Marial Shayok

Sixers to send Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok to Delaware Blue Coats for start of G League training camp

Sixers to send Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok to Delaware Blue Coats for start of G League training camp

CAMDEN, N.J. — Twenty-year-old Zhaire Smith, acquired in a draft-night trade last year by the Sixers along with a 2021 first-round pick in exchange for Mikal Bridges, won’t travel with the Sixers on the team’s upcoming road trip. Smith will join the Delaware Blue Coats when the Sixers’ G-League affiliate begins training camp Monday, along with two-way player Marial Shayok, a team spokesperson said after practice Friday. 

With Joel Embiid (right ankle sprain) and Mike Scott (left ankle sprain) questionable for the Sixers’ game Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, the Sixers’ second two-way player, center Norvel Pelle, will travel with the team.

The decision for Smith to go down to the G League does not come as a surprise. He didn’t play with the Sixers’ regular rotation players during the preseason and was inactive on opening night vs. the Celtics. Rookie Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmaz are clearly well ahead of Smith at the present moment.

The context of Smith’s rookie year is also an important consideration. As a rookie, Smith suffered through a broken foot in August and a scary allergic reaction in September that led to severe complications and caused the 6-foot-3 guard to drop as low as 164 pounds. Smith’s jumper changed as he worked to return to the court, with his release moving over to the right side of his head when he started putting up shots with feeding tubes in his stomach.

He’s healthy now and has worked to tweak his form and restore his athleticism. In Brown’s mind, however, development is the immediate priority for Smith, who only played in six NBA regular-season games last year and was primarily a post player in his single season at Texas Tech. Smith played in 11 games for the Blue Coats last season before making his NBA debut on March 25.

“He’s expecting me to develop all around,” Smith said of Brown’s expectations for this season after the Sixers' preseason finale. “Last year we tried to develop, but then obviously I had the setback. He feels like this is my rookie year, like this is [about] development.” 

Brown gave a simple explanation Friday for the decision to assign Smith to the Blue Coats, and to wait before using any of the 45 days Shayok is allowed to spend with the Sixers as a two-way player between the start of Blue Coats training camp and end of the G League regular season.

Let’s just start with playing. They’re not on the sideline watching the starting five and the backup five play. They’re playing, and they’re all so young that if it’s my son, if I’m their coach, it all points back to how do you play. They’re going to be in an environment where they’re going to be playing more. The systems are very integrated; they’re very closely connected with a coach who was my assistant [Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson]. … Same words, same system, same type of philosophy. It’s a great relationship and I think it’s beneficial for them. 

The Sixers have already made the simple decision to exercise Smith’s third-year option for the 2020-21 season. He’s still in the team’s plans beyond this year; he’s just not someone Brown sees as currently having a path to NBA minutes.

Smith’s high defensive ambitions are on hold — or at least the path to eventually reaching them is migrating to Delaware once more.

“Every goal he’s ever told me about what he wants to do has to do with defense," Sixers player development coach Tyler Lashbrook, who has a close relationship with Smith, told NBC Sports Philadelphia in June. “I want to be All-Defense. That’s what I want to do.’ Love it. Love to hear that. Absolutely, man. Let’s do it. That’s a fun thing to hear from somebody. Especially when he’s so young, to know that’s what he cares about is really something.”



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

NBA summer league: Marial Shayok a player worth watching, impressive effort from Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle, more from Sixers' win over Raptors

NBA summer league: Marial Shayok a player worth watching, impressive effort from Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle, more from Sixers' win over Raptors

The Sixers are finished with competitive basketball for a while. 

The team wrapped up their summer league slate Friday with a 108-102 win over the Toronto Raptors in a consolation game at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, ending with a 2-3 record.

Here are observations from the win: 

• Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle both continued to make eye-catching plays. Smith sniffed out a dribble handoff and plucked away a steal early in the first quarter, while Thybulle swished his first jumper, a spot-up three from the left corner. 

Though Thybulle did commit several classic “rookie mistakes” Friday, including catching the ball out of bounds and fouling a jump shooter on an overeager closeout, the tools are there for Smith and Thybulle to be members of the Sixers’ regular rotation. 

Thybulle had 10 points, five rebounds and three assists Friday and Smith posted nine points and three steals. Both shot 3 for 6 from the floor. 

The intensity level in a summer league consolation game is going to be less than in a regular season contest — it’s only natural. That said, you have to like that Smith and Thybulle clearly took pride in competing. Smith was still leaping in the air to contend for offensive rebounds late in the third quarter, treating a July afternoon in Las Vegas like something approximating a meaningful game. The two love to play and are going to push for opportunities when the games count.

