Three Big Things From The Sixers Opener: "Go Be Shake"
Space, space, and more space.
Adam Aaronson, whose legal name is Sixers Adam (@SixersAdam on Twitter), covers the Sixers for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez. He has been legally banned from covering the team in person, and when that ban was set to be lifted, Covid-19 struck. He believes cantaloupe is the best food in existence, and is brought to you by the Official Realtor of The Process, Adam Ksebe.
Tuesday night marked a few milestones: the beginning of Joel Embiid’s seventh season, the first games in the tenures of Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey, the first time a member of Team Ricky has been credentialed media for a game, and the first Sixers appearances for players like Seth Curry and Danny Green all come to mind. All of these developments are of equal importance.
After several months off, a 4-0 first-round playoff exit and then a few more months, the Sixers returned as a much different group. With major changes across the entire organization, there is much to focus on in the next few weeks. Here’s what stood out to me from the preseason opener.
Space, space and some more space
When the Sixers let Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick depart last season, it didn’t just hurt Joel on a personal level -- those departures along with the arrival of Al Horford made things tangibly more difficult for Embiid. After a year where he had significantly less space than needed to operate in the post, Embiid was seeing almost solely single-coverage thanks to the presence of both Curry and Green, elite snipers who generate gravity on the floor simply from the defense knowing they have to keep tabs on two excellent shooters.
For Embiid on post-ups, Ben Simmons in transition and more, not only did we see a much more appropriately-spaced floor, but we saw immediately how beneficial they can be. Embiid scored almost one point per minute on the floor, and that was with four unsuccessful three-point tries. This is because of the frequency with which he was able to establish good position down low and score on his man one-on-one.
Nobody will claim that Embiid and Simmons are going to combine for 50 points per game, but both are in what is a significantly more stable environment, one more conducive to offensive success.
“Go Be Shake”
Those are the words Rivers claims to tell Shake Milton every day. If the preseason opener was any indication, the Shake we’re seeing now will be an even more significant contributor than any of us thought.
Milton was nothing short of fantastic, doing anything and everything he could to impress: movement, spot-up shooting, off-the-dribble attacking and more. His composure, a trait which helped lead to his breakout last season, was evident, as was his raw package of tools. He showed why you should never give up on a tall ball-handler who can shoot. Milton can initiate offense, is an excellent shooter and has a wingspan
around seven feet. That is a combination of tools that should make someone a first-round pick.
Shake is of course not a speedster, nor a blow-by-you kind of player. He plays in an unusual, stop-and-start manner that can confuse defenses. But when he’s at his best, Shake can dictate the pace for everyone on the floor through sheer focus and ability.
It looks like Rivers may have found his next elite sixth man.
“He’s a good basketball player.”
Rivers uttered this word when referring to the team’s standout rookie, Tyrese Maxey. Maxey did not see the floor until the fourth quarter, an indication that he is currently on the outside looking in at the rotation.
But after his preseason debut, it’s hard to imagine Maxey not carving out a consistent role for himself. He came in as the sole ball-handler for the team and proceeded to show flashes of nearly everything one would have hoped for.
Maxey assisted on two baskets in his first two possessions on the floor. He continued to thrive as an initiator, making a few notable savvy passes as a creator. Rivers also praised his defensive acumen and communication.
Maxey eventually got into a mode where he was getting to the rim at will, often scoring once he got there. He scored his first basket after a smooth euro-step… and that’s when the floater came into play.
Maxey, who after the game said he developed a floater in high school because he knew he would need it at his size to make it to the NBA, calmly and easily manipulated his way into the paint, where he was nearly automatic on floaters. Who was the last Sixers mainstay to even have a floater?