Leaning on the bench will be crucial for the Sixers in 2021.
Ultimately speaking, it wasn’t the prettiest of Opening Night wins for the Sixers. They trailed for much of the second half, blew a double-digit lead, and allowed both Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to have their way on the court offensively. While the evening ended on a positive note with Philly dominating the fourth quarter, it was by no means a “great” win.
With that said, one of the most promising aspects from the game was the fact that Philadelphia got some pretty elite bench production. In fact, the Sixers’ bench unit was so good against Washington that it could end up being a strength for Philly this season.
Operating in a role similar to what Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams used to play under Doc Rivers, Shake Milton was absolutely surreal coming off the bench. He put up 19 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, and was a game-high +33. He also shot 6-11 from the field and was on the court during the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Outside of Shake’s brilliance, the team also saw some above-average production from a handful of other role players. Furkan Korkmaz had 11 points on 4-9 shooting (+14), Tyrese Maxey contributed a quick six points in limited action, Dwight Howard poured in 10 rebounds, and Mike Scott had a quiet – but productive – 17 minutes of game time (+13).
Doc Rivers utilized six players off the bench tonight, and every single one finished the game with a positive +/-. Considering just how brutal the team’s bench production was last season, this is a pretty major development. It’s obviously early in the season (one game to be exact!), but it’s hard not to feel like this level of production isn’t sustainable.
Milton and Maxey can both clearly play, Korkmaz continues to get better and better, Howard is the perfect backup center behind Joel Embiid, and Scott/Thybulle can continue to battle it out for that 11th spot in the rotation.
With Embiid and Simmons highlighting the Sixers’ starting five, that group is never going to be inherently “bad”, even with Tobias Harris acting like a basketball black hole at times. For the most part, it’s always been a lackluster bench that’s held this team back. Now, with an exciting group of backups in place for the rest of the season, the Sixers’ bench might actually end up carrying the team a bit.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire