The Sixers’ future is in good hands thanks to young, developing talent
Over the past week, the NBA and Sixers alike were forced to deal with COVID-19 health and safety protocols to the fullest extent. We all struggled to watch the Sixers barely reach the eight minimum players required to play a game against the Nuggets by dressing an injured Mike Scott, but as we know, this is something that the NBA will have to continue to deal with if the season continues.
In the midst of the health and safety protocols, one of the few bright spots in watching the Sixers play without 3-4 starters and their main bench rotation players, was the opportunity to see what the young guys on the Sixers roster could do in extended playing time. There were some clear standouts (Tyrese Maxey), while a few other players proved that they belonged on an NBA roster. We are now left with a fantastic problem to work through with too many playable guys.
Tyrese Maxey, Of Course
Maxey was undoubtedly the most impressive young player on the Sixers over the past week, and arguably the best player on the court outside of Embiid’s 45 point performance against Miami. The 20 year old rookie is averaging 11.3 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds so far this year, but those numbers don’t do justice to his play recently. Over the past five games, Maxey is averaging over 20 points per game, and even with the majority of the starters back against the Miami Heat, Maxey put up 15 points. If nothing else, Maxey made it impossible for Doc to not give him minutes, and also created a lot of excitement about his future in Philadelphia.
Isaiah Joe and Dakota Mathias
Unlike previous Sixers teams, this year they have a bench that is loaded with shooters. Isaiah Joe and Dakota Mathias were very impressive offensively along the perimeter over the past four games, and have proved to be capable, reliable gunners when called upon for the Sixers.
Isaiah Joe was particularly exciting to watch, and has seemingly progressed in front of our eyes over the past week. For a rookie, Joe has an abundance of confidence as a shooter. Joe played sparingly early on, but once he was given the opportunity, he averaged 14 points, and 3.8 made threes per game on 9 attempts. Along with Maxey, Joe proved to have the ability to run with the starters, and has the guts to hit clutch shots. Look for Isiah Joe to find minutes in rotation even when the roster is at full strength.
My guy Dakota Mathias! While he is 25 years old, until this year, Mathias had yet to crack an NBA roster. After going undrafted in 2018, Mathias bounced around a little bit before finding his way to a two-way contract with the Sixers this season. Luckily for him, he was able to get extended minutes during the last four games, and even drilled a go ahead jumper against Miami on Tuesday night. As one of Dakota’s biggest fans, I still don’t see him having a role on this squad other than a last ditch effort to find shooting, but he has shown signs recently. All I can say is, don’t sleep on the kid!
Shake Milton and Matisse Thybulle
I know these guys aren’t rookies, or even “the new guys”, but I have to throw them in after a pair of strong performances following three games off due to health and safety protocols.
Shake Milton was amazing last night, pouring in 31 points, on 11-15 from the floor and 3-4 from deep. Milton has nothing left to prove to the coaches or the fans as this was hardly his first huge game. Sugar Shake has emerged as a star on this team. The future Sixth Man of the Year is averaging 15.8 points, and 3.7 assists so far this season and there’s no reason to believe that will stop as the season goes on.
Matisse on the other hand, has been subject to some reasonable criticism during the start of the 2021 season. Thybulle is only averaging 2.6 points, 1 rebound, and 1.1 steals per game, but his defensive presence has absolutely been felt. In the last game, Thybulle added 8 points and 4 steals, and even took 6 shots from deep. I have yet to give up on Matisse, and his ceiling is incredibly high, I see him continuing to grow.
Looking at this team, it is incredibly refreshing to have a young group of players that are actually impactful. Each of these guys add a useful ability to the Sixers this season, and all of them have ample room to grow.
Shoutout to Elton Brand and Daryl Morey for constructing a youthful foundation to this franchise. The choice to keep this depth and youth over James Harden is the right decision, and as we see these players grow and impact this team, I think everyone will look back on this and agree.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY