Fri. Jun 5th, 2020

Major takeaways on Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok and the Blue Coats – NBC Sports Philadelphia

Major takeaways on Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok and the Blue Coats  NBC Sports Philadelphia

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews, the NBA G League season is expected to be canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

If that’s the case, the Sixers’ G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, will finish with a 22-21 record — the franchise’s best since the 2016-17 season.

Since the G League is largely about player development, though, let’s highlight four notable players who spent time with the Blue Coats and see how they fared this year: 

Marial Shayok 

Shayok, who posted 23.0 points per game (third in the G League), can score at all three levels. Though not an exceptional athlete, he has a good sense of pace and angles. The 24-year-old seems to enjoy having the ball in important moments, too.

He only played two games with the Sixers as a rookie on a two-way deal, sinking a three in Milwaukee on Feb. 6 for his first NBA points. 

Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson focused on Shayok’s defense in the G League, asking him to pressure the ball and consistently fight over screens. He also used Shayok often as a primary ball handler and looked to develop him as a distributor.

“If someone closes out on him, he can’t shoot it, but can he find somebody else? Making that next play is a big point of emphasis for him, and I think that will be what continues to drive his progression,” Johnson said in January. 

Like another young player who put up eye-catching scoring numbers as a rookie with the Blue Coats, Shayok has a 7-foot wingspan. Shayok turning into a version of Shake Milton would obviously be an excellent outcome for the Sixers.

It appears he would be most likely to make an impact at this stage with his three-point shooting.

“I’ve always been a scorer and have developed my shot as years have gone by,” he said in July. “I really just simplified my game, knowing that teams need shooting.”

Zhaire Smith 

Smith spent a lot more time on the floor in his second professional season than his first, which was derailed by a severe allergic reaction that led to him being hospitalized and losing over 35 pounds. He played a similar amount in the NBA this year, though, appearing in seven Sixers games. 

“He’s expecting me to develop all around,” Smith said in the preseason of Brett Brown’s expectations. “Last year we tried to develop, but then obviously I had the setback. He feels like this is my rookie year, like this is [about] development.” 

Smith played in 28 games this season with the Blue Coats, averaging 13.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. After a 4-for-18 start from long range in the G League, he shot the three well, finishing with a 37.6 percent mark on 4.2 attempts per game. 

“I’m trying to hunt threes now, I’m not trying to go to the rim and dunk,” he said with a smile in January. “I’m being lazy now, trying to shoot the threes. Give me three-balls.”

He also looks to have improved his ball handling and finishing around the rim, though neither of those skills is a strength. A blend of firm on-ball defense, athleticism and spot-up shooting is likely what would earn Smith regular playing time with the Sixers moving forward. He was one of several Sixers who had a tough time with Trae Young on Jan. 30, when the Hawks guard finished with 39 points and 18 assists. Eventually, that’s the kind of matchup where the Sixers would probably like Smith to be able to hold his own in a couple of stints off the bench. 

The team picked up Smith’s third-year option in October, so the 20-year-old will be on the roster next season barring an offseason trade.

Norvel Pelle 

One of the Blue Coats’ biggest success stories, Pelle actually began his professional career with Delaware back in 2013, when the franchise was known as the 87ers. 

After a period of uncertainty because of the 45 days on his two-way deal running out and the Sixers’ desire to be flexible heading into the trade deadline, Pelle earned a full NBA deal. If he’s not waived by July 6, his contract will be guaranteed for next season.

There are certainly a good number of players with more talent than Pelle, but he legitimately might be the most fearless center in the NBA, never deterred by the possibility of a ferocious dunk in his face.

“Next play,” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia in December. “At the end of the day, I’m a shot blocker, so if I get dunked on, I get dunked on — that’s my mentality. Next play.” 

Christ Koumadje 

Koumadje led the G League in blocks this season, swatting four shots per game. He also averaged a double-double (11.3 points and 10.9 rebounds), a significant step up in production after he posted 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a senior at Florida State. 

The 7-foot-3 Koumadje has a “mean streak,” in Johnson’s words, and was not hesitant to trash talk or voice his disagreement with officials’ decisions. While the competitiveness can be a positive, Johnson said on Jan. 25 after Koumadje was ejected in a Blue Coats’ win over the South Bay Lakers that he’d prefer the big man to model himself after a steady personality like Amir Johnson and be less of a “wild card.” 

He was certainly a smart player to use an Exhibit 10 contract on, and it’s worth continuing to track his progress. 

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