I remember last year, the Sixers' Summer League squad was so pathetic that their final game, for the honors of finishing ninth out of ten ten teams in the final Orlando standings, wasn't even televised. Not on NBA TV, not on CSN, not even illegally on the internet that I could find. Michael Carter-Williams' fifth game as a Sixer was followable only by box score, and for the 20 or so of us who actually cared, it was a huge bummer.
How far we've come. Today's final game of Sixers Summer League was indeed televised--though it was hijacked by the news of some balding free agent deciding to switch teams--as the Sixers played for the championship, and captured it by defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 91-75. What's more, they did it without the team's two most-hyped prospects, Nerlens Noel (resting) and K.J. McDaniels (sprained ankle), against a fully-loaded Grizz squad.
Even sans Nerlens and K.J., the Sixers won this one the way they've been winning all week: With defense, rebounding, and a whole lotta dunks. If this is the last we see of Ronald Roberts Jr. and JaKarr Sampson, they certainly left their mark with their performances in this one, combining for 25 points, 15 rebounds, and just an insane number of highlight plays at the basket. Hollis Thompson had his best game of the summer (21 points, six boards, three assists and steals), looking poised to make a real leap in his sophomore season, and Jerami Grant continued to do good things, scoring eight with a pair of blocks and overall solid D.
This one was mostly about the backcourt, though. After struggling with his supposedly legendary long-range shot for most of the week, Oakland shooting guard Travis Bader finally got going a little in this one, with four triples in nine attempts. And Casper Ware, undoubtedly the Sixers' MVP this week, played all but four minutes as the team's lone point guard, ending with 19 points and seven assists, with just three turnovers--not a bad number, considering the Friendly Summer Leaguer's extremely loose-handled ways earlier in the week.
Outside of Noel, McDaniels and Thompson, who should be fixtures on the Sixers for years to come, it's hard to tell who's made a real case for roster inclusion this week. Grant had an up-and-down week, but probably showed enough to get another look in the pre-season, given his pedigree and draft slot. RRJ will be playing for the Heat in Las Vegas and will undoubtedly get a look from someone in training camp, though it may or may not be Philly. Sampson will get attention as well. And you have to imagine the Sixers liked most of what they saw from Ware, and that if they've held onto him for this long, they'll likely hold onto him through at least the preseason this fall.
But before all that, we've got another week of Summer League to go. The Sixers tip off tomorrow night at 10:30 against the Utah Jazz in their Las Vegas debut, featuring an entirely new roster including returning Sixers Brandon Davies and Adonis Thomas, local college products like UD's Devon Sadler and LaSalle's Tyreek Durden and NCAA stars like Florida's Scottie Wilbekin and Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick--along with the return of Nerlens, K.J. and Jerami. Plus we get our first glimpse on what we missed out on by passing on eventual Utah point guard Dante Exum!
The Philadelphia 76ers, your Orlando Summer League champions. Can you believe it? Best summer ever.