Mikal Bridges SF, Villanova (Jr.)
There has probably never been a player leaving college who fits the mold of ‘3 and D’ wing better than Bridges, and there probably isn’t another player whose collegiate tape translates closer to what he’ll be asked to do in the NBA than Bridges. Those probably sound like exaggerations, and that’s probably an easy conclusion to draw considering Villanova is the hometown team, but, all bias aside he has the potential to be an exceptional two-way ‘3 and D’ wing for a long time.
The numbers speak for themselves. Any reasons to believe his sophomore shooting percentage was an aberration were completely washed away by 43% on 6 attempts per game last season. Most of Bridges looks came as a spot-up shooter and often in the corner. Think of all the stationary three-point shots that Covington, TLC, Anderson, and Bayless took and missed. It’s not exactly a secret that the team needs to add shooters on the wing. Bridges has the potential to immediately come in and demand more respect than any of those bums.
On the other end of the floor Bridges will without a doubt make an impact right away. He’s a tenacious defender who took the other teams’ best player out of the game regardless of their skillset. He proved that he can defend the 1 through 4-spots equally as well as he has the size and physicality to body bigger forwards while possessing the quickness to keep the nation’s top point guards in front of him. Take into account his seven-foot wingspan and it’s understandable while scouts are giddy about his potential as a defensive stopper.
If you’re someone who wants to replace Covington but is worried about losing his perimeter defense then Bridges is probably the lone option in the draft who can quell those concerns. Not to mention all signs point to him becoming a knock down spot up shooter. While he may not have as high of a ceiling as your typical lottery pick, he’s one of the safest ‘3 and D’ prospects ever to enter the draft.
Miles Bridges SF/PF, Michigan St. (So.)
I’m not as big of a fan of Miles Bridges as most but he deserves mentioning and will undoubtedly be mocked to the Sixers quite a bit.
His talent is undeniable but his fit into a modern NBