Philadelphia 76ers: Please get well soon, Shake Milton

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

When Shake Milton left the Philadelphia 76ers‘ eventual win over the Sacramento Kings with an ankle injury, it didn’t seem too serious.

Sure, losing any player – especially the team’s third-year shooting guard sixth man – isn’t a good thing, but the Sixers were able to shut down De’Aaron Fox and company with some pretty darn incredible defensive play from Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, so no biggie, right? Surely the best team in the East would be able to weather a few games without their best player, even if they had a tough slate of games against some of the best squads the West had to offer, right?

Yeah, not so much.

As it turns out, when you’re a team who gets 75 percent of their points from your starting five, losing a 14 point per game bench scorer can be the difference between 114.5 points scored per game versus 111.6 points surrendered, and 100.5 ppg versus the same points surrendered.

Get well soon, Shake Milton.

The Philadelphia 76ers’ bench scoring is a one-man show.

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Over the last three games without Milton, the Philadelphia 76ers have been incredibly uneven.

While Mike Scott’s return is a welcomed one, as the Sixers haven’t had a reliable reserve power forward since all the way back in December – save three games in mid-January – the team’s reserve unit has been incredibly underwhelming – oftentimes squelching successful performances by the starting five.

There will be a game where Joel Embiid drops 35, like he did against the Blazers, and the bench drops 19 combined. Then you’ll have a game where the entire starting five puts scores in double-digits, capped off by another 35 point contest by Embiid, only to ultimately lose the game because the Suns’ bench out-scored Philly’s 49-20.

Heck, even in a game where Simmons and Tobias Harris turn in their best individual statistical performances of the season in an unusual contest against the Jazz sans Embiid, the team snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory with another brutal bench performances where one Utah player, Jordan Clarkson, outscored Doc Rivers’ reserves by himself 40-25.

That, my friends, is unsustainable.

Is Milton the lone difference between the Sixers’ success and the team turning into a rutter-less ship? No, but he’s unquestionably one of the team’s top-5 players, and when, by only slight fault of his own, Daryl Morey has thrown together a contender on the fly that’s incredibly top-loaded, losing any of the team’s prominent players is a one-way ticket to struggles.

When 10.6 points is the difference between the eighth-best offense in the NBA and the 30th overall offense in the NBA, having a short bench bereft of auxiliary scorers who can replace Milton’s 14 points, even by a committee, is a major red flag.

Could Tyrese Maxey one day become a sixth man sparkplug coming off the bench? Potentially so. While he’s certainly hit the rookie wall over the last month, I still have confidence that the young Kentucky prospect could one day become a top-6 player on a championship-caliber team.

Then again, if Morey can find a package that makes the team considerably better right now at the expense of Maxey, there’s a pretty compelling argument that chasing a chip now with Embiid and Simmons playing their best basketball is worth the risk.

Is Maxey the next De’Aaron Fox? Or is he the next Patrick Beverley? What about Victor Oladipo? That’s a pretty big difference and probably a story for another day.

No, as sad as it may be to say, the Sixers really aren’t a complete team, not right now at least. They desperately need 3 point shooting and could use another on-ball scorer who can create his own shot.

And what about Matisse Thybulle? While I’m also incredibly high on his potential as a show-stopping defensive stopper, his seeming unwillingness to shoot the ball from beyond the arc limits his ceiling considerably, especially when you have another non-shooter like Simmons in the rotation.

Will Milton’s return help alleviate that need ever so slightly? Sure, but the problem will remain.

In games where Embiid is unable to go, or Danny Green scores three points or Milton is out, fans will once again scratch their heads wondering why the Sixers are so inconsistent when in actuality, their struggles are woefully predictable. When you only have six players who can score with any real regularity, losing one is borderline catastrophic.

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So get well soon, Shake Milton, because it’s clear the Philadelphia 76ers just aren’t built to win without you.