What we learned about the Sixers’ young players at the Salt Lake City Summer League

What we learned about the Sixers’ young players at the Salt Lake City Summer League

Before heading to Las Vegas for the traditional NBA Summer League with all 30 teams, the Sixers played two back-to-back games in Salt Lake City, giving talents like Jared McCain, Ricky Council IV and Adem Bona their first chance to shine ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Sixers announce squads for Summer League in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas

What did your team notice in the first three games of the Summer League?

Ricky Council IV’s Master Class on Monday Night

Every summer, there are a few players with NBA experience who quickly prove to be far too good for Summer League competition. In his 2024 Summer League debut on Monday night, Council looked like he was good enough.

Council got to work early, using his dynamic athleticism and strength to get to the basket on drives and finish from close range, including an and-one where he dropped back as the shot went up – a finishing style he seems oddly to rely on.

The most encouraging part of Council’s 29 points and eight rebounds, however, was his three-point shooting. The bouncy wing, who is preparing for his second NBA season, shot 10 threes and sank five of them — four of them during a 19-point run in the fourth quarter. Some of those threes also came from a few steps beyond the three-point line:

If Council becomes a reliable three-point shooter, he will almost certainly earn a permanent spot in the rotation. That may be the skill he’s trying to hone the most, and the early results in Salt Lake City suggest he’s done the work needed.

Jared McCain takes care of the little things

When I wrote about some of the storylines I was following over the next few weeks, I talked about McCain, whom the Sixers drafted with the No. 16 pick last month. I wrote that McCain – drafted primarily for his three-point shooting ability – should try to prove he can contribute other skills to winning, too.

On Monday night, he did just that: Duke’s new rookie guard hit 0 of 6 three-pointers, but did almost everything else well: He had a few nifty finishes at the basket, some great assists, and held his own pretty well defensively.

On Tuesday night, McCain’s overall performance was less exciting, but he did sink two threes from the corner in a 10-15 second span — one on a spot-up in his own half, the other on a quick spot-up in transition. Those shots — especially the one he fired off in an instant while the team was running out — show how he can help the Sixers immediately in an NBA game.

Not only will Joel Embiid, Paul George, and Tyrese Maxey consistently generate advantages that allow supporting players like McCain to get open threes, but this Sixers team, built around quality defensive playmakers, will also generate tons of transition opportunities that will allow McCain to rush to the corners and wings and shoot threes.

Adem Bona is an outlier – for good and bad reasons

After just three days, it’s not the least bit difficult to see why the Sixers are intrigued by the potential of Bona – last month’s No. 41 pick. And it’s also easy to see why other teams might have been cautious.

Bona stands just 6’1″ tall, but has a nearly 7’4″ wingspan, a relentless drive, and outstanding leaping ability. This makes him an impressive shooter and shot blocker, as well as a layup threat with an impressive catch radius on the offensive end of the court.

However, Bona needs to learn to channel and control his energy to use it properly. As a defender, he often comes across as a little too ambitious, which led to him picking up a gigantic number of fouls in these games (foul trouble was a big problem for Bona last season at UCLA – he committed 3.6 fouls per game despite only averaging 26.5 minutes).

If Bona plays for the Sixers in 2024-25, he will play limited minutes, so foul trouble won’t be as big a factor. But decision-making as a defensive player will always be crucial for a center like him, even if he is often able to mask a bad decision with a remarkable athletic performance.

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