The Sixers appear to have done pretty well for themselves in the 2018 draft.
After some wheeling and dealing, the Sixers ultimately ended up with Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet in the first round.
While Smith may have been the more highly-touted prospect and Shamet earned his way into the team’s rotation before being traded, the guy they drafted in the second round may be the one that can help them in the postseason.
On Monday night, Shake Milton saw his first NBA action since Feb. 2, and showed exactly why the Sixers should convert his two-way deal to a standard NBA contract.
Milton was outstanding during his time in the G-League with the Blue Coats. Drafted 54th overall out of SMU, he averaged 24.9 points per game in 27 games with Delaware, but will need his contract converted before the end of the regular season to be eligible for the playoffs.
During the Sixers’ loss to the Kings back in February, Brett Brown rolled with Milton for over 20 minutes and in some crucial moments as the team was making a comeback. It appeared Milton was set to get more minutes going forward with veteran Wilson Chandler out. Three days later with the Blue Coats, Milton suffered a broke bone in his finger on his shooting hand that required surgery and kept him out for a month.
He didn’t ease himself back into the lineup, pouring in 31 points in his return to action. In the last 10 games of Delaware’s season, he averaged 27 points a game.
It would be fine if all Milton could do is score, but he actually has a lot more to offer. You saw a little of that in his 13-point performance Monday.
He made a nice cut off a Jimmy Butler drive. When Butler finds him, he’s open but in kind of an awkward spot on the floor and on the move. Milton gathers himself, squares up and hits a short jumper.
A little Shake make to bless ur timeline. pic.twitter.com/TpMMKksqbv— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 25, 2019
A couple possessions later, Tobias Harris was dribbling toward the wing with Milton in the corner. With Milton’s reputation as a shooter, his defender is overplaying him and trying to do deny him the ball for the corner three. Milton recognizes and makes a backdoor cut and Harris hits him for an easy basket.
Later in the first half, he takes a wayward pass that moves him off his spot off another Butler drive, calmly takes one dribble to his left, and nails the three.
SHAKE SPLASHIN'.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) March 25, 2019
JJ Redick provides the stamp of approval. pic.twitter.com/zemPNU3U7k
All of these plays illustrate Milton’s incredible poise for a rookie and how he just understands the game of basketball. He was a four-year player at SMU and is 22 years old, so unlike the 19-year-old Smith, he can be trusted more in a playoff-like atmosphere.
You can also see just how pure his shooting stroke is. Even on the move, he always seems to be able to gather himself, get square to the basket and the shot itself just looks effortless. He shot just under 43 percent from three for his college career and it appears to be translating to the NBA.
What’s stood out most during Milton’s brief NBA stint is he’s not a bad defender. He’s not the most athletic — probably a big reason he slipped into the second round — but he has decent feet, long arms and, again, just excellent instincts and feel for a player his age.
The Sixers have absolutely nothing to lose by converting Milton’s deal. Even if he doesn’t help them this season, he’s shown enough to warrant a long look to be part of next season’s rotation. If you re-sign both Butler and Harris, you need good, cheap, young players to fill out your bench.
The Sixers’ starting five is elite, but their bench is bad. There’s no way around it. They have no one that can score consistently and no true lockdown defender.
Just give the kid a shot.
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