76ers

Shake Milton has shown enough to have his contract converted, help Sixers in playoffs

Shake Milton has shown enough to have his contract converted, help Sixers in playoffs

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 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.

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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Wisconsin Herd head coach Chase Buford suspended for unfiltered, colorful rant

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@ryanrodigwfrv

Wisconsin Herd head coach Chase Buford suspended for unfiltered, colorful rant

After serving as an assistant coach with the Delaware Blue Coats last season, 31-year-old Chase Buford was hired as the head coach of the Wisconsin Herd, who will play the Blue Coats on Tuesday and Thursday. 

Buford will not be coaching in those games, since he’s suspended for Wisconsin’s next two contests. The rant below, courtesy of WFRV-TV’s Ryan Rodig, is why: 

Buford’s request to tag the G League and make sure they saw his comments — along with him labeling a referee a ‘f---ing clown’ — makes the suspension unsurprising. The suspension is officially for a "direct and extended public attack on the integrity and credibility of the game officials,” the G League announced.

On Sunday night, Buford issued an apology.

You likely will not see or hear that level of unfiltered, colorful anger from a head coach for a while.

In Buford’s first head coaching gig, he’s led the Herd to a 28-9 record, the best mark in the G League. 

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It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

It sounds like Brett Brown has a long-term plan without Ben Simmons in mind

Updated: 6:32 p.m. 

Ben Simmons is still being evaluated for a lower back injury, a team spokesperson said Monday night before the Sixers’ game vs. the Atlanta Hawks. The Sixers and Simmons’ representation are working together to decide a course of action, the spokesperson said.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Simmons “is expected to be sidelined for an undetermined period of time” and that “Simmons' injury will have longer-term implications than simply the 76ers' upcoming road trip.”

Head coach Brett Brown said he was unsure how long the injury would sideline Simmons. The 23-year-old sustained the injury at practice Wednesday going up for a rebound, according to Brown, and irritated it in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game against the Bucks.

“I don’t know,” Brown said. “And it really is like how long is a piece of string — who knows? Who knows? … Whatever the time equals on days, games, period of time, we can talk more honestly as this thing shakes out.”

However, it sounded as if Brown was preparing for his two-time All-Star point guard to be out for a while. He framed the situation as one the Sixers can cope with if other players take advantage of the chance to play expanded roles.

There’s 25 games left. … It’s an eternity,” he said. “Just keep going back to the end game. What’s the bottom line? I’ll say it again — if you get their health and their spirit, it’s got a chance to equal form. … And it’s all about landing the plane. And so with 25 games left, we’ve taken a hit with Ben. 

"I do see it this way. I’m not spinning it. It’s an opportunity for us to learn and something will emerge. And we need something to emerge. It’s not like we were all saying, ‘Oh, here it is, it’s anointed.’ It wasn’t that. So, I think we’re going to learn something and find something. If this was six games out, I wouldn’t be telling you this story. When it’s 25 games out, it is, with all my heart, what I think. That’s what I said to the team, that’s what I really think and that’s what I’m going to try to pull off.

Who specifically will take over ball handling duties? Brown said it “will be done by committee” for the time being, and he named a few players who he expects to be in that mix. Monday night, the team will start Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. 

“The candidates could be Raul Neto or [Furkan Korkmaz] or Alec Burks or J-Rich, Shake," he said. "So, you have capable people that aren’t traditional point guards but have the ability to get the ball up the floor. Then at that point, you’re probably going to have to be in something that has motion and continuity instead of just giving Chris Paul the ball and saying, ‘Go to work’ out of a pick-and-roll, as an example.”

Regardless of Brown’s attitude, the tangible impact of not having Simmons for an extended period would clearly be significant. He leads the league in steals, has assisted on the most three-pointers and is a highly athletic, versatile and talented player.

Though there’s no definitive timeline currently, the loss of all those attributes would no doubt be difficult to overcome.

“When there is a vacuum, as there is right now with Ben, something will happen,” Brown said. “Somebody will step up. I’m trying to see the world through those eyes, and I really do — it’s not even creative coach speak. I see it as an opportunity, and I think I need to see it that way.”

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