Summer League Likes and Dislikes

Technically, NBA Summer League is still happening, but Markelle Fultz is hurt, so Summer League is over. Here are my likes and dislikes from Summer League so far.

I loathed Brandon Austin’s three point attempt in the closing seconds of Sixers-Jazz. The Sixers had shrunk Utah’s lead from 24 to 3 with about 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Markelle Fultz spearheaded the comeback, scoring 8 straight Philadelphia points early in the quarter and adding a step back three late. He deserved a chance to finish what he started and even the score. Additionally, crunch time reps are more useful to Markelle Fultz, first overall pick and budding star, than Brandon Austin, undrafted Delaware 87ers hopeful. Unphased, Austin caught a pass on the left wing and immediately launched a three pointer. The shot clanked off the side of the rim into the hands of a Jazz player, effectively clinching the Sixers’ second consecutive loss.

Dear Brandon Austin, playing hero ball is not going to earn you an NBA roster spot. Making the right play time and time again will endear you to coaching staffs. Making that shot would not have increased your chances of playing for the Sixers. Taking and missing it, however, likely worsened Sixers coaches’ opinion of your basketball IQ.

I dislike how well Jayson Tatum has played. My disdain for Celtics fans has only increased this offseason, and I was looking forward to Tatum’s game not translating to the NBA. Unfortunately, he has established himself as one of the most talented scorers in Summer League. He has displayed his famed footwork and incredible shot-making ability. Despite Tatum’s impressive play, however, I dislike how quickly basketball writers have anointed him as the next great superstar. The Celtics said they drafted the guy they would have taken first, and Bill Simmons likened Tatum to Paul Pierce. I, for one, am not completely sold.

I have seen multiple members of the press, most notably The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, gush about how much Tatum has improved since his final game at Duke. I admit, he has added several mid-range and post scoring moves to his arsenal, and his release looks smoother. However, my problem with Tatum was never his lack of mid-range scoring ability. I thought he relied too much on isolations and would struggle to adapt to modern offenses based on ball movement and three-point shooting. Although Summer League is an extremely small sample size, Tatum has done nothing to allay those concerns thus far.

Before the draft, a video of Tatum draining 18 straight three pointers surfaced on social media. Through 5 games in Utah and Las Vegas, Tatum has attempted only 10 three pointers, and 8 of them came in the first two games. His shot selection still largely consists of contested, mid-range jump shots. He is adept at making them, but the degree of difficulty will only rise higher once legitimate NBA defenders guard him. Tatum needs to shoot more threes if he wants to be better than DeMar DeRozan.

The bottom line is that Tatum specializes in the least efficient shot in basketball. Five Summer League games is not going to change my pre-draft opinion.

I disliked the moment when Markelle Fultz crumpled to the floor against the Warriors. I assumed that he had broken either his foot or ankle, because Sixers first round draft picks don’t suffer minor injuries.

I liked the press release that announced Fultz would only miss 1-2 weeks with a sprained ankle. Keith Pompey videos of Fultz doing standstill shooting drills all winter would have been awesome, but Fultz starting at guard with Zumoff and Alaa on the call will be even better.

I liked imagining Joel Embiid protecting the rim as opponent after opponent sailed over and around Kaleb Tarczewski for easy baskets. I wish Tarczewski the best, but he’s probably not cut out for the NBA. For the record, I do not plan on imagining Embiid once October rolls around. He will play at least 65 games this season.

I liked watching Fultz run the pick and roll. Any big man who hedges out on or switches onto him has little chance of preventing him from scoring. He can change direction and get to the rim or create space for a jumper with ease. Pick and rolls involving Fultz, Simmons, and Embiid will open up countless opportunities.

I liked seeing Sixers in the stands cheering on the young guys. T.J.’s facial hair is coming along nicely. Jahlil Okafor came out of hibernation, even if it was slightly awkward. Just trade him for anything, Bryan. For his own good, Okafor needs a change of scenery.

I disliked Jawun Evans and Sterling Brown playing for other teams. The value of the franchise has multiplied since Josh Harris bought the team, and the Sixers just set a record for season ticket purchases. The money is inconsequential. Selling second round picks could come back to bite Colangelo when the Sixers extend Embiid and Simmons and can’t afford a bench.

Jonah Bolden has put together a strong case for Okafor’s roster spot. Bolden is essentially the opposite of Okafor. Offensively, he’s raw but has the potential to become a ball-handling, long range shooting stretch big man. Defensively, he moves effortlessly and plays with energy.

The Sixers have all of the tools to develop into a contender. They just need their health to cooperate, and that’s a tall order.

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