Philadelphia 76ers: Shake Milton deserves Amir Johnson’s roster spot

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

With an oversaturated frontcourt, the Philadelphia 76ers should waive Amir Johnson to convert Shake Milton’s contract for the postseason.

The Philadelphia 76ers have a roster construction problem.

Well, technically, the team has a number of problems depending on who you ask, like a lack of bench scoring, some truly head-scratching play-calling gaffs, and a puzzling lack of effort against lesser talents, but while watching the team earn an ugly L against the lowly Orlando Magic, featuring a 17-32 stretch in the third quarter, a new issue has bubbled up from under the surface that could have serious issues for the team down the stretch: the Sixers only have two point guards.

That’s right, in a game where Ben Simmons earned a surprising DNP due to illness, Brett Brown was forced to insert T.J. McConnell into his starting five, and use Jimmy Butler as a backup point guard.

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The idea of using Butler as a primary ball handler isn’t new, as Brown has moonlit the idea a few times with mostly positive results to get the ISO scorer more involved in the game, but it’s like a trick play in the NFL: you can’t build an offense solely around trick plays.

Sure, technically the team deployed a second point guard in Shake Milton who scored a career-high 13 points in a career-high 22 minutes of action, but he split his time between the one, his college position and the two, his should-be NBA position.

That needs to change.

Now granted, this was only one game, but what if Simmons or even McConnell were to suffer even a minor injury next month, let’s say a pulled hamstring, and miss even 10 days worth of action. The 76ers could find themselves going home even earlier than last season despite trading away three blue-chip prospects, four draft picks, and a former first overall pick to get this team rolling.

Is this entire season worth being risked over a bad order of buffet sushi?

However, there’s a catch: the market for serviceable point guards is pretty thin at the moment.

After watching players like  Shanghai Sharks’ legend Jimmer Fredette, and even former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams sign new contracts, if Philly wants to bolster their backcourt with an additional ball handler, they’re going to have to do two things: cut a player and replace him with someone else.

But who should the Sixers target, and more importantly, who should they cut to facilitate said move?

Well, step one is easy: Cut Amir Johnson.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Amir Johnson and found his voluntary assignment to play with the Blue Coats inspiring, but with Boban Marjanovic, Jonah Bolden, and even Justin Patton all locked in for the remainder of the season, retaining a road worn 31-year-old seems unnecessarily nostalgic.

While Johnson has contributed solid minutes as recently as this month, when he started four games in place of both Embiid and Marjanovic, he’s a luxury on a team with dire needs elsewhere.

But who could fill the Sixers 15th roster spot better than Johnson?

Well, the team could opt for a recently released point guard as a stop-gap like Cameron Payne, or Isaiah Briscoe. Or they could also opt to target a G-League player like their own Keenan Evans, Matt Farley, or Rashad Vaughn. But really, there’s only one player whom Elton Brand should consider releasing Johnson to retain, and he’s already a member of the team: Shake Milton.

Yes, you read that right.

For those unaware of how the current system works, two-way contracts, like the one Milton is presently on, are only valid for the regular season, no exceptions. That means that if the team wants to keep the surging SMU alum around for a postseason run, and after watching him play against Orlando why wouldn’t you, a player has to go to open up the spot.

That’s worth sacrificing a fourth-string center.

While Johnson has been an invaluable team player over the last almost two seasons, it’s clear he’s not longer the player he once was. No matter what Elton Brand decides to do, there will be risks associated. Could Embiid and Marjanovic miss time yet again and the team kick themselves for moving on from Johnson too soon? Totally, but after watching the team drop a should-have-been win to the Orlando Magic because of an illness, it’s clear the Philadelphia 76ers would be better served with Shake Milton on the bench than Amir Johnson when the playoffs come around.

Next. Terrance Ross should have been included in the Fultz trade. dark

Keep your eyes on April 10th, as it’s the last day a two-way contract can be converted and still be eligible for the playoffs; either Shake Milton will have a new deal, or he’ll be a free agent. To me, the choice is clear.