Sixers summer league

3 observations after Ricky Council IV catches fire, Sixers win summer opener 

Council dropped 29 points in a 102-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Ricky Council IV flipped a switch and shot the Sixers to an entertaining win Monday night in their first summer league game of 2024.

Council recorded 29 points and eight rebounds to lead the Sixers to a 102-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Salt Lake City, Utah.

No. 16 overall selection Jared McCain and Jeff Dowtin Jr. tallied 15 points each.

Game 2 of the Sixers’ summer is scheduled for Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET vs. the Grizzlies. Here are observations on their win against OKC:

Bona brings it from the jump

Second-round draft pick Adem Bona was the first player to stand out.

The Sixers started with a crisply executed called play, running a double drag action and then flowing into a Bona-Council dribble handoff. Bona narrowly missed the subsequent slam attempt off Council’s lob, but that didn’t discourage him whatsoever. The UCLA product rolled hard and threw down a fearless dunk on the Sixers’ next trip.

He displayed his promise as a roller and powerful finisher again in the second quarter. Bona leaped high for a tricky, contested catch and then converted an and-one alley-oop courtesy of McCain.

He didn’t do much else of note on offense, which is fine. Bona’s currently a limited, keep-it-simple player offensively. And if part of that basic package is good screening, strong rolling, and the occasional highlight-reel hoop inside, the Sixers will be happy.

Defensively, Bona mostly hung around the paint as the back line of the Sixers’ zone. The team amped up its intensity on defense late in the first quarter. Rookie guard Judah Mintz was active at the top of the zone, R.J. Hampton intercepted a sideline out-of-bounds pass, and Bona shouted in celebration after sliding his feet well to cut off Keyontae Johnson’s baseline drive and force a turnover.

He played 24 energetic minutes and posted seven points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

McCain crafty, effective inside the arc

The Sixers missed their first seven long-range shots, coming up empty across the board until a David Jones three-pointer in the middle of the second quarter. Backup center Keve Aluma promptly sunk another triple on the Sixers’ next possession. Aluma (12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, eight rebounds) shined during the second period, doing a bit of everything. 

McCain had an off night from long distance, going 0 for 6 on his three-point attempts. However, he was sharp and productive from two.

The 20-year-old scored on a couple of driving layups in the first quarter. He attacked through contact and looked comfortable with a variety of finishes in traffic.

McCain had a savvy, self-assured play early in the third quarter when he directed Bona to tweak the angle of his ball screen and then nailed a pull-up jumper. Later, he tried to bait a defender into fouling him on a three ... unsuccessfully. Still, McCain clearly possesses a polished game for his age and it wouldn't be surprising if some of his tools — darting and drifting into open spaces, for instance — pop alongside NBA talent.

He impressed in transition Monday, playing with his head up, shifting pace, and creating relatively easy points before the defense was set. 

Night and day compared to rookie Council

Council showed off his considerable, ever-increasing muscle on an and-one bucket at the start of the second quarter.

He's skilled at both drawing fouls (6 for 7 at the free-throw line vs. the Thunder) and converting very off-balance layups that would be hopeless flings for most other players.

This performance was primarily about his jumper, though. As Council noted himself in May, that wasn't the case in any of his summer league outings as a rookie.

“(Myself) and (player development associate coach Toure’ Murry) put in a lot of work, and it really comes with confidence,” Council said at his exit interview. “At this point, I’m shooting the ball amazing. I surprise myself at times.

“Think about the growth. I still remember I went 1 for 17 in summer league, to the point where I didn’t want to shoot. My teammates begged me to shoot catch-and-shoot shots and I wouldn’t take them. And now I could literally take them with one eye open. ... It started in summer league.” 

In his second summer league campaign, Council opened 0 for 4 from three-point range. He continued to fire away and went on to torch the Thunder in the fourth quarter, drilling five in a row.

Council likely won't win game after game with his jumper, but he's made fantastic progress for an undrafted player who faced valid questions when he became a professional about whether he could turn into an adequate shooter.

Contact Us