Improvement. It is the first word that comes to mind when describing the Philadelphia 76ers’ play in both the Utah and Las Vegas Summer Leagues. Even though last year’s number one overall pick Ben Simmons was in attendance at the Las Vegas Summer League, he did not play.
Nevertheless, there were still a lot of positives that we can take away from this summer’s action:
1. Markelle Fultz is good as advertised – The former University of Washington point guard put on a show for two games in the summer league before injuring his ankle in the Sixers’ first game in Las Vegas against the Golden State Warriors.
Before his ankle injury, Fultz dazzled fans with his stoic play on the court, not looking fazed by the moment and going shot for shot with fellow rookie Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics in the opening game of the Utah Jazz Summer League.
Did I mention that he also brought in on the defensive end? Using his 6-foot-4 frame and 6-foot-10 wingspan, Fultz had three blocks against the Celtics, including a beautiful block on the weak side.
His impressive debut also caught the eye of NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who tweeted about Fultz’s jump shot. I never really heard of this move, so I guess I don’t really hoop.
If Durant, who is also a Maryland native, is taking notice, then the Sixers may have hit the jackpot in terms of finding their point guard.
2. Sixers found a second-round gem – Heading into the NBA draft, the Sixers had five picks in total (including four in the second round). With the team’s roster pretty much intact and loaded with young talent, there was no way that Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo would use all of those picks.
With that being said, the Sixers traded away two of their second round picks but with the two they kept, they selected international prospects Jonah Bolden and Mathias Lessort. Lessort did not join the team until the Las Vegas Summer League, but Bolden played in both summer leagues and showed off a wide array of skills.
The 6-foot-10, 227 lbs. forward from Australia, who spent one-year at UCLA, before playing basketball this past season in Serbia, looked comfortable and proved that he has NBA talent.
In eight games this summer, Bolden averaged 8.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 23.4 minutes per game. He was causing havoc on the defensive end for opposing teams, being that rim protector for the Sixers.
Offensively, Bolden can run the floor, handle the ball, and does not have any fear when it comes to shooting the ball. In both summer leagues, he shot 36.8 percent from the field and 31.4 Percent from three-point range.
While he struggled from the three-point line, the fact that Bolden can stretch the floor with ease and is comfortable doing it is a big positive, especially since the NBA is going towards positionless basketball.
However, Sixers fans will have to wait another year to see Bolden play basketball at the Wells Fargo Center. According to international basketball journalist David Pick, Bolden will be stashed overseas and play with Maccabi Tel Aviv, instead of KK Crvena Zvezda.
On June 10, Bolden signed a two-year deal with KK Crvena Zvezda, but that will not be happening as he’ll be playing for a top international squad in Maccabi.
3. Young guys show potential to be solid NBA players
Outside of the fantastic play from Fultz and Bolden, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Furkan Korkmaz, and Alex Poythress all showed that they could be key contributors.
Luwawu battled injuries throughout the Las Vegas Summer League, but worked on a wide range of skills and played aggressively, which is what you want to see from a second-year player.
Korkmaz, on the other hand, who was drafted two picks after Luwawu in last year’s draft, finally came over and had a tough debut in the Utah Jazz Summer League, but vastly improved in Las Vegas.
In Vegas, he averaged 14.6 points, shot 49.2 percent from the field, and 33.3 percent from three-point range. While he may not play a lot with the Sixers, Korkmaz could benefit spending some time in the G League with the Delaware 87ers.
Finally, Poythress who spent some time last season with the Sixers proved that he is a rotational NBA player. In the summer league, Poythress showed he was a force in the paint, along with a shooting touch. He averaged 12.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per game. He also shot 47.6 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three-point range.
Poythress is a candidate for a two-way deal and could be on the roster, especially if the Sixers traded Jahlil Okafor for example. However, that is neither here nor there, but these three young guys are the type of players you need coming off your bench.