Young Sixers have defense in common

Posted: July 16, 2014

LAS VEGAS - There appears to be a common thread among recent 76ers draft picks, and it isn't that they won't be on the court anytime soon.

It's Nerlens Noel from last season; it's K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant and Jordan McRae this year. They are all long, athletic players who specialize on the defensive side of the court.

The thinking appears to be this: The Sixers will play an uptempo style of offense, looking to get out and run the floor as much possible. Having other teams score as easily as they did last season certainly isn't beneficial for that offensive style, so it appears defense has been a priority.

"The guys up to this point have been more positional defenders," said Sixers Las Vegas Summer League coach Chad Iske, who practiced with a group in Vegas for 5 days while another contingent played in the Orlando Summer League. "We love that versatility, obviously, with us wanting to play a fast-pace game in Philadelphia. Having the ability to get in passing lanes and block shots is definitely something that plays into what we want to do on the other side of the ball.

"I think for Jerami it's a big learning curve for him, getting used to everything that we're doing in the NBA, and he's bouncing back and forth between the 'three' and the 'four' [positions] a little bit. We're trying to figure out where he's going to end up. I know talking to the guys down in Orlando, they thought that he got better every game and he was picking stuff up better each game and saw rapid progress, so I'm looking to see the same thing here.

"Jordan has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and that's been my message all week. I've told him all week that I think for him, the way to stick is to show that he can be a special defender, using that length as a shot-blocker and a guy that can get in passing lanes and get steals and create turnovers. Then he'll be able to show his offensive game after that."

Obviously, there hasn't been a large body of work with which to judge these players, and it is against summer-league talent. But athleticism is pretty easy to spot, and so is having a knowledge of and desire to play defense. Still, many are comparing McDaniels' game to that of former Sixer Andre Iguodala.

"Yeah, I have heard that talk," McDaniels said. "People have talked to me about Andre Iguodala a lot. That's a great player to be compared to. I was watching him when he came up with the Sixers. Hopefully I can bring that type of juice to the team."

Game stuff

If you wanted to bill the Sixers-Cleveland game last night as Nerlens Noel against Andrew Wiggins, it was a victory for the Sixers. However, other players were on the court and the Cavs gained a 86-77 win.

Noel, playing for the first time in Las Vegas since participating in three games in Orlando last week, scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots in nearly 30 minutes.

"He's active, he's all over the place and sometimes he's trying to do too much." Iske said. "The hard part is do you want to settle him down or do you want him to just play with that aggressiveness? I think we just have to continue to go out there and find a happy balance with him being within our rules and him being himself."

Wiggins occasionally showed flashes of what might be and ended the night with 10 points, as K.J. McDaniels did a fine job against him defensively.

Jordan McRae scored 18 points to lead the Sixers, who dropped to 1-1 in Sin City. Brandon Davies added 10.

Summer league notes

Saint Joseph's Langston Galloway scored all of his 17 points for the New York Knicks in the first half yesterday. In those first 20 minutes (10-minute quarters), he made all but one of his eight shots . . . Later this month, longtime NBA official Joe Crawford will receive the prestigious Golden Whistle Award, given by the National Association of Sports Officials. The Newtown Square native becomes only the third NBA ref to get the award in the 27 times it's been given out . . . Justin Holiday, a former Sixer and brother of Jrue Holiday, was the leading scorer (15.5 point average) for the Golden State Warriors after two games . . . Few get as much of a reaction from fans as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. One of Cuban's players, 5-7 guard Yuki Togashi, from Japan, got yesterday's biggest ovation.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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