Shake Milton remembers watching Sixers summer-league practices last year with a stress fracture in his back, and telling himself that everything happens for a reason.
The 6-foot-6 combo guard from SMU missed most of the predraft process, slid to the No. 54 pick, and had to miss his first opportunity to prove himself on an NBA floor.
Moments like that made Tuesday special for Milton and his family, as the Sixers signed him to a four-year contract after a solid rookie season on a two-way deal.
“My whole family is excited. There’s a lot of emotions, just because we know what it took to get here,” Milton said after this year’s final summer-league practice Wednesday. "There were a lot of ups and downs, so I’m really grateful for it.”
Milton played 20 games last season while on the two-way contract, which permitted him to spend a total of 45 days with the Sixers and the rest of the time with the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G League affiliate.
He seemed to gain trust from coach Brett Brown, logging 20-plus minutes six times in 2019 despite missing time with a broken finger in February. He averaged 4.4 points, 0.9 assists and 13.4 minutes.
He averaged 24.9 points and 5.3 assists in 27 G League games.
“Thrilled about his progression from Day 1 with us,” Blue Coats coach Connor Johnson said. “Coming in here and kind of figuring it out at an NBA level, having a lot of success in the G League. ... He’s a gifted player in a lot of ways. He’s got great touch around the rim, and he’s got a great feel for the game.”
Milton has the opportunity to earn backup point-guard minutes behind Ben Simmons.
He played both guard spots for the Blue Coats last season, and primarily played next to a lead ballhandler such as Simmons, T.J. McConnell, or Jimmy Butler with the Sixers. But he’ll be taking on lead-guard duties on the summer team.
He said he’s not sure which position the Sixers see him playing more, but the team doesn’t have a point guard to back up Simmons, with McConnell leaving for the Pacers and Butler enjoying the Miami weather.
Milton could fill the current void with a solid summer-league showing.
“I haven’t seen a player so excited to play summer league,” Sixers general manager Elton Brand said last week.
Johnson and Milton both noted that he has assumed a leadership position with the summer squad. He’s one of the few players on the team who has played NBA minutes, and he’s the only one who has done so with some consistency.