The championships have already begun to pour in for the Sixers. Ok, so it was just one summer league championship, but it still counts somewhere. The Sixers finished the Orlando Summer League with a 4-1 record and a league-high 29 points. Their championship win came over the Grizzlies decisively by a score of 91-75. Their only loss came in their first game against the hometown Magic by just a 6 point margin. Not bad at all. They also picked up wins over the Thunder, Rockets, and Nets, and the first two of those were by double digit points. If this says anything about the future of this franchise, they are in great shape.
The first thing that must be understood is that most of these players will never suit up for the Sixers in their NBA career, much less next season. But a couple of these guys are going to get serious minutes, such as Nerlens Noel and K.J. McDaniels. There are other guys that might make inroads into their roster such as Hollis Thompson and Casper Ware. But 75% of that roster was just here for the week or so that they played in Orlando and won’t ever be playing for them again. Some of these guys are lucky enough to get a chance to play for them again in the Las Vegas Summer League, but only a few. They tried to mix up the rosters so as to get looks at as many people as possible.
The Sixers had a top 5 leader in PPG, RPG, and APG for the Orlando league, which is quite impressive. Casper Ware was 2nd in the league with 19.0 PPG, and his 5.2 APG were good for 5th in the league (Sixers’ first round draft pick Elfrid Payton, who they traded immediately to the Magic, actually led the league in assists). To my huge surprise, Hollis Thompson actually finished 4th in the league in RPG with 8.0. I’m not sure how that even happened, but again, he was playing with mostly undrafted rookies and he’s already had a full year of NBA experience. He’s ahead of a lot of these guys, so I highly doubt that a SG like him will be grabbing that many rebounds in the real NBA.
Overall though I was very happy with the way the whole thing turned out. Not just because they won the championship, but because a lot of guys showed what they could do and proved that they might be good enough to earn a roster spot. Ware looked fantastic as the leader of this team at the PG position. With Pierre Jackson likely out for season, Ware could easily be the backup PG for the Sixers next year. Noel also looked great in his first games in real action, although it’s obvious that he still has a lot to improve upon. He averaged 13.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG, and 3.0 BPG…aka, quite impressive for having not played organized basketball in over a year. I especially like the steal and block totals. Those are the kinds of things that make a center stand out from an average one.
Much to my surprise, Thompson actually looked better than bad in these five games. He was a key scorer and rebounder, although his shooting was often streaky and inconsistent. He had the lowest shooting percentage on the team for players who made at least one shot at just 36.0% (and just 29.6% from three). That’s not going to cut it in the NBA, especially since he’ll be playing against better players if he actually makes the roster. I really don’t want Thompson to come back because of how inefficient he is, but if it’s necessary, then at least teach this guy how to make 3’s consistently. That’s his strongest attribute and he still has a long way to go.
Other lesser known guys such as Ronald Roberts, Jr. and JaKarr Sampson looked good as well for the Sixers. Roberts averaged 10.2 PPG and 7.4 RPG in five starts and Sampson averaged 8.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG in five games off the bench. Sampson is a humongous guard at 6’9″ which probably helped him get all those rebounds…I actually thought he was going to play SF but I guess not. The problem is he’s atrocious at free throws, and the Sixers already have a guy like that in Jarvis Varnado, so they may not be able to take him in too. Travis Bader, the all-time NCAA leader in 3-pointers, looked good as well, averaging 9.4 PPG and shooting 39.3% from three. He averaged 2.2 threes a game. Guys like Roberts and Bader are guys I’d want the Sixers to take another look at and maybe off a roster spot to, but we’ll see.
The two big-name draft picks to play for the Sixers in these games were McDaniels and Jerami Grant, and they both looked pretty good. Neither played a ton and McDaniels fought through an injury at the end, but they both had positive aspects to their game. McDaniels managed 10.0 PPG in just 17.5 minutes per game, and they both connected well on their 3-point shots. Both of these guys will continue to get better the more time they’re given.
Guys that disappointed me were Aaron Craft and Arsalan Kazemi. Craft is just nothing special offensively, and defensively he wasn’t blowing me out of the water either. He averaged more TOs than both RPG and APG and played very little…I wonder why. Kazemi, who I didn’t even think would play in these games, looked sub-par in his two short outings. I can’t really blame him completely because of how little he played, but nothing excited me enough to want him to stay on the court.
As the Sixers already have begun their games for the Las Vegas Summer League, I will next take a look at the roster they’ll be using. The format will be a little different and there will be more teams, but if their success continues, it will really show that their future is looking good.