learning how to command a second unit on the fly bled into his scoring efficiency, as well. Milton produced below average effective field goal (50.3 percent; league average was 53.8 percent in 2020-21) and true shooting percentages (54.9 percent; league average was 57.2 percent in 2020-21).
Surprisingly, Milton excelled as a defender last season. The Sixers allowed 1.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court than with him not playing. But, there are a variety of factors unrelated to Milton’s own aptitude as a defender that might’ve inflated that metric into positive territory.
“Not only can he score, but he’s also very smart.”
But, Rivers wasn’t the only member of the Sixers to sing Milton’s praises. “Shake is a talented point guard. Not only can he score, but he’s also very smart,” Andre Drummond said of his teammate on Saturday afternoon. “He’s able to make the right plays. When we need him to get a bucket, he can do it. When he’s supposed to make the right pass, he makes it.”
Drummond went on to recount a story about the time he’s already spent with Milton.
“There was a play when I first got here. We played pick-up together. I was throwing a lot of backdoor passes and they ended up being turnovers. He was like, ‘Yo, I didn’t really know you could pass the ball that well’,” Drummond said. “There was a few plays where I threw the ball and it landed in his hand and just rolled out of bounds. So, I think now, after three or four days and weeks of playing with each other, we’ve found a nice rhythm. It’s been great playing with Shake.”
With the elephant in the room yet to be addressed, Milton very well might find himself tasked with assuming more duties as a point guard this season. With second-year point guard Tyrese Maxey seemingly elevated to the starting lineup in Ben Simmons’ absence, Milton must be prepared for the possibility that Maxey might hit a sophomore slump.
If the early returns are any indicator, the Sixers don’t seem to be concerned about having to rely on Milton more as an initiator of their offense.