Who To Watch Ahead of Sixers’ Summer League

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 09 Tennessee at Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, TX – JANUARY 09: Tennessee Volunteers guard Jaden Springer (11) drives around Texas A&M Aggies guard Jay Jay Chandler (0) during the basketball game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Texas A&M Aggies at Reed Arena on January 9, 2021 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

After what feels like all too long, the Sixers are returning to the hardwood…sort of. Here’s who to watch ahead of the Sixers’ Summer League.

The cure to your Sixers withdrawal is here, as the Sixers will be back in action for summer league this week. While it may not be the usual roster taking the court, this will be a great chance to get a peek at what the Sixers young core could bring to the team. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the NBA to cancel last year’s summer league, so this will be the first time at this event for everyone on the roster except for former G-League MVP Frank Mason III and Rayjon Tucker.

Tyrese Maxey and Jaden Springer Duo

The two most recent first-round picks of the Sixers will have a chance to take the backcourt together and give a potential preview into what the team may look like a few years down the line. The focal point of the team will likely be Tyrese Maxey, who is coming off an impressive rookie year in which he played an important role down the stretch for the Sixers. The Kentucky product averaged 8 points, 2 assists, and 1.7 rebounds during his 15.3 minutes per game and will look to carry this momentum into next year.

While he may not be an immediate impact player, Jaden Springer projects to fit alongside Maxey very nicely. The Tennessee product has NBA-level strength, and it will be exciting to see what he can do on the defensive end. Springer may not be the flashiest player, but his well-rounded game projects well in the NBA, and it will be exciting to see this for the first time. Look for the combo guard to silence those questioning his shooting ability due to lack of attempts, as he connected at a 45.3% rate on just 1.8 attempts per game in college.

Big Man Competition

There is still a major amount of hype surrounding last year’s second-round pick, Paul Reed, but the Sixers added to their big-man depth in this year’s draft. BBall Paul had an extremely impressive first year as a pro in which he won G-League Rookie of the Year and MVP. The DePaul product played a total of 177 minutes with the Sixers but looks to build off this and grow into a larger role this season. Look for Paul to show a better grasp of picking his spots and his overall feel for the game. If he can find a way to pick his spots with the all-out energy he possesses, it will increase his NBA potential in a major way.

As far as the new faces go, the Sixers spent a pair of second-round picks on the two big men Charles Bassey and Filip Petrusev. In the first practice with the summer league roster, Charles Bassey played with the starters at Center. The Western Kentucky product plays with an impressive motor and is an exciting athlete at his size. He is a legitimate rim-protecting threat and has shown signs of improvement with his overall offensive game. It is unclear if Bassey will stick with the Sixers as he currently has not agreed to a contract, and both of the two-way contracts have already been used up (Rayjon Tucker & Aaron Henry). An impressive performance from Bassey in the summer league would go a long way to increasing his chances of sticking on the NBA roster.

He will not be competing for a spot on this year’s roster as Filip Petrusev is planning on staying overseas next season, but the Serbian will be adding a necessary skillset to the Sixers roster. The drum that has been pounded in demand of a stretch big may finally be silenced as the 6’11 forward connected on 41.9% of his three-pointers last season. Petrusev spent two seasons at Gonzaga before heading over the Adriatic league, where he was crowned league MVP. The 21-year-old showed massive signs of improvement in his first season post-college, so the summer league will give a better indication if this can translate to the NBA.

Isaiah Joe vs. Aaron Henry

He may not have the same hype as Maxey and Bball Paul, but Isaiah Joe also projects a solid NBA role player. The Arkansas sharpshooter shot 36.8% from beyond the arc on 2.6 attempts last season, even with his limited minutes. In the three playoff games that Isaiah Joe played with the Blue Coats last season, he averaged 23.3 points and launched a ridiculous 12.7 three-point attempts per game. Joe showed some growth on the defensive end this season, and if he reaches his potential could be an ideal 3&D player. Now in the second year of his 3-year $4.1 million deal, Isaiah Joe will look to cement a rotational spot on the roster by performing well in Vegas.

Perhaps brought in as competition to Isaiah Joe, the Sixers signed Aaron Henry to a two-way contract just minutes after the draft’s conclusion. The Michigan State product also projects as a solid 3&D player in the NBA and was once expected to be a first-round pick. His three-point percentage slipped to 29.6% in his final season with the Spartans, but he showed growth as a defender and a passer in his increased role. Henry has a ton to prove in Summer League, and if he can show growth in his shooting, he could give Joe a run for his money for a long-term role.

Other Names to Watch

Rayjon Tucker

If you are looking for highlight plays, Rayjon Tucker is your guy. He could sleepwalk his way to an NBA slam-dunk champion and flashes this on a regular basis. Tucker spent last season on a two-way deal and agreed to an extension on the two-way deal heading into this year.

In his time with the Blue Coats last season, Tucker averaged 19.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in about 33 minutes per game. The raw athleticism he contains is unmatched, and Tucker has been back to work immediately following the season’s conclusion at a league in his hometown of Charlotte. The former Arkansas Little Rock product also has a lot to prove in the summer league and needs to find a role fit that could translate at the NBA level.

Daishen Nix

A rare basketball player to come out of Alaska, Daishen Nix was one of the most interesting players in the draft. At 6’5 and 205 pounds, Nix is an NBA-level passer who can effectively run an offense. He played for the G-League Ignite alongside lottery picks Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. Nix was the 21st ranked prospect coming out of high school but elected to pass on an impressive list of scholarship offers to pursue the G-League route. The stocky guard averaged 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in his 26.5 mins of action off the bench.

While he will draw eyes as a passer, Nix is extremely ineffective as a shooter. He shot an abysmal 38.4% from the field and 17.6% from beyond the arc this year with the Ignite. This ultimately led to him going undrafted this year despite having some second-round buzz heading into the draft. It would be surprising for Nix to find a way onto the Sixers’ roster, but this will certainly serve as a tryout for the other 29 NBA teams for the nineteen-year-old.

Frank Mason III

Bball Paul is not the only former G-League MVP on the roster, as Frank Mason III won the award last season. The former 4-year Kansas point guard was taken with the 34th overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Sacramento Kings. Mason II has played in 103 games across four seasons in the league and averaged 6.7 points, 2.6 assists, and 2 rebounds during this time. In his lone season in the G-League, the former Jayhawk averaged 26.4 points, 5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds while connecting with 42.5% of his three-pointers.

At 5’11, Mason will add to the roster’s guard depth. He has an impressive burst and tight handle, which is necessary for his stature. He also is unlikely to find a spot on the Sixers roster but will be impactful in Summer League. The 27-year-old will also attack this opportunity as a tryout as he continues his attempt to latch on to an NBA team.

The Summer League will kick off on Monday against Tyrell Terry and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks roster.