Takeaways From Sixers Summer League
The Philadelphia 76ers' time in Summer League has come to an end following a loss late Sunday night to the Memphis Grizzlies in tournament quarterfinals. This Summer League has had a different feel from the view of a Sixers fan, mostly due in part to there not being a No. 1 overall pick to watch on the court. Last year, we saw Markelle Fultz suit up and Ben Simmons in 2016, but this year, we got to watch some players trying to prove they belong mixed with guys getting their first taste of NBA basketball.
Here are some takeaways from the six Sixers Summer League contests:
Furkan Korkmaz shows scoring touch: After a year that included garbage time minutes and a lisfranc injury in his foot, Furkan Korkmaz was one of the guys out there to prove he belongs on the Sixers roster. He wasted no time in proving this, erupting for 40 points in the first Summer League game and scoring the game-winning shot (and-1) against the Bucks on Saturday. He struggled to find his shot against the Lakers and Wizards, shooting just 1-for-18 in those two losses, but rebounded nicely with 18, 19 and 18 points in the final three games. While Korkmaz showed that his scoring is his main attribute, he still has a ways to go on the defensive side of the ball. He isn't a great on-ball defender and he doesn't show a whole lot of quickness on defense overall.
Not sure Korkmaz's offensive showcase changes his role much for the 2018-19 season. He's still somewhat of a liability on defense and the Sixers roster is tight for playing time, so expect him to split time between Philadelphia and the G-League once again.
Jonah Bolden proves he needs more time to develop: Heading into 2018 Summer League, Bolden was on the radar to make the Sixers’ roster, but is he ready? Defensively, it looks like he might be. In the Sixers’ first Summer League win, an upset over Phoenix, Bolden handled No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton well in the post right off the bat, showing plenty of physicality in the post. He looked good on defense throughout the first five games.
Offensively, though, his game still has a lot of room to develop and leaves a lot to be desired. Through six Summer League contests, Bolden shot just 13-for-37 from the floor and was an abysmal 4-for-17 from beyond the arc. After posting a strong, encouraging stat line of 13 points (5-10 FG), eight boards and two steals against the Bucks on Saturday, things looked to be turning around for Bolden’s up-and-down Summer League, but on Sunday night against Memphis, he couldn’t find the same scoring touch, scoring just five points on five shots and finishing with a team-worst -22.
Bolden has a $400,000 buy-out clause in his contract with Maccabi, but at this juncture, it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to bring him over onto a roster that won’t provide him minutes. If they believe he can improve, minutes are important and he isn’t going to get those in Philadelphia. The Sixers could buy him out of his contract with Maccabi and ink him to a two-way deal, thus having the ability to swap him between Philly and their G-League affiliate down I-95 in Delaware. Although, with the recent news of Nemanja Bjelica deciding to stay in Europe, Bolden may have a path to a roster spot after all.
Zhaire Smith is a work in progress, but has massive potential: Zhaire Smith didn't turn a whole lot of heads with his offense during Summer League, but if his defensive play is any preview of the player he will develop into, we are in for quite a treat. The main highlights from Smith's performances include multiple chase-down blocks, not being afraid to shoot the three, being a cutting machine on offense and having the ability to complete slick no-look passes. In addition, he's very active on the offensive glass.
Smith will have to work his way into more minutes off the Sixers bench, but it may take him less time than many think to become a regular staple in Brett Brown's rotation. His athleticism and wingspan allow his to guard the 1-3 spots with ease and gives him the ability to cut off passing lanes. Offensively, cutting is his best skill. Although his jump shot still needs works, it seems he'll fit into Brown's offensive scheme pretty easily. If Smith gets to share the court with Ben Simmons, Zhaire's off-ball movement will make it hard for the opposition to defend and Simmons is among the best in the NBA at finding backdoor cutters.
Smith primarily played as a power forward and center in high school and college, so adjusting to playing the two and three spots will be a process for the 19-year-old. In six Summer League games, Smith averaged 7.7 points on 32 percent shooting.
Surprising Cinderella Run: The Sixers went into Summer League tournament play as the 30th seed. To open, they played the No. 3 seed Suns and pulled off a miraculous upset that included a final play featuring Zhaire Smith stripping Mikal Bridges under the basket as time expired. Against the Bucks, they rebounded after an 11-point first quarter to build a sizable lead against Milwaukee and hold on for a dramatic 91-89 victory.
The Sixers' magic ran out against the No. 27 seeded Grizzlies, but the takeaway here is how the team played in general despite a disappointing 0-3 start. It is just Summer League, but a good majority of the guys on the Sixers squad are looking to pursue their dreams of playing in the NBA and because of their play in the tournament round, they got to showcase their skills for a bit longer.
Now, we have a long wait until the beginning of training camp and hopefully before then, we'll get to see more than a tease of Markelle Fultz's jumpshot. Looking at you, Mr. Hanlen!
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.