Sixers underdog Shake Milton continues to show Philly toughness

Throughout his three-year NBA career, Shake Milton has been through a lot. The 24-year-old guard was the 54th pick in the 2018 draft, ascended through the G-League, and has become a key part of the Sixers bench. Despite establishing himself as their most integral piece of the bench coming into the season, Shake has seen his minutes be drastically cut throughout the tail-end of the season and in the playoffs.

The ability to play through adversity has quickly become a theme in Milton’s young career. In the past two months alone he had seen himself fall from the consistent sixth man to not even being in the regular rotation. Even after being (rightfully) dragged by most analysts for his recent play, Milton was able to silence all doubters and prove his ability to bounce back.

Shake’s Game Two Performance:

With the Sixers in need of a spark in game two, it was Shake Milton who stole the show. The Sixers’ bench struggles in the postseason have been well documented but were put on full display in the previous matchup with the Hawks. With Doc Rivers in search of a spark, he turned to Shake Milton. Despite playing just 47 minutes in the first round against Wizards (11th on the team) and getting just 1 minute of action in game one in the Hawks series, Milton stepped up to answer the call.

With 2 minutes and 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Shake Milton knocked down a step-back three-pointer which marked the first points scored by a Sixers’ bench player. At a time in which it felt as if the game was slipping away and the Sixers were finding no scoring help from its supporting cast, Shake stepped up to the plate. This opened the floodgates for the SMU product as in just 14 minutes he went on to score 14 points on 4-5 from beyond the three-point arc and recording a team-high +15 rating.

This impressive performance gave a glimpse into the Shake Milton that Sixers fans have come familiar with. The bar was set extremely high for the young guard coming into the season, and these unrealistic expectations would be enough to force any young player to struggle. Shake saw his minutes progressively cut throughout the season with the production slipping along with them.

Shake’s Regression and Sixers Roster Moves:

While he averaged 13 points on 23.2 minutes per game on the season, Milton played nearly 4 minutes less per game after the all-star break and averaged 1.5 fewer points per game. In the month of May alone, Shake played a season-low 20.4 minutes per game and produced just 11 points per game.

A major reason for this decrease in minutes has been the additions of George Hill and the growth in Tyrese Maxey. Bench production became a concern during the season and Daryl Morey made adding another ball-handler a top priority at the trade deadline. While it was talked greatly about how Hill would help unlock Shake’s scoring ability and take the load as a distributor off his plate, the fact of the matter is only five guys can be on the court.

Even at just 20 years old, Tyrese Maxey has proven he is ready for every opportunity. The rookie continued to progress throughout the season and stepped up to every challenge that Doc Rivers and the Sixers threw at him. In the first round of the playoffs against the Wizards, Maxey averaged 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 15.9 minutes of play and hopped Shake in the pecking order of substitutions. The Kentucky product and Shake both are ball-dominant guards with scoring tendencies and Maxey’s energy and pace to his game became too impactful to leave on the bench.

No matter how much praise was showered own Shake by Doc Rivers, it had to be tough for Shake to watch management prioritize upgrading his position so seriously and not feel some type of way about it. The ability to keep his head down, continue to work, and stay ready for the spotlight despite this is extremely admirable.

Spat with Embiid Last Season:

Flashback to last year’s return to the season and Milton’s mental toughness was put on display full display once again. After Ben Simmons was ruled out of last season’s playoff due to a knee injury, Shake Milton was thrown into the starting role. His meteoric rise had been well documented at this point, but the transition from bench sensation to having legitimate expectations was not all sunshine and rainbows. In the first game back for the Sixers in the bubble, Joel Embiid and Shake Milton were seen having words:

Tempers naturally flare in the heat of competition and this is really a non-story in the long run. What is more notable is the response from Shake Milton as he stepped up and knocked down a game-winning three-pointer the following game which secured the Sixers a 132-130 win over the Spurs.

How Shake Milton fits into the playoff rotation will continue to be a storyline to watch. When he playing up to his potential, Milton provides the Sixers with an element they do not otherwise have. His calmness on the ball, unwavering confidence, and isolation scoring ability is an extreme asset to the team. However, it is important to note that his struggles and recent slip down the depth chart were warranted by his regression in play. Hopefully, his game two heroics prove that he has snapped out of the funk and he can once again become a key part of the Sixers bench.

Regardless of what is still to come, the young guard deserves a ton of credit for his ability to fight through adversity. Shake has earned everything throughout his NBA career and finding minutes in the playoffs appear to be no different. Although he has been with the Sixers for just three years and he certainly has a great deal of growing still to do, few players have displayed the Philly toughness of Malik Benjamin Milton.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

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