Sixers’ Shake Milton finding himself at the perfect time

Philadelphia 76ers
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Shake Milton (18) looks on during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Shake Milton is back to his scoring ways for the Sixers.

Following a breakout season with the team in 2020, expectations were extremely high for Sixers guard Shake Milton this year. Not only had he displayed a genuine knack for scoring the basketball during his first *real* season in the NBA, but the team’s new head coach – Doc Rivers – wasn’t shy with his support for the young guard.

After all, Shake did drop 39 on Doc Rivers’ LA Clippers during the 2020 regular season.

While any cries for Milton to be the league’s “Sixth Man of the Year” were blatantly premature, Shake still had himself a very good start to the 2021 season. He scored 19 in the team’s season opener against the Washington Wizards, and then averaged 15.5 points per game throughout the entire month of January. While his 3P% wasn’t the highest during this stretch of basketball (32.6%), Shake’s ability to get to the basket and create shots for himself proved deadly off the bench. Not only was he generating offense for himself at will, but he was also getting involved as a playmaker.

Milton averaged 3.8 assists per game during the month of January, just a hair above his current season average.

However, despite Shake’s hot start to the regular season, he started to sputter just a bit during the month of February. His points per game average dropped down to 11.5, and his FG% plummeted down into the 37% range. At times, it almost looked like Milton was pressing too hard to be the team’s main playmaker off the bench. With no other true ball-handlers on the Sixers’ second unit, it’s not hard to see why the former G-League star felt some sort of internal need to “do it all.”

As is common with young players during the early stages of their careers, Milton needed some time to feel things out – an opportunity to really figure out what his role should be when operating with the Sixers’ bench unit. As much as his attempts at playmaking were appreciated, Shake is undeniably at his best when he’s focused on doing one thing and one thing only: scoring the basketball.

Milton’s scoring average jumped back up to 14.4 during the month of March, and he’s averaging 17.6 since his dominant 28 point performance over the Sacramento Kings on March 20th. Honing in his focus on attacking the rim and creating offense as the team’s unquestioned #1 option off the bench, Milton has once again found himself flashing some “Sixth Man of the Year” potential.

With recently acquired George Hill set to join the Sixers rather soon as well, Milton’s life as a pure scorer should get even easier moving forward. Being tasked with primary ball-handling duties should be a thing of the past – Shake can just focus on putting the ball in the hoop.

As much as I may personally love Milton, he’s not a perfect player by any stretch of the imagination. His ability to create for others is limited, and his three-pointing shooting is average at best. However, he’s genuinely gifted when it comes to attacking the rim and creating separation, something this team can always use more of.

With a deep playoff run hopefully on the horizon, Milton will be relied upon to provide offense off the bench in each and every postseason game that the team plays. If he’s comfortable playing alongside Hill, operating in a manner similar to how he’s been playing recently and how he played early in the season, then I have full confidence that he can – and will – get the job done.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire