July 08, 2023
The Sixers led for most of the game against the Knicks and held on for a 110-101 Summer League victory, led by a rock-solid performance from Jaden Springer.
Here's what I saw.
• I'm not saying that he could be a Tony Allen type down the road, but if Jaden Springer had any sort of signature skill on the offensive end, he could carve out a long career on his defensive output alone. He makes plays of all sorts when the Sixers are trying to get stops — he's a rugged man defender, and Springer has had some sensational blocks rotating on the back end for Philly, leaping through the air and just erasing lazy attempts at scoring around the rim.
Broadly speaking, Springer has shot miserably from beyond the arc in Summer League, and he looked like he would continue that trend despite getting clean looks throughout his first game in Las Vegas. But Springer managed to get himself going to old-fashioned way, hitting some short midrange stuff and attacking the basket to eventually get himself into a groove.
The lid came off of the basket completely in the second half, when he opened it with a pull-up three and followed that up with another around the 7:30 mark of the third. It allowed you to appreciate the total performance for what it was, because we do spend a lot of time worrying about that outside shot. Rightfully so: this guy has longstanding concerns as an outside shooter, and those concerns aren't going away anytime soon.
(An important thing to make note of: Springer appeared to be slightly hobbled during this game with either a foot or ankle issue, though he continued to play through it and didn't look worse for it on the defensive end. So while that offers at least a partial out for his jump-shooting struggles early in the game — your base is critical! — the track record is what it is.)
Philadelphia allowed him to run more of the offense as this game wore on, and Springer impressed with the odd dribble move here and there, hitting a Knicks player with a sick crossover early in the second half. When things got tight in the fourth, Springer kept some distance between the two teams with a spin move into a one-handed slam. He isn't dominating the competition consistently, but he is settling in and showing more as the Summer League wears on.
• The Ricky Council IV roller coaster has been a wild one so far. When he's able to tie together a couple of moves or has a runway to work with, he can overwhelm you with a combination of craft and physicality. But there are plenty of other times where he looks like a guy without a clear role as he jumps to the league, which is a dangerous way to start your journey as a role player.
Under the direction of Rico Hines, the Sixers fed Council the ball in the mid-post a couple of times in Saturday's first half, and the Knicks had basically nothing to offer him down there. Council would hit a turnaround jumper and burrow his way to the basket for a layup, a welcome sight for a guy who has struggled to self-create so far in Summer League. And then there was a beautiful combo move in the second quarter, shaking his defender before unleashing a Euro step that earned him two more points.
The wheels began to come off from there. Council had back-to-back turnovers on a poor drive and a bad pass late in the first half, and he capped off a rough stretch with an overly ambitious transition dunk, front-rimming a flush that mercifully ended up in the hands of a teammate for a follow-up bucket. A lot of his self-created possessions were just clunky, leading to nowhere or (worse) in the other direction.
If he can be a more consistent slashing threat, some of those concerns will fade away. But there's work to do.
• Would opine this is probably the best Filip Petrusev performance for the Sixers to date, though admittedly any positive outing he may have had in summers past has been washed away in my memory. In any case, this is the best he has looked this summer, mainly because he got the shot to go down. And that is basically what counts for Petrusev in a critical preseason — he has to find to way to differentiate himself, because this frontcourt is crowded enough as it is.
Petrusev was able to get some of the shots we've grown accustomed to Embiid getting and taking in this one, settling around the foul line on pick-and-rolls before rising into a short midrange jumper. The touch was on from moment one in this game, and he would end up extending the range all the way to the three-point line, canning one from the trail spot.
Given the state of the roster, it seems like a longshot he'll get any chance to stick in Philly, but who knows what this roster will look like come October.
• He is able to get away with it quite often in this format, but the Sixers are definitely going to have to coach Terquavion Smith's jump passing tendencies out of him. The occasional delivery from midair is understandable, as a small guard has to be willing to work any and all angles to get the job done. But he constantly tries to make plays after leaving his feet, and that is simply not going to cut it on a regular basis against better competition.
Tough shooting day for him on Saturday. At least he had the chance to do this:
one thing about our two-ways...they can throw it down. pic.twitter.com/TOxlYCVrpX— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 8, 2023
• This was a great outing for DJ Steward, who was Philadelphia's source of calm as the Sixers sputtered a bit down the stretch of this game. Every time the Knicks appeared to be on the verge of pulling off the comeback, Steward would hit a jumper, a floater, or knife through the defense before sucking in help, dropping it off for a higher-quality shot elsewhere on the floor.
Not sure what sort of look (if any) he's going to get from the team, but he has been one of their better overall performers in Summer League so far.
• Thank you to Terquavion Smith for attempting a 3/4 court shot to end the third quarter, even though it rimmed out. Way too many cowards protecting their field goal percentage these days.
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