SALT LAKE CITY – “Know thyself” is how the expression goes, and in respect to the present state of his basketball skill set, Isaiah Miles appears to have a spot on sense of where he is.
Asked during the 76ers’ summer league minicamp last week to list his strengths, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward mentioned an elite shooting touch for a player of his build, and the ability to offer a versatile defensive presence.
In two outings in the Utah Jazz Summer League, Miles’ self-assessment manifested itself in difference-making form, particularly in Thursday’s 94-86 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, the Sixers’ lone win in Salt Lake City.
Despite not playing in the previous night’s game against the host Jazz as a coach’s decision, the recently-turned 23-year old came off the bench Thursday with purpose, assuming a central, energizing role in helping the Sixers wipe out an 11-point deficit. In 21 minutes, Miles notched a team-high 18 points, to go along with seven rebounds and a steal.
Afterwards, he said his mindset was to be ready, and aggressive.
“You never know when your number or name’s going to be called,” said Miles, who played at Saint Joseph’s University from 2012 through 2016. “You got to take every opportunity full force, so I took the opportunity, and played hard and aggressive.”
Particularly down the stretch.
When Thursday’s outcome hung in the balance, Miles was one of a handful of reserves who stepped up. His critical dive to the cup at the 4 minute, 45 second mark of the fourth period yielded a go-ahead And-1 lay-up. The Sixers wouldn’t relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
“I thought that cut probably determined how the game was going to end up,” said Billy Lange, the fifth-year Sixers’ assistant who coached the group in Utah. “It really gave us some good momentum, and gave our guys a lot of confidence.”
Minutes later, Miles delivered again. With San Antonio still nipping at the Sixers’ heels, the Baltimore native muscled his way inside to successfully stick back a pivotal offensive rebound. The basket provided welcomed insurance, and further embodied the spirit that Miles has, to-date, brought to the court.
Defensively, not only has Miles been doing work inside, he’s also displayed a knack for switching out to the perimeter.
“He’s a fighter,” Lange said. “What I mean by fight, he’s not going to look at the score and let that dictate his attitude. He goes in, plays with a strong pace about him, attacking the offensive glass. He’s a confident shooter, he’s got a high motor on the offensive end. He’s been a real pleasure to coach.”
While two of Miles’ most important field goals in Thursday’s game versus the Spurs were manufactured on the interior, he showed some nice range, too, hitting a pair of jumpshots from outside 20 feet.
Miles’ stroke was also a factor in Monday’s one-point setback to the Boston Celtics. He connected on four attempts taken from 21 feet out or farther, including two 3-pointers.
In all, Miles sounded content Thursday, as he reflected on how the first leg of the Sixers’ summer league slate had gone for him.
“Better than last summer, that’s for sure,” said Miles, who, after capping his SJU career with the Atlantic-10’s Most Improved Player award, was a member of the Dallas Mavericks’ 2016 summer league squad. “I feel great out there, more confident.”
Given how Miles performed in his first campaign as a pro, he probably should. In 34 outings last season for Dijon Basket, which belongs to the top league in France, he accounted for 12.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Furthermore, Miles connected on 59 3-pointers, while shooting a sterling 46.8 percent from beyond the arc.
“This year, I want to make a name for myself, wanting to prove myself,” Miles said. “Just having that thought going into each game, it helps a lot in my aggressiveness.”
In turn, Miles’ efforts – true to his expected form – have so far been to the Sixers’ benefit.