Sixers

Milton Ready for a Philly Starting Gig

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Since the season was paused, Sixers fans have been salivating over Shake Milton.

Now, it looks like they will get their wish. After a few practices, Brett Brown hinted at starting lineup experimentation in Orlando.

With Brett Brown moving Al Horford to the bench earlier this season, many speculated Horford’s utilization as a sixth man once the season resumes later in July. Later on, during the players’ media availability, Joel Embiid pretty much confirmed who Al’s replacement in the lineup would be.

Shake Time!

With Shake now the fifth starter, he will split ball-handling duties with Ben Simmons. It will also allow Simmons to play more off-ball and be a roll man on a pick-and-roll.

An Additional Ball Handler

Prior to Simmons’ back injury, Milton saw little game action. With one of the team’s superstars down, Shake stepped into a larger role. He quickly produced. In his last 10 games, Milton averaged 16.5 points, displayed good ball-handling skills, and shot 59.2% from three.

While Milton proved he could cut it in the NBA, there are two main reasons that he should be able to help out the 76ers with an increased role. First, he provides the team with another ball handler. Ever since the Sixers drafted Simmons, the front office has attempted to pair the Australian with another ball handler, with the exception of last offseason. Markelle Fultz was supposed to be the solution, but that fell through. This season, the front office assumed a leap from Simmons as the primary creator off the dribble. With Simmons still refusing to shoot jumpers, the organizations assumptions were off base.

In the original starting five, Elton Brand and company counted on Josh Richardson to fill in as a secondary ball handler. However, Richardson struggled with the role. With Shake inserted, the Sixers now have a more steady hand to split lead ball handling duties with Simmons. He showed poise and correct decision making, while providing a much needed scoring punch.

Additional Shooting

Shake steps in as the best three-point shooter in the starting five. For the entire season, he shot 45.3% from beyond the arc. During that 10-game hot streak before the season stopped, Milton hit threes at 59.2% clip. Obviously, that sort of hot streak is not sustainable, but defenses are now forced to respect his ability to connect from deep.  Whether in transition, off the dribble, or catch and shoot, Milton was on fire. Both his shooting and ball handling were on full display in his 39-point performance against the Clippers.

His three-point threat and ball handling will now allow more room for Simmons and Embiid to attack the rim and dominate the paint.

Simmons the Roll Man

With Shake Milton in the starting lineup, Ben Simmons will find himself off ball much more often. The best way for Brett Brown to maximize Ben’s talents without the ball is to utilize him as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. The first time we saw Simmons in a similar role, he uncorked a 29-point triple-double in Houston.

Simmons has always been an effective finisher at the rim. Combined with his passing prowess and size, he should easily find an open teammate off the roll, while also competing for offensive rebound if the ball does not come his way.

Simmons himself is open to the idea of playing more as the roll man as well. When asked about playing more pick-and-roll, Simmons said: “I feel like I have a very high IQ on the court and see things a lot differently, I’m able to pass the ball very well, so that’s always a threat. But I love playing the pick-and-roll, situational pick-and-pop, whatever it is. It just gives us so many different options. It’s tough to guard.”

Utilizing more pick-and-rolls will give potential playoff opponents new looks to think about when game planning for the 76ers offense. Last year in the Toronto series, Simmons was often relegated to the dunker spot on offense, while Jimmy Butler handled the ball-handling duties down the stretch. Having Simmons and Embiid around the basket clogged the lane and made the Raptors’ life on defense much easier. With more PnRs, hopefully opposing defenses will not be able to wall off the rim as effectively.

First Scrimmage Results

With the first scrimmage now in the books, there were two main takeaways.  First, there were much less Simmons-Milton pick-and-rolls than expected. Maybe Brett Brown is saving this action for the playoffs. Instead, there was much more dribble hand-offs between the two, which led to Simmons facing up at the elbow and initiating the offensive set from there.

As Kevin O’Connor alludes to, there are two possible options that come from this scenario. If Shake’s defender goes under the hand-off, Shake is then open for three. Defenders should not be going under Milton at all. He has shot over 40% from three this season, as well as every season in college. If Milton’s defender stays attached to him, Ben can then spin and challenge his defender with a drive. A Simmons drive would then lead to a shot at the rim for himself or Embiid, or a kick-out to the perimeter for Richardson, Harris or Milton. With a lot of touches from the elbow, Simmons finished the first half with nine assists.

Second, Shake had himself a pretty good game. He finished with six points while shooting 50% from the field, tacking on three assists with one turnover in only 17 minutes of action. While he didn’t have a gaudy stat line by any means, Shake was able to run the offense in the half court. Most importantly, his shooting ability provided extra spacing and allowed for the Sixers offense to run smoothly, leading to a 26-point lead at the half.

Overall, moving Shake Milton into the starting lineup should better the Sixers’ chances. It allows for another shooter to be on the floor with Simmons and Embiid, provides another ball handler, and provides Simmons with a more defined, off ball role. Horford coming off the bench allows for Brett Brown to stagger his rotation easier, keeping two of Simmons, Embiid, and Horford on the floor at all times. Hopefully this move helps the 76ers make a deep playoff push.

Follow us on Twitter @SixersLead for the latest 76ers news and insight.

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About Tim Andrews

Big Basketball Fan. Follow me on Twitter @TimAndrews_13. Contributing for @TLSportsMedia / @SixersLead / @TheBLAnalytics Trust the Process.

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