It’s unclear how long Ben Simmons will be out. Good thing the Sixers have a backup plan.
It may not have been the backup plan head coach Brett Brown had anticipated but sometimes life has a funny way of working out. Shake Milton has been sensational in the three games since Simmons went down. The second-year combo guard has seamlessly taken over the point spot, including scoring a team-high 20 points versus Cleveland.
He has averaged 15.3 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting a team-best 43-percent from three. The humble kid from Southern Methodist University — and the 54th overall pick in 2018 — has clearly earned a starting spot and his coach’s trust.
“At this stage, you’d have to say, if everybody’s looking for a tournament, he’s winning it,” Brown said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s the starting point guard. The rest of it falls into place with some other ball handlers that are more than capable and at times really good, but Shake has been a needed surprise late.”
Simmons, of course, is out indefinitely in what has been termed “nerve impingement in his lower back” and no one knows for sure when he’s coming back. He’s out at least two weeks and likely much longer, so Milton will have to pick up the slack for the Sixers down the stretch.
“When somebody goes down, especially somebody who is kind of in your position, you kind of might have an idea that your number might be called, so it’s just about staying ready and being prepared to play,” Milton said.
Milton’s Slow Rise to Professional Ranks
While Shake Milton’s sudden success might be a surprise to some, it really shouldn’t be. The 23-year-old was a highly-regarded prospect coming out of SMU but concerns about his overall fitness, combined with a poor showing at the NBA combine scrimmages, caused him to drop down draft boards. The Sixers thought enough of the guard to orchestrate a draft-day trade for him.
Milton, who toiled down in the G-League off and on since being drafted, made his first start of the year on Jan. 25 against the Lakers. Josh Richardson was injured and Milton scored seven points in 25 minutes. He flashed great court vision and played stellar defense, mostly in a supporting role.
“Big primetime game, everything like that,” Milton said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “But once the ball is tipped, you get up and down the floor one time, you’re good — it’s just basketball.”
Scouting Report Predicted His Potential
As stated above, the talent was never a question in regard to Shake Milton. He shot better than 42-percent every year in college and drew comparisons to the Bulls’ Denzel Valentine.
His big body — 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds, with 7-foot wingspan — also made him a matchup nightmare on defense. Here is a scouting report, via Bleacher Report:
Milton could be ready to contribute right away because of his shooting. He improved as a free-throw shooter every year—he made 84.7 percent this past season—and he’s also been a dependable spot-up shooter, knocking down 43.4 percent of his threes as a junior. He was particularly heating up before his injury, as he went 51.1 percent from deep in conference play. It’s fair to wonder whether certain players will be able to adjust to the longer NBA line, but Milton looked comfortable shooting deep threes.
It’s Milton’s time to shine. Let’s see what he does with his opportunity.