76ers

'Elite scorer' Carsen Edwards reminded of dominant performance vs. Villanova before pre-draft workout with Sixers

'Elite scorer' Carsen Edwards reminded of dominant performance vs. Villanova before pre-draft workout with Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — Carsen Edwards had a day to kill before his pre-draft workout Wednesday with the Sixers. The avid basketball fans of Philadelphia made sure one of his finest performances at Purdue, his 42-point game against Villanova this March in the NCAA Tournament, was fresh in his mind.

“I went into Chipotle and two people mentioned it to me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ It’s cool, though. It was a blessing to be able to play that way and be on that stage doing the things I did. And I’m just continuing to work to be the best player I can be.”

Edwards averaged 24.3 points per game as a junior and nearly 35 in the NCAA Tournament during Purdue’s run to the Elite Eight. His scoring credentials are such that his height, or lack thereof, doesn’t dull the excitement about his NBA prospects. Edwards measured in at 6-foot and a quarter inch at the NBA Draft Combine — with shoes on. From a physical standpoint, Edwards’ height is mitigated by his strong 200-pound frame, with his massive quads a feature that stand out in person, and his 6-foot-6 wingspan.

Senior vice president of personnel Marc Eversley called Edwards an "elite scorer" and emphasized that the Sixers see Edwards as more than his physical traits.

“His height is not as much of a deterrent in terms of potentially fitting with us.” Eversely said. “I wouldn’t get caught up on the height thing. He’s got a big heart, plays hard, competes. And again, he can really, really shoot the ball. I think that’s going to be kind of his pathway into the league.”

Edwards agreed with Eversley’s assessment when looking specifically at how he’d fit with the Sixers. He shot 35.5 percent from three-point range on 10.6 attempts per game last season, many of them with a very high degree of difficulty.

“I feel like I can fit well with just being off the ball. Being able to shoot. Like I said, getting back to defense, defending the opposing team’s guard  — which is easier said than done  — but just making an impact on that," Edwards said. "Running the floor, getting to the corner, being ready to shoot.”

While most of the focus naturally falls on Edwards’ scoring, he said after the workout that he wasn’t satisfied with his defensive play.

“Just in my opinion, I’m honest with myself and I feel I could’ve defended a little better, made shots tougher for people I was guarding,” he said. “But for the most part, I gave everything, I competed, and I appreciate them bringing me in and having this opportunity.”

After workouts with Indiana, Utah, Brooklyn and the Sixers, Edwards said he has several more to come before the draft, including with Milwaukee, Boston and Oklahoma City. All the teams he listed have selections between No. 22 and No. 30.

Local ties 

The other five participants in Wednesday’s workout were Jonathan Kasibabu from Fairfield, Quinndary Weatherspoon from Mississippi State, Charles Matthews from Michigan, CJ Massinburg from Buffalo and Eric Carter from Delaware. 

Carter, a native of Jackson, New Jersey, averaged 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds as a redshirt senior for the Blue Hens. He said he could envision himself as an “energy guy” and stretch four with the Sixers. Although the 6-foot-9 Carter took only seven threes in his college career, his free-throw percentage and overall production improved each season at Delaware. If the Sixers believe he can keep growing, Carter might be a candidate to continue his career in Delaware, with the Blue Coats. 

As you might expect, Carter was a fan of the Sixers growing up … and the Knicks. 

“No, I’m not a bandwagoner,” he said. “I mean, I like both. A.I. was my favorite growing up, so I was always on the Sixers. It’s just exciting.”

Another local player will work out for the Sixers on Thursday in Temple’s Shizz Alston Jr., with Harry Froling, Donta Hall, Jaylen Hoard, Josh Perkins and Dylan Windler the other participants. Windler, who shot 42.9 percent from three on 7.1 attempts per game as a senior at Belmont, could interest the Sixers at No. 24, or with one of their two early second-round picks (33 and 34). 

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NBA trade rumors: Davis Bertans reportedly might not be available

NBA trade rumors: Davis Bertans reportedly might not be available

“The Latvian Laser” might not be for sale.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, the Wizards haven’t been listening to offers for sharpshooter Davis Bertans. 

“Inquiries to Washington have gone nowhere; several executives tell SI.com that the Wizards wouldn’t even discuss a deal,” Mannix reports. “Some teams, though, are holding out hope Washington will make Bertans available before the trade deadline."

NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor and Mannix have all reported that the Sixers have interest in Bertans, who’s shot 42.6 percent from three on 8.7 attempts per game. That’s the best percentage in the league among players who have attempted at least eight threes per contest. 