• For the second straight game, Shake Milton was sidelined by an ankle injury. Milton’s first summer league campaign was disappointing. He played in three games before sustaining his injury and shot 6 for 36.

The Sixers won’t be too deterred by Milton’s shooting struggles — the four-year deal they gave him indicates as much. They would have loved for him to average 30-plus points per game and make a strong, early case for backup point guard minutes, but it’s unlikely the summer league was ever going to have a large impact on Milton’s future with the team. 

• Two-way player Marial Shayok is going to be a player worth following this season.

The rookie played point guard for a stretch during the second quarter Friday, at one point snaking around a screen from Christ Koumadje, blocking off his man with his body and knocking down a mid-range jumper.

Following a timeout, the 23-year-old then stroked a three-pointer from the left wing before strolling down the court for an easy dunk off a steal. 

The 6-foot-6 Shayok had 14 points on 6 for 11 shooting Friday.

He seems best suited for the wing at the NBA level, but the freedom to play different positions and have the ball in his hands should help Shayok when he’s with the Delaware Blue Coats and head coach Connor Johnson. In all likelihood, that same flexibility to expand his game and experiment with new skills wouldn’t have existed for Shayok if the Sixers placed him on the regular active roster immediately. 

• PJ Dozier and Haywood Highsmith each shot the ball well after struggling with their jumpers during the Sixers’ first four games of summer league. 

Highsmith had 16 points on 6 for 11 shooting. Dozier hit 8 of 14 shots for 22 points, showcasing his fluid scoring abilities. He also tallied seven assists. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

NBA summer league: How Matisse Thybulle shined in Sixers' loss to Pistons

NBA summer league: How Matisse Thybulle shined in Sixers' loss to Pistons

The Sixers finished their regular season summer league slate on a losing note.

Matisse Thybulle had his best performance, but the Pistons remain undefeated after a 96-81 win Wednesday afternoon at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. The Sixers fell to 1-3.

Here are observations from the loss.

• It didn’t take Thybulle long to get his hands on the ball on defense. On the first possession, Thybulle nearly created a fast break on a steal. A few minutes later, he did just that.

He continues to look every bit the disruptive player he was at Washington. While most gave credit to the zone for Thybulle’s crazy steal and block stats, the Sixers’ 2019 first-round pick anticipates as well as anyone and is incredibly quick once he recognizes where the ball is going. He had a pair of steals and a number of deflections.

The one clear weakness in Thybulle’s game is ball handling, but he’s looked more comfortable in that regard as the summer league has gone on. He carried out a fake dribble handoff at the top of the key that he then took to his left for a two-hand dunk.

He also had a nice dribble drive before halftime that he dished off to Zhaire Smith, who drew a foul. He had three assists and just one turnover.

His shooting stroke continues to look good. He was 2 of 4 from three and 2 of 2 from the line. He finished with 12 points on 4 of 8 overall.

• Marial Shayok returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s loss with a knee injury. The 2019 second-rounder and recent recipient of a two-way deal continued to show off his offensive ability. He made two threes, including a nice pull-up in transition.

He’s also shown the ability to operate as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll. There’s still a rawness to Shayok’s game. He needs to work on his decision making and shot selection (he finished just 4 of 14), but there’s plenty to like here.

• Smith got off to a slow start offensively but made a couple plays that should excite Brett Brown and the Sixers.

He made a pair of threes, but his most impressive shot came midway through the third quarter. He pulled up around a screen and nailed a midrange jumper off the dribble and looked natural doing so. One of his threes was also off the bounce. 

We all know about Smith’s elite athleticism and defensive prowess. If he can become a confident and consistent shooter, that could make him a legitimate contributor this season. He was 4 of 8 for 11 points.

• Norvel Pelle and Christ Koumadje continue to commit fouls at an unfathomable rate. Both players show ability on the defensive end with their ability to protect the rim and on offense as rollers and finishers. But they both lack discipline and have a long way to go if they want to help an NBA team. They combined for five blocks, but 13 fouls.

• Shake Milton was out with an ankle injury he suffered Monday against the Thunder. It was clearly not the summer league output he would’ve liked to have. He showed his ability to run the offense but struggled mightily with his shot — a skill he showed off frequently last season in the G League. Milton is locked in for the next four years and will have plenty of time during training camp and the preseason to prove he belongs. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers