Who should be the Sixers backup PG when the season begins?

Trey Burke
Philadelphia 76ers’ Trey Burke in action during an NBA preseason basketball game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In 2018, Elton Brand and the rest of the 76ers’ front office were able to construct a truly dominant starting five. The group of Embiid, Simmons, Harris, Butler, and Redick all averaged over 16.5 points per game, and their elite level of production carried the Sixers deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs.

However, with Brand moving quite a bit of talent to build such a starting rotation, the Philly bench became noticeably weaker. By the season’s conclusion, the team ranked 27th in the league in bench scoring, a flaw that seriously hurt them in their playoff run.

One glaring weakness in the Sixers bench group was the backup PG position. I love TJ McConnell as much as the next guy and his time in Philly will never be forgotten, but it quickly became apparent he was unfit to be a truly serviceable backup to Simmons. In the regular season he played on average 19.3 minutes a game, yet only averaged 6.4 points and 3.4 assists.

His lack of usability became even more noticeable in the postseason, as his minutes dropped all the way down to 8.3 per game, and his point/assist averages dropped to 2.7 and 1.2.

Entering into this most recent offseason the bench, and specifically the backup PG position, was a major area of priority for Brand. He landed two veteran free agent guards in Raul Neto and Trey Burke, and also handed out a 4-year contract to G-League superstar Shake Milton.

With so many new faces entering the conversation for backup PG duties, I’d like to take a minute to break down what each of them brings to the table.

Trey Burke

Burke was a late addition to the team this summer, signed on July 30th. The former #9 overall pick in 2013 has been in the league for 6 seasons now, and while never living up to the “Top Ten Pick” expectations that surrounded him coming out of Michigan, he’s been able to reinvent himself into an above-average scorer off the bench.

His career averages sit at 10.9 points per game/3.6 assists per game and a 3-point % of 34. The biggest attraction to Burke? His increased efficiency over the last 3 seasons, specifically when shooting from deep. He’s seen almost all his numbers go up despite receiving a reduction in court time, and his 3P% sits at 37.4. 

Shake Milton

In 2018, Milton was the 4th highest scorer in the G-League (24.9ppg), a yearly performance that the 76ers front office deemed good enough to receive a 4-year main roster contract. With such faith being put in a somewhat unproven talent, it would make sense for Brett Brown to envision a good amount of contribution from the 23-year-old.

Measuring in at 6’ 6” with a wingspan of around 7-feet, Milton’s abilities on the defensive side of things should be above average. Milton is a big, athletic, strong option at the backup PG, a guy who could hypothetically slide-in for Simmons off the bench and guard multiple positions.

Raul Neto

Neto is an extremely safe option when it comes to ball-handling duties off the bench. The Brazilian born PG isn’t going to score a whole lot, he’s not great at defending, and he isn’t going to create too many opportunities, however, he’s what I like to call a “pro’s pro”.

In 4 years with the Utah Jazz, he’s averaged just one turnover per game and only attempted four shots per game. Neto could very easily slot in next to Mike Scott or Zhaire Smith off the bench and just let them do the heavy lifting offensively.

Competition is a good thing, actually, it’s a really good thing. Having three guys all battle for one spot should hypothetically elevate them to perform at their absolute best all season. All three of these players bring something different to the table, and I’m sure all three will be given their fair chance of opportunities to prove their worth.

With that said, I want to hear what you all think about this positional battle. Go ahead and vote on the poll below, and feel free to comment and tell me why “X player” deserves the backup PG job. 

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