Hughes reported on Jan. 6 that the Wizards were “fielding calls” for Bertans despite general manager Tommy Sheppard saying the team had “every intention of retaining” the forward in free agency. The Celtics, Lakers, Hawks and Nuggets are also suitors for Bertans, according to Hughes.

Bertans is making $7 million this season but looks set to earn substantially more when he becomes a free agent. The Wizards hold Bertans’ Bird Rights after landing him in a trade this summer, which means they could go over the salary cap to re-sign him.

The trade deadline isn’t until Feb. 6, so it’s certainly possible that the Wizards will be open for business when it really matters. It seems that it would make sense to at least consider offers. 

Regardless, Bertans is an attractive player for the Sixers, and for contending teams in general who want an elite shooter. 

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Sixers recall Zhaire Smith, plan for life without Josh Richardson

Sixers recall Zhaire Smith, plan for life without Josh Richardson

CAMDEN, N.J. — Shake Milton hasn’t spent much of his second professional season playing competitive basketball. As a result of a left knee injury he sustained on Oct. 28 and an inability to find consistent playing time when he returned, Milton has only played in 19 games this year — 13 in the NBA, six in the G League. 

Suddenly, it sounds like he’s going to assume a prominent role.

Milton played a season-high 22:31 Wednesday night after Josh Richardson strained his hamstring early in the first quarter, posting nine points on 3 of 10 shooting (3 of 6 from three-point range), four rebounds and two assists. With Richardson set to be reevaluated in approximately two weeks, Brett Brown now sees a significant job for Milton to fill.

It’s always on my mind to try to find a pick-and-roll partner for Ben [Simmons],” Brown said Friday. “Then it’s on your mind, ‘Well, what do you do with the other players?’ Namely your center. Do you play Ben at a five? And so Shake comes in, he actually can run a pick-and-roll, he can shoot, and so that interests me. 

“We’ve seen [Furkan Korkmaz] in that environment. When you take out J-Rich, you’re wondering what’s it look like if I want to pursue and continue to grow that part of Ben’s game and our understanding of how do we take the group and maximize it. Shake, I think, has a chance to come in and play a role in that. So, my intention is to continue to look at that.

Milton’s background suggests he might profile well for what Brown desires. A major focus of his rookie season, when he was under a two-way contract, was developing as a ball handler and decision-maker. He averaged 24.9 points per game in the G League last year and worked on areas like learning how and when to attack the rim, drawing fouls and, of course, running the pick-and-roll (see story)

“Just get to my spots and knock down shots,” Milton told reporters Wednesday in Toronto. “Just play with confidence and once you get up the floor a couple times you get in your groove and it’s just like playing basketball again, so it felt good.”

Al Horford highlighted defensive communication as the biggest emphasis with Milton and without Richardson. The Sixers have often asked Richardson to guard top opposing scorers this season. 

“It's hard to replace Josh, first of all, and obviously we hope that he gets healthy and gets back to us, but with Shake, just making sure that we're helping him, on the defensive end especially, getting familiar,” Horford said. 

“Offensively, I'm not worried about him. He can really, really shoot the ball and he'll have his looks, his opportunities and I'm confident in him. And defensively, just helping him, talking to him, making sure that he's in the right places and doing the things he needs to do, because that's something that Josh is great at.”

Brown was straightforward in saying that another way he'll respond to Richardson's injury is by looking to give rookie Matisse Thybulle more minutes. 

He was less clear in describing what the future might hold for Zhaire Smith. The team recalled Smith Friday from the G League, and the 20-year-old will be available Saturday night vs. the Lakers. 

Smith, acquired by the Sixers in a 2018 draft-night trade, had his rookie season derailed by a broken foot and severe complications from an allergic reaction. He’s been “hunting threes” with the Delaware Blue Coats and shooting the ball well recently (see story).

Brown said he’s been following Smith’s progress and is encouraged by what he’s seen and heard. 

“[Blue Coats head coach] Connor Johnson and I talk, we follow his statistical progress, namely how does he do at shooting threes in the corner. We get he plays hard, we get that he’s an athlete, and so now what? How can we maximize or tap into a little bit offensively what he’s been growing? 

“I think that there is an upward trend, a growth that we’ve seen for two reasons: First, him — he’s embraced the fact that he’s with the G League. Some people treat that as you’ve been scolded, and he’s handled it maturely. And two, there’s a symmetry with the programs that I think enables him to feel like there’s a progressive path in the next step when he comes up here — same words, same language, same system. And I think for those two reasons we’re looking at him a little bit more seriously, especially without J-Rich.”



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