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July 11, 2024

What we learned about Sixers youngsters at Salt Lake City Summer League

The Sixers have three Summer League games under their belts before heading to Las Vegas. Here is what stood out during their time in Salt Lake City.

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Ricky Council IV 7.9.24 Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Council IV's quest to become a rotation regular in 2024-25 began with a strong showing in his first Salt Lake City Summer League game -- a 29-point masterpiece.

Before the Sixers headed to Las Vegas for the traditional NBA Summer League that features all 30 teams, they played back-to-back-to-back games in Salt Lake City, giving prospects like Jared McCain, Ricky Council IV and Adem Bona their first chances to stand out heading into the 2024-25 season.

Sixers announce Salt Lake City and Las Vegas Summer League roster

What stood out from the team's first three games of Summer League?

Ricky Council IV's Monday night masterclass

Every summer, there are a few players with NBA experience who quickly appear to be way too good for Summer League competition. In his 2024 Summer League debut on Monday night, Council looked the part.

Council went to work early, utilizing his dynamic athleticism and strength to get to the rim on drives and finish from short range, including an and-one bucket in which he fell backwards as the shot went up -- a style of finish that he oddly appears to rely on.

The most encouraging part of Council's 29-point, eight-rebound showing, though, was his three-point shooting. The bouncy wing, preparing to enter his second NBA season, launched 10 triples and knocked down five of them -- four of which came during a 19-point fourth quarter eruption. A couple of those threes came from quite a few steps beyond the arc, too:

Becoming a reliable three-point shooter would almost certainly solidify Council as a rotation regular. It should be the skill he is trying to refine the most, and early results in Salt Lake City indicated that he has been putting in the requisite work on it.

Jared McCain doing the little things

When I wrote about some of the storylines I was following over the next few weeks, one was about McCain, who the Sixers drafted No. 16 overall last month. I wrote that McCain -- drafted largely due to his proficiency as a three-point shooter -- should look to prove that he can impact winning with other skills.

On Monday night, he did exactly that: the incoming rookie guard out of Duke shot 0-6 from beyond the arc, but did just about everything else well: he had a few crafty finishes around the rim, some nifty assists and held up well enough on the defensive end of the floor.

On Tuesday night, McCain's all-around performance was less exciting, but he did knock down a pair of corner threes -- one on a spot-up in the half-court, the other on a quick spot-up in transition -- in a span of 10-15 seconds. Those shots -- particularly the one that he got off in an instant while the team leaked out -- show how he can immediately help the Sixers in an NBA game.

Not only are Joel Embiid, Paul George and Tyrese Maxey all going to consistently generate advantages that lead to open threes for supporting cast members like McCain, but this Sixers team that is built around high-caliber defensive playmakers are going to generate tons of transition opportunities which will allow McCain to dash to the corners and wings to lace a triple.

Adem Bona is an outlier -- for reasons good and bad

After only three days, it is not remotely difficult to see why the Sixers are intrigued by the potential of Bona -- the No. 41 pick last month -- and it is also easy to see why other teams might have been wary.

Bona stands at just 6-foot-9, but has a wingspan of nearly 7-foot-4 with an absolutely relentless motor and outstanding leaping ability. This makes him a formidable rim protector and shot-blocker as well as a rim-running lob threat with an impressive catch radius on the offensive end of the floor.

However, Bona must learn to channel and contain his energy to use it in the proper fashion. He often looks a bit too ambitious as a defender, and it led to him collecting a gargantuan amount of fouls across these contests (foul trouble was a major issue for Bona last season at UCLA -- he committed 3.6 fouls per game despite only averaging 26.5 minutes).

If Bona plays for the Sixers in 2024-25, it would be in a low-minute role, so foul trouble will not be as much of a factor. But decision-making as a defensive player will always be crucial for a center like him, even if he is often able to mask a poor decision with a remarkable athletic feat.

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