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July 13, 2023

Quick Six: Sixers lose to Hawks on last-second shot in Summer League

The Sixers went down to the wire with the Hawks but fell in a 99-98 loss to Atlanta in Summer League.

Here's what I saw.

After getting the night off due to an ankle issue earlier this week, Jaden Springer certainly looked like one of the freshest guys on the floor. That could have been for off-court reasons as much as the on-court break — who knows what these guys are doing with their spare time out in Vegas — but whatever the case is, he has looked better and better as the summer has worn on.

Getting some shots to fall from deep has to feel like a gigantic relief for Springer, who struggled with his shot in Utah and had to sustain himself almost exclusively with drives to the basket. You could see the difference it made for the rest of the group to have Springer as a trusted floor spacer. Terquavion Smith was able to run some point and hit Springer with a nice kick-out to the corner, giving the rookie guard a chance to work on playmaking and the third-year player an opportunity to get live shot reps.

The game is going to open up for Springer the more he can make teams pay for showing him disrespect on the perimeter. His ability to play through contact and draw fouls has been terrific even when everything else has gone poorly, and showing the complete package at the tail end of their Vegas run is the best sign we've gotten yet that Springer could be turning a corner.

An off-the-dribble three never hurt anyone, either:

I wouldn't go so far as to say he'll now shut it down for the rest of Summer League, but if he had opened their offseason campaign with play closer to this, he'd probably already be in street clothes. 

Speaking of Smith, it seems like time with his teammates (Springer especially) has helped him show off more of the full package on offense. Things are starting to look more natural as they ask him to get off-ball reps, with Smith floating into space at the right time and moving with certainty in tandem with Springer.

There haven't been many doubts about that part of his game — Smith was an excellent catch-and-shoot guy in college — but he spent much of the early period in Summer League playing on-ball and working on "point guard" things. Smith's ability to toggle between roles is a really useful trait to have for a young player, and even though he's got a long way to go as a lead playmaker, the versatility should help him get on an NBA floor sooner rather than later.

I just love the energy this kid plays with, even if he earned a technical foul for flexing on a defender after a layup in the fourth quarter. His confidence is boundless, and he's only ever one make away from a heater. Smith started quiet (and started on the bench for this), but he came roaring to the forefront in the second half. 

I had fairly high hopes for Ricky Council IV coming into Summer League, and while this is admittedly a poor format for him, I'm a lot more down on him than I expected coming in. At the college level, he was able to make a living as a slasher and finisher in traffic thanks to his big frame and sick athleticism. The more we see him, though, the more I struggle with finding a home for him on an NBA floor.

Being a non-shooter isn't a death sentence, but it does require you to clear a higher bar elsewhere to make up for the poor jumper. Have you seen anything to suggest Council can do that? His handle has not looked up to the task when he has had chances to create for himself this summer, and it almost doesn't matter how good of an athlete you are if you can't shoot and struggle to create for yourself. In the time I watched him in college, and in the eyes of scouts who watched him much more than I did, Council was a lively player off-the-bounce at the amateur level. There hasn't been much to him in this setting, with Council often struggling to keep the ball under control when he loads up to attack.

The trouble with arguing that NBA spacing will help him is that Council will be tasked with creating NBA spacing for better players to get opportunities to play in the short term. The highlights he has are genuine "wow" plays that give you hope he might turn into something, and there are some solid moments in isolation defense. But he's going to have to do more than dunk with authority.

Sort of related to that section about Council — it's a shame that Greg Brown is stuck between positions as a 6'7 sort-of forward who can't really shoot. He's a crazy athlete with great instincts as a shot blocker, but it's difficult to imagine using him as a big at the NBA level. Maybe you could do it as a gadget look every so often, but normally teams will put a guy who can shoot in that role if they're trying to gain the benefits of sizing down.

He has had great energy and some dope highlights out in Vegas, but not sure we'll get anything more than that.

The amount of technical fouls that were called on Thursday was despicable. It's a basketball game in the middle of the summer in Las Vegas, fellas, chill out.

A loss for the Sixers on Thursday ensures they will not be in the Summer League tournament to close out Las Vegas, though they for some reason will have to play a fifth game at some point over the weekend, likely Sunday. That means Philadelphia will play three games in four days for seemingly no reason at all, aside from giving these guys a chance to showcase themselves with dead legs.

Don't expect anyone to play in Sunday's game, though I suppose that depends on what happens in Friday's back-to-back. Preposterous scheduling.

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