Sixers’ Summer League Championship run ends with loss to Bulls

They were doing so well…why’d it have to end? I guess all good things have to come to an end at some point. After losing last night to the Bulls by a score of 79-68, they will be unable to defend their Summer League Championship that they won in Orlando one week ago. But one championship is enough for now, and definitely a step in the right direction. They have to let other teams win once in a while, right? Hopefully in three years, I’ll be saying things like that about their actual team. One can only hope.

The Sixers were eliminated in just the second round of the Las Vegas Summer League Tournament. The tournament, which included 15 NBA teams and the D-League All-Star Team, will move into the quarterfinals tomorrow. The Sixers got their first round win over the Lakers in decisive fashion, beating them 85-63. That game was tied at 20 after the first quarter, but after a 32-10 advantage in the 2nd quarter, they took control and dominated for the rest of the game. The Sixers will have a consolation game today against the D-League All-Star Team, but it means basically nothing other than one last shot to take a look at the young guys they could possibly add to the roster. I guess that’s the most important thing for them at this point.

In this round of the summer league games, the Sixers were just 1-2, beating the Jazz in their opening game and then losing to the Cavaliers and Suns in back-to-back nights, both by 9 points. This gives them a 6-4 overall record for the summer, which isn’t bad at all. That means they already clinch a winning record, something that hasn’t been said in the same sentence as “Sixers” in a very long time. I was very impressed once again by some of the players in this set of games, especially by a few players that didn’t participate in the Orlando games.

Jordan McRae and Nerlens Noel looked like the best two players out there, who happened to be the top two scorers for them in their 5 games so far in Las Vegas. Noel only played in 2 of those games though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss their game today. He’s battling a cold and an ankle injury…there’s absolutely no reason to keep him out there if he’s under the weather. I know this experience is important, but they shouldn’t start pushing him this early. He’s still rusty. As for McRae, he looked brilliant as a scorer. He was perfect in last night’s game against the Bulls until the last minute of the game when he missed a 3-pointer. Overall, he finished 7/8 from the field and 10/10 from the line for 25 points. He basically added nothing else on the stat sheet, but 25 points was a huge contribution.

Another player that impressed me was Elijah Millsap, the younger brother of Paul Millsap. In four games off the bench he finished with 10.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and an astounding 3.3 SPG. He even had 7 steals in one game, a summer league record. Other than Noel and McRae, he got the most MPG out of any player on the team. Sean Kilpatrick also looked good in his very first game with the team, shooting 7/13 from the field and 3/5 from beyond the arc on his way to 20 points, tied for the team high on the night. Other than that, he largely struggled, focusing a lot on trying to hit the 3-point shot and often failing. He did put up 19 points against the Lakers, but he seems like a streaky scorer.

Second round draft picks K.J. McDaniels and Jerami Grant were less impressive in this set of games, combining for less PPG and having overall sub-par shooting performances. McDaniels only played in 2 of the games, but only scored 9.0 PPG on less shots than he probably could be taking. Grant was actually better on the boards though, finishing second on the team with 6.2 RPG. Grant probably won’t be averaging double digit PPG, but getting rebounds and doing other little things right are what they drafted him for.

Returning Sixers Brandon Davies and Adonis Thomas looked largely poor. Davies started all five games and shot an abysmal 22.7% from the field, averaging just a little less fouls per game than points. He also rebounded the ball less than most players on the team, and for the team’s starting PF this round of games, that’s pretty bad. Thomas played in four of the games and started two, actually rebounding the ball slightly better than Davies. But his shooting left a lot to be desired and was very underwhelming.

Bigger name guys such as Jamelle Hagins and Scottie Wilbekin looked pretty bad as well. Hagins didn’t play much in the four games he got time, but averaged only 2.5 PPG and 2.5 RPG. Wilbekin played in all five games and played a lot, but averaged just 3.4 PPG while missing all 13 of his 3-pointers. That’s just not acceptable, and probably won’t get him another look with the team.

Overall though, I like the way guys like McRae and Noel looked, and it seems like the Sixers have a good list of people they can possibly sign to actual contracts. I think McRae, Grant, McDaniels, and Ware all deserve contracts, as well as Embiid, who obviously didn’t play at all. They only have six players on the actual roster as of now, and adding those five would make 11. That means they can add another five guys on from either Summer League or from players that played for them last year, such as Travis Bader, Ronald Roberts, Jr., Henry Sims, and Jarvis Varnado (who actually has a team option that has yet to be picked up). If they grab those guys, this could be a very good young group of guys for the future.

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