Philadelphia 76ers: Is Shake Milton ready for the spotlight?

Shake Milton | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Shake Milton | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Is the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-year guard ready for the bright lights of playoff basketball?

Not too long after he burst onto the scene with a 39-point performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, people reckoned that Shake Milton deserved the fifth starting spot in the Philadelphia 76ers’ rotation.

It’s hard to blame them. Although he has primarily been a role player throughout his career and was only averaging 9.5 points per game before the season’s hiatus, his 45 percent 3-point rate and ability to run the pick-and-roll make Milton an intriguing substitute for Al Horford in the starting five. Indeed, the second-year guard’s shooting and ball-handling skills led fellow writer Lucas Johnson to assert that Milton had “star potential.” Before he is anointed as the solution to the Sixers’ woes, however, one question must be raised:

Is Shake Milton ready for the spotlight?

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There is no question that Milton is extremely skilled, and, with a bigger role, could provide sweet relief for the Sixers’ often stagnant halfcourt offense and poor shooting. To many, Milton is more than ready for the pressures that come with playing a significant role on a championship contender.

He possesses skills for which the Sixers have so desperately searched — perimeter playmaking and pick-and-roll proficiency. His aforementioned performance against the Clippers, and the 16.5 points (on 59.2 percent from deep), 2.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists that he averaged in the 10 games after the All-Star break, serve as evidence for Milton’s readiness. His 6-foot-6-inch frame and 6-foot-11-inch wingspan fit snugly into the Sixers’ long and defensive-minded lineup, even Milton isn’t the strongest individual defender.

Nevertheless, Milton is just 23 years old and has logged many more minutes in the G-League than with the Sixers. Such inexperience which may not sit well with head coach Brett Brown.

Earlier this season, Brown was planning to cut Milton completely out of his rotation before a flurry of injuries forced Milton onto the court. Although he impressed in his time before the hiatus, Brown is still “nervous” about playing Milton in the playoffs.

"“I always get nervous about relying on young guys for the NBA playoffs. Shake is no different, it’s no disrespect to Shake, it’s just my 20-year history in the league that it ends up a man’s world, and a veteran type of environment, which he just doesn’t have the luxury of years to put next to his name yet.” — Brett Brown, via Kyle Neubeck/PhillyVoice"

Brown has historically not been one to rely on his youngsters, as he often has relied on veterans who are more acclimated to his system and to the NBA. In the playoffs, Brown may opt to play Mike Scott or the recently-acquired Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, all of whom have played in the postseason and possess more defined and well-rounded skill sets. Granted, these three were not playing great basketball when the season paused, but it would not be surprising if their numbers are called more than Milton’s so long as they are playing well.

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Milton is likely to enjoy a long tenure in Philadelphia, and he may already be well-equipped to handle the spotlight of a starting spot on a contending team. However, it’s been nearly four months since the NBA abruptly stopped, and Brown has a challenging task of putting together the best lineup possible. While Milton seems like the ideal choice to fix some of the issues plaguing the Sixers, it is uncertain whether he will see significant minutes and the season ramps back up.