July 03, 2023
The Sixers opened their Summer League schedule with a barnburner, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies 94-92 after Louis King's potential game-winner fell well short in the final 10 seconds of the game.
Here's what I saw.
• Terquavion Smith was the star of the show for Philadelphia on Monday night, living up to his reputation as a dangerous pull-up threat and emerging as the early favorite for, "Summer League player fans want in the rotation."
A player who can create his own shot and shoot from any spot on the floor will undoubtedly stand out in this setting, where you're surrounded by flawed prospects and guys fighting to figure out their place in the league. Smith announced his arrival basically right away, taking what was a bit of a busted possession and turning it into this beautiful pull-up three:
Throughout the game, Smith had a lot of opportunities to operate in the pick-and-roll, and he looks like he has the chops to be a drop coverage killer. Whenever Memphis gave him some runway to work with, he was comfortable stepping into open jumpers or eating up space until the resistance came.
As the older and more experienced players drop out of the rotation later in this Summer League calendar, you might see Smith grow into an even more prominent role for these Sixers. I'm sure the coaching staff liked seeing him in the balanced role he was in on Monday — Smith canned a catch-and-shoot three with ease in the first half — but I am a little excited to see the reckless gunner emerge at some point during this summer run. His heat check shot with around two minutes left in the game would probably get him benched in a real game, but I loved the confidence.
• The other major positive for Smith was his playmaking, which was not viewed as a strength but had been noted by scouts as a point of growth year-over-year in college. In the third quarter alone, Smith made multiple advanced reads and eyebrow-raising passes while playing with the ball in his hands, looking like more than just a small scorer. There was a nice skip pass to the corner out of the pick-and-roll, and moments later, he passed up an open shot to hit Filip Petrusev in the post to attack a mismatch, the sort of unselfish play that earns you love from teammates.
Smith is going to have to show some sort of creative juice in order to stick at his size, and the Sixers gave him every opportunity to get reps and run point in this game. The early returns were excellent.
• Ricky Council IV was arguably the most hyped prospect among Philadelphia's two-way pickups, in part because of the athleticism you saw on display during his debut. We don't celebrate missed dunks around here, but Council's attempt to put someone on a poster in the first half would have been a highlight viewed around the world if he had managed to finish through the contact.
But you can already see why the jumper will be so critical for him. Council stepped out of an open three-point attempt or two during the game, and without as many on-ball reps as he would have gotten at the college level, he occasionally looked lost at sea. It wasn't all his fault — there's a newness factor for all of these guys, and Council ended up cutting into the same space as a teammate on a couple of occasions. The will is there, and he has a strong rep as a slasher and cutter to fall back on.
When he was able to get some reps as an attacker, I thought you could see the power and foul-drawing ability that Council teased scouts with in college. More of that as the summer goes on, please.
• I was a quarter away from setting off the alarm bells on Jaden Springer, who had an absolutely miserable start to this game on offense. Frankly, I'm still pretty concerned that his three-point makes mostly come from summer workout videos at this point, and he's going to have to translate the work to game situations at some point.
That said, Springer has grown-man strength at age 20, and he was able to leverage that quite a bit after being turned away early on drive attempts early in this game. With opportunities to attack in semi-transition and as a slasher from the weakside, Springer simply went right through a few Grizzlies players, turning the corner and never allowing them to get back across his body.
Elsewhere in the offensive positives, Springer popped up for timely offensive rebounds and used those same athleticism advantages to create extra possessions. A good finish after a rough start.
• The real highlights for Springer came on the defensive end, which should surprise no one who was familiar with him as a prospect. The exciting part for Philadelphia is that he looked to be a step faster than most guys on the floor, which is exactly what you want to see from a third-year guy in Summer League.
There were two excellent defensive plays by Springer in the first half, both plays at the rim with Springer flying into help as the last line of defense. You don't see a ton of guards who are capable of a play like this, and it's that defensive potential that earned Springer heaps of praise from previous head coach Doc Rivers:
• Don't think I see it with Filip Petrusev, who is decent at a number of things but doesn't seem to have one definitive skill that would get him on an NBA floor this second. He did have a decent stretch in the third quarter of this game, but most of that came on spoon-fed looks from Springer and Smith.
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