Sixers observations: Isaiah Joe makes game-winning three-pointer in summer league

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3 observations after Joe sinks game-winning three-ball for summer Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers aren't going home to Philadelphia happy, but they'll head to their second summer league on a high note.

Isaiah Joe's three-pointer with 24.1 seconds left gave the team a 80-79 win Thursday night over the Thunder in Salt Lake City. Tre Mann misfired on Oklahoma City's final possession.

Joe posted 19 points (4 for 6 from three-point range), four rebounds and four steals as the Sixers finished 2-1 in Utah.

Paul Reed recorded 14 points and seven rebounds. Jaden Springer had 11 points (3-for-13 shooting), six rebounds and three assists.

The Sixers’ first game of the Las Vegas summer league is Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET against the Raptors. Here are observations on their win over the Thunder:

No Holmgren vs. Reed duel 

The Sixers will have to wait for the Chet Holmgren experience.

Oklahoma City rested Holmgren, the 7-foot, 195-pound shot blocker picked second in this year’s draft. He was fantastic in his summer league debut and it would’ve been fascinating to watch the 20-year-old face Reed. Charles Bassey and Charlie Brown Jr. (reconditioning) sat for the Sixers. 

Michael Foster Jr. started and blocked three shots in the first half. Still, it’s clear Foster’s balance and sense of positioning are not comparable to an NBA veteran’s.

On one play Thursday, the 19-year-old appeared to have contained No. 12 overall pick Jalen Williams on a switch, but Williams then shifted pace, caught Foster flat-footed, and drew a shooting foul.

It will be interesting to see where Foster begins this season. The Sixers’ two-way contract spots are currently occupied with Brown and Julian Champagnie, though president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has not previously viewed those slots as set in stone. If he doesn’t receive two-way offers, Foster would be a good candidate for an Exhibit 10 contract that would incentivize him to play for the Delaware Blue Coats.

Springer aggressive early, still struggling with shot

After falling behind 6-0, the Sixers responded with a 19-2 run capped by a catch-and-shoot Reed three-pointer. His celebration looked similar to new teammate Danuel House Jr.’s.

Springer scored nine of the points in that run. He’s significantly stronger than the average 6-foot-3 player and likes shielding off defenders with his body. The aggressive, effective spurt from Springer was positive, even thought it’s fair to assume regular-season NBA defenses would provide greater resistance.

While not every Oklahoma City defender took the same approach, Josh Giddey gave Springer a noticeable cushion on a few plays. In the G League regular season last year, Springer shot 24.1 percent from three-point range. He’s 0 for 6 thus far in summer league. Asking Springer to fire long-range jumpers is a sound decision at the moment.

Another broad area where improvement will matter for Springer is reading the game’s rhythm. Defensively, game reps should help plenty with nuances like taking more efficient angles and understanding how to navigate pick-and-rolls. Offensively, Springer’s current limitations will make things trickier. He’s best when he uses his body and takes his time, but that’s not a style many modern-day NBA players can rely upon.

None of the above is meant to characterize Springer as hopelessly behind the eight ball as a prospect. He’s only 19 years old and far along as a defender. The keys for now seem to be improving his jumper, which may very well require substantial change, and learning through game reps.

Joe's jumper a cut above

Trevelin Queen was in a difficult position Thursday night as a 6-foot-6 wing playing point guard in summer league on the second night of a back-to-back.

He missed all six of his field goals and committed five turnovers. Those stats are perhaps a bit unkind to Queen, though. The G League MVP made an impressive defensive play in the first quarter, anticipating a Giddey spin move and ripping the ball away. And he demonstrated some passing skill, too, dishing a high-speed dime to Champagnie for a layup and hitting Tyler Bey with a nice bounce pass off of a pick-and-roll.

Like Queen, Joe handled the ball more than he would in a typical NBA game. That's a helpful secondary tool, but Joe is ultimately a shooter through and through. In summer league, where wonky form and wayward jumpers are prevalent, his shot looks especially pure.

If he earns minutes with the Sixers in Year 3, he'll do it with his jumper (and ability to get it off).