Summer League is an NBA fan’s first glimpse at their team’s newest draftees and an opportunity for G-League players to make a name for themselves in an attempt to make an NBA roster. This holds true for 76ers fans as we saw 16th overall pick Zhaire Smith for the first time and last year’s Summer League standout, Jonah Bolden, after spending the last year playing in Israel. While the Sixers are only 1-3 after beating the Phoenix Suns on Thursday in the tournament, there were some positive aspects of the Summer Sixers’ first four games.
The 20 year old wing is heading into his second season with the Sixers after coming over from Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes and started his summer league in an unforgettable fashion. In just 28 minutes, Korkmaz scored 40 points on 10/18 shooting (8/14 from 3, 12/15 from the line) in a 95-89 loss to the Celtics. A 6’7 shooting guard, the 2016 first round pick showed off the ability to create shots for himself, spot up, and shoot over smaller defenders. Sadly, the 2017 Champions League Best Young Player only scored 3 points over his next two games where he just could not find his rhythm (1/18 from the field, 0/12 from 3). Korkmaz rebounded nicely in the first round game against Phoenix with 18 points on 7/15 shooting with 3 three’s to secure the Summer Sixers’ first win. Barring any offseason trades, Korkmaz will most likely spend a decent amount of the upcoming season in the G-League honing his craft with wings JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Justin Anderson, Wilson Chandler, and Zhaire Smith on the roster.
The Texas Tech product was able to flash his potential over the Sixers’ first four games, showing fans his incredible athleticism, defensive ability, and length. During his first taste of professional basketball, Smith averaged 8.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, and 2.7 APG to go along with his 1.7 steals per game in 25.7 minutes. The game against the Lakers alone should have 76er fans excited for their shiny new addition to the team. After getting Josh Hart to bite on a pump fake, Smith went baseline for a two-handed slam. Three minutes later, Smith dished a no-look transition dime to Cameron Oliver for an easy dunk. He finished with 16 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in another loss for the team, but everybody must remember that Summer League wins do not matter. The sole purpose of these games is to allow coaches and front offices to get a look at their newest players. If the rookie is able to build a consistent jumpshot, he will force Brett Brown to give him minutes throughout the regular season.
Many fans, including myself, were upset when Jonah Bolden opted to remain in Israel with 2018 Israeli League Champion, Maccabi Tel Aviv, last season rather than join the 76ers after showing off his all-around game in last year’s Summer League. At 6’10 with a smooth shooting stroke and elite athleticism, Bolden is a strong rim protector, rebounder, and has potential as a pick-and-pop stretch four or small-ball five. He has been fairly inconsistent during this year’s go-around, but still possesses the same athleticism and added the ability to run the fast break off of a defensive rebound. The re-signing of Amir Johnson and signing of Nemanja Bjelica makes it a little tougher for Bolden to find minutes, but Brett Brown will find value in his ability to stretch the floor and defend the paint.
The Nevada Wolfpack standout was traded to the Delaware 87ers (now the Blue Coats) last January and is having himself a solid summer with the 76ers so far. In his final year at Nevada in 2016-2017, the 6’8 forward averaged 16/8.7/1.8 and 2.6 blocks per game en route to winning the Mountain West Conference Title. Oliver has flashed that same athleticism for the Sixers summer squad this year via catching alley oop lobs and backdoor cuts for easy buckets. He will most likely be the star of the Blue Coats this year in the G-League with the hope of playing for the Sixers if the injury bug bites.
Right now, the 76ers have eighteen players under contract for the upcoming 2018-2019 season (after the team buys out Jonah Bolden) and must cut that down to fifteen by Opening Day. There are still three months until that day comes and we can expect the Sixers to make some more moves prior to that time. I expect the team to use the stretch provision or attach a young player (Richaun Holmes or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot?) and second round picks to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ horrid contract situation. Another way to fix this problem is to send some of the younger players to the G-League to earn some additional reps. Here is how I see the Opening Night roster play out if the current roster remains the same:
PG: Simmons, McConnell, Shamet
SG: Redick, Fultz, Smith
SF: Covington, Chandler, Anderson
PF: Saric, Bjelica, Bolden
C: Embiid, Johnson, Holmes
Although the 76ers did not land any superstars this offseason, the roster still improved with the additions of 3-and-D wing Wilson Chandler and sharpshooter Nemanja Bjelica to offset the losses of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. With the continued development of Fultz’s jumper with shooting guru Drew Hanlen, I fully expect Markelle to be in contention for the Most Improved Player Award.
I expect the Sixers to get rid of Bayless in any way imaginable while sending Korkmaz, TLC, and Shake Milton to Delaware to pair with Cam Oliver, Demetrius Jackson, and Chris McCullough, but I would not be surprised to see TLC and a second round pick packaged with Bayless to a team looking to take on his contract burden.
University of South Carolina ’21