Markelle Fultz highlights the Philadelphia 76ers' summer-league roster, but outside of the top overall draft pick, plenty of intrigue remains heading into the Utah Summer League.
Ben Simmons won’t play this summer even though he’s apparently fully healthy. There’s no benefit of playing Simmons for a handful of meaningless games.
The 76ers announced Melo Tremble, Isaiah Briscoe and James Blackmon Jr. immediately following the draft. In previous years, players who signed with Philly as undrafted free agents had a chance to make the active roster (a la T.J. McConnell).
But unless Tremble, Briscoe and Blackmon absolutely wow the 76ers staff, it’s unlikely they makes the nearly-filled regular-season roster. That doesn’t mean this summer won’t be important for the undrafted guys. Shawn Long excelled last summer. He then played for the Sixers' D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. Eventually, Long was called up and he had some impactful games, especially when Joel Embiid was announced done for the season. Long was then traded earlier this week to the Rockets for a future second-round pick and cash considerations.
The NBA summer leagues have grown in popularity over the years. Last season a Sixers-Lakers summer league played on ESPN on a Saturday night, and the atmosphere was electric. Current Brooklyn Nets guard De’Angelo Russell hit a game-winner for the Lakers.
Joining Fultz for the 76ers this summer will be Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jonah Bolden and Alex Poynthress. Poynthress ended the season with the 76ers, while Bolden was a 2017 second-round pick. Having Luwawu-Cabarrot in Utah and Las Vegas will help Fultz tremendously as established NBA players usually excel in summer league settings.
Last season Simmons and Luwawu-Cabarrot developed nice chemistry in Utah and Las Vegas. Luwawu-Cabarrot had played professionally before the 76ers drafted him. He knew exactly when to cut to the basket, finishing at different angles.
The summer league gauntlet can be tough, especially in situations where only rookies and undrafted rookies share the floor. Having a proven international player like Bolden and two NBA players like Luwawu-Cabarrot and Poynthress should take some pressure off of Fultz.
Fultz will be asked to do his fair share of scoring, so he needs to be ready. He missed a handful of games down the stretch of the Pac 12 season, so he could be rusty as the 76ers open against the Celtics, but Fultz will want to prove to the Celtics they made the wrong choice by trading him.
Last summer, before anybody had any idea Simmons would miss the season, the 76ers sat him at least twice. He experienced cramps in his very first summer league game, but Simmons flashed his passing potential immediately. It was disappointing learning Simmons won’t play, but the main focus for him has to be staying healthy for the regular season. The NBA summer league appears to grow increasingly important each year as every game is televised, sometimes on the ESPN family of networks.
The complete roster is as follows:
Brandon Austin, G, Orangeville A's; James Blackmon Jr, G, Indiana; Jonah Bolden F, FMP Beogard; Isaiah Broscoe, G, Kentucky; Larry Drew II, G, Sioux Falls Skyforce; Markelle Fultz, G, Washington; Aaron Harrison, G, Delaware 87ers; Charles Jackson, F, Tennessee Tech; Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, G/F, France; Isaiah Miles, F, St. Joe's; Alex Poythress, F, 76ers; Darryl Reynolds, F, Villanova; Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Arizona; Melo Trimble, G, Maryland.
Sixers in Utah schedule:
Monday, July 3: Boston Celtics, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, July 5: Utah Jazz, 9 p.m.
Thursday, July 6: San Antonio Spurs, 7 p.m.
Las Vegas Summer League (at least two additional games will be played as Las Vegas crowns a champion)
Saturday, July 8: Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 9: San Antonio Spurs, 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 11: Boston Celtics, 6:30 p.m.