With Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the sidelines, the Philadelphia 76ers pushed the Los Angeles Clippers to the brink at the Staples Center largely on the heels of one player: Shake Milton.
The 76ers ultimately lost 136-130 on Sunday afternoon, but Milton sent waves throughout the league with his breakout performance. The second-year guard put up a career-high 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting in 40 minutes on the court. Milton caught fire from deep early, tying an NBA-record with six straight three-pointers.
Less than a month ago, Milton was told by head coach Brett Brown he had no spot in the rotation. However, with injuries, specifically to Simmons at the guard position, Milton got his opportunity to shine and seized it.
This isn’t a Jeremy Lin story though, as Milton didn’t come out of nowhere prior to his breakout game. Milton had started 10 other games for Philadelphia over the course of the season, appearing in 27 games in total. Milton scored 27 points against the Atlanta Hawks on January 30th, and had posted 19.5 points per game in the 76ers’ last two games, connecting on 9-of-11 three-point attempts.
Milton had already been making the most of his playing time, but his 39-point performance against the Clippers put his name in the national spotlight for the first time.
Perhaps one of the first things you should know about Milton, who is listed as a guard, is his incredible stature. He stands at 6’5″, but boasts a 7’0″ wingspan. Think Kevin Durant in a guard’s body. His long arms help him create space and get to the rim.
Milton played his college ball at SMU, averaging 18.0 points, 4.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game on 45% field goal shooting as well as 43% three-point shooting. Milton was selected late in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks with the 54th overall selection. He was traded to the 76ers later that night for the rights to the 56th and 60th overall picks, who became Ray Spalding and Kostas Antetokounmpo.
After signing a rookie two-way contract, Milton began his professional basketball career with the Delaware Blue Coats. He appeared in 20 NBA games for the 76ers over the course of the 2018-19 season, averaging 4.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game with an average of 13.4 minutes on the court.
Milton bounced back and forth between the 76ers and their G-League affiliate again this season, being transferred back and forth three times from November to December.
Milton started to gain playing time in January, playing 23 minutes or more for the 76ers in five straight games. His 27 points, six assists and five rebounds against the Hawks to end the month should have grabbed our attention before this breakout game. Milton connected on 5-of-9 three-point attempts against the Hawks, but just four of his next 19 attempts over the 76ers following five games.
Philadelphia hosted the Clippers in their final game before All-Star break, and Milton logged a single minute on the court with no statistics.
“You’re not playing, you’re not in the rotation,” coach Brown told Milton at the All-Star Break, according to Bleacher Report. It would be a frustrating time for Milton, who had shown flashes of being good and even great when given the chance. However, with All-Star Ben Simmons, as well as Alec Burks and Josh Richardson ahead of him in the rotation, Brown was upfront with Milton about his intentions with the lineup.
Then, despite appearing in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, Simmons was ruled out for “at least two weeks” with a lower back injury.
Just as quickly as Milton’s playing time was closed off, the door to see the court had opened up again.
In the first game after the All-Star Break, Milton tallied five points in 14 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets. He saw his minutes and offensive production increase over the next four games. On the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milton saw himself on the court for 37 minutes, tallying 20 points, four rebounds and four assists.
In the penultimate game prior to Milton’s career day, the guard put up 19 points in 32 minutes against the New York Knicks, shooting lights out from the field, and a perfect five-of-five from three-point range.
On the NBA’s Sunday Showcase on ABC, in the national spotlight, Milton put on a performance that will have people talking for weeks about the sharp-shooting, long-armed guard.
Milton may not put up 39 points or seven three-pointers again this season, or even in his career. However, he showed he deserves to see the court as much as possible until further notice, as only positive things seem to happen when he touches the ball.
Simmons will likely return before the end of the regular season, but there’s absolutely no reason not to have Milton in the 76ers playoff rotation.
Is his name really “Shake?”
Shake Milton was born Malik Benjamin Milton, but has been called Shake his whole life. Per an NBC Sports Report, Milton’s father, Myron, had been nicknamed “Milk” growing up. This was due to his rapid growth as a child: He must have been drinking a lot of milk.
When Lisa, Milton’s mother, was pregnant, a friend had referred to the future baby as ‘little Shake’. The name has stuck to this day, and for perhaps the first time, his name is being broadcast everywhere after his incredible performance.
Is Milton a scoring machine?
The 39 points Milton scored against the Clippers were the most points he’s tallied at any level since high school, where he had a high of 52 points. Prior to this game, his NBA-high was the 27 points he put up against the Hawks.
In three seasons at SMU, Milton averaged 13.4 points per game, but improved each season, finishing with 18.0 points per game in his third and final season. At the collegiate level, Milton’s personal high was 33 points.
During his brief G-League career, Milton scored as many as 36 points for the Deleware Blue Coats.
With a deadly three-point shot and an athletic build at his disposal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Milton continue scoring at the NBA-level.