Whole Lotta Shakin Going On
Shake Milton is coming off of a successful G-League season, scoring 25 points a game to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Despite the middling performance by the Blue Coats as a whole, Shake was a standout performer and seemed as comfortable and confident as a rookie can be. This summer was great for Shake, as he signed a 4-year contract with the big guys. Summer League looked destined to be his debutante party, but it didn’t really go according to plan. Shake got 10 points, 4 assists, and 1.5 assists over three games. That’s not horrible by NBA standards, but it certainly wasn’t against NBA competition. So what went wrong?
THE SHOT – Work Left to Do
There’s no secret as to what Shake needs in order to hang in the NBA. Like just about everybody on the Sixers, his jumpshot will be the swing skill that keeps him on or off the court. Shake shot pretty well in the G-league, but really struggled to get it to fall in Vegas, finishing with a very tough 16.7% from the floor. There are a few possible explanations for what could cause that.
#1 – Dragging the Feet
One possibility is that Shake just didn’t have his NBA conditioning. He’s been on vacation since the playoffs started, and that could have been enough time for him to fall back a bit. A lot of shots went short, which is the common indicator of tiredness. Maybe Shake will be good to go with a pro conditioning plan.
#2 – No Teamwork Makes the Team Hurt
Another factor that may have impacted his field goal percentage is the type of players around him, and thereby the shots he took. With high volume but low catch-and-shoot frequency guys like Jalen Jones and PJ Dozier, Shake was guarded much more tightly than he’s used to next to spacers like Jared Brownridge on the Coats (or JJ Redick on the Sixers.) It’s possible this led to him hunting down more shots off the dribble from midrange, which did not seem to be in his bag this time around.
#3 – They’re Always Watching
Similarly, Shake may have been feeling the pressure of an NBA contract and the expectation that he would tear up Vegas. Maybe it was a lot for him to handle, being looked at as a guy who would put up 30 a game. Shake was forcing shots, and forcing shots doesn’t work. Maybe only shooting the open ones helps Shake to get under control.
Regardless, I can’t under-emphasize how important his shooting will be. If he can’t shoot, he won’t play. That said, there are reasons to not feel concerned about that, as well as other positive takeaways from Shake’s Summer League experience.
INEXPERIENCE – First Time, Long Time
Summer League is a beast like no other. Even the G-league has more structure to the run of play. While Shake is a second-year player, his college back injury kept him out of the Summer League in 2018. Players that usually dominate either shoot off the dribble or are freak athletes. Shake, as more of a finesse-and-finish guy, never really seemed to find his rhythm. It’s not impossible that the weirdness of Summer League was a bit much for him, and that training camp and some NBA time will get him into more of a flow.
FREE THROWS – They’re Called FREE
Shake did well to get to the line. He averaged 7 free throws per game, and hit them at an 80% clip. That’s obviously not enough to make up for the lack of scoring elsewhere, but it’s encouraging that he didn’t let his shooting woes from the floor affect his ability to hit from the stripe. If nothing else, being able to draw a foul and take the points from it is a useful skill for a deep bench guard to have.
PASSING – Go Ahead, Make My Play
Shake didn’t do exceptionally outside of the first half of Game 1, but he showed a nice ability to pass in the pick-and-roll with Norvel Pelle and Christ Koumadje. If Shake is the third choice point guard, and the fifth choice ball handler, then that will be a useful skill to pair with a roll man like Kyle O’Quinn when the team is way in front (or way behind).
DEFENSE – Long and Strong
I, for one, thought that Shake played excellent man defense in Vegas. While a lot of his defensive possessions didn’t result in stops, he did excellently to use his obscene length to get his arms up in the faces of opponents and keep them from getting clean looks. He only got one block, but his hand was in faces a lot. In a bench lineup featuring Thybulle, Milton, and Smith, being able to use his length well will make him a very strong third option in perimeter defense.
BIG PICTURE CONCERNS
INJURY – Stay Out There
Shake was unavailable to play the final game of Summer League due to a foot injury. This is concerning when we look at the extensive injury history that Shake has been victim to. While the team downplayed the injury, Shake was seen in a boot before Game 4. If he’s unavailable to play at the beginning of the season, he would miss the best opportunity for him to play, before the playoff races heat up.
CEILING – How High Can We Go?
Even though all of those “explain it away” factors exist, there’s still the concern that a guy of Shake’s caliber should be able to sink shots in Summer League. While I don’t believe it, there is a real fear that Shake may ultimately be a player good enough to succeed in the G-League but not the NBA. Hopefully those fears are assuaged soon.
BIG PICTURE ENCOURAGEMENTS
NO RUSH – Wait and See
One of the good things about Shake signing a four-year deal is that he is in no hurry. With Raul Neto available to be the primary backup (true) point guard, Shake can be limited to minutes where the game is out of reach. He has plenty of time to get it all figured out before his development becomes essential. Shake can spend time with NBA trainers, coaches, and teammates and learn from them. This entire season, the duration of Neto’s contract, is safe for Shake to quietly grow.
ATTITUDE – Shaken, Not Stirred
Shake played his games like a pro. While he struggled greatly, he continued to shoot and compete defensively. If he were to sulk or take plays off in the Summer League, it would raise serious concerns about who he is. But that was not the case. Many of us at The Painted Lines have spoken with Shake over the past year, and I can assure you that he will put his head down and get to work for as long as it takes. While his play may have been discouraging, his reaction to it was encouraging to me. I look forward to seeing what we hear from training camp about Shake Milton.
Missed Summer League? The Painted Lines has your back. Check out the YouTube recap of Vegas Summer League here. Not enough? Chris Deibler told us 5 Things We Learned From Summer League. Don’t know how to read? That’s gonna make it hard to follow this link, but you can hear from Chris Deibler, Dan Morgan, and I on the Blue Route Pod here.