Philadelphia 76ers: Shake Milton is a wild card worth watching

Shake Milton | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Shake Milton | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers have multiple young wings on the roster, but Shake Milton deserves more fervent discussion.

Josh Richardson‘s injured hamstring has reopened the door for Shake Milton, who has spent much of the 2019-20 season in Delaware. It’s not his first NBA run — he battled for minutes early in the season — but this one feels meaningful.

The Philadelphia 76ers have deployed Milton fruitfully in two games sans Richardson. He has amassed 16 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists in roughly 48 minutes. Not spectacular by any stretch, but in limited minutes, certainly effective.

Milton earned the start in Saturday’s impressive win over Los Angeles, and he actively participated to the tune of nine rebounds, staunch defense, and a couple timely buckets. He looked the part of a rotation wing.

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At the moment, it’s pointless to discuss Milton in the same breath as Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmaz, young wings who have entrenched themselves in Brett Brown’s rotation. At this point, Thybulle and Korkmaz are Brown’s top reserves. Still, Richardson’s injury has given Milton new life.

At 6-foot-6, Milton has several tools the Sixers (seem to) value. He’s a long-armed defender who can switch on the perimeter. He’s a proven shooter in the G-League and, for the most part, a successful NBA shooter. He’s also a capable ball-handler with point guard experience, something the Sixers lack.

If Milton continues to boost the defense, crash the glass, and provide complementary skills on offense, there’s enough smoke to infer a fire. His presence in the rotation is, at this moment in time, solely a reaction to Richardson’s absence. There’s a chance it becomes more.

For the briefest of stints early in the season, Milton held a real spot in the rotation. It was his own injury that marked a setback and a return to G-League prominence. As the Sixers approach a pivotal trade deadline, it’s wise to explore all possible avenues with regard to the second unit.

On one hand, extended minutes could function as a showcase of Milton’s trade value. He’s a long 3-and-D wing who can both dribble and shoot, a rarer combination than some would care to admit. On the other, if the Sixers were to consolidate assets in a hypothetical trade, it could open another spot in the rotation. Milton is capable of filling such a void.

There are undeniable flaws to Milton, whether it’s his rigidity as a dribbler or his occasional lapses in judgement. The Sixers still have a decent young wing on a cheap long-term contract, and his skill set on the whole matches well next to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and the other core stars.

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Perhaps I’m reading too far into a handful of games. Again, Milton is only getting minutes because Richardson is hurt. And yet I find myself optimistic in a sense. I’m a believer in Milton’s skill set, and he could step into an expanded role sooner than later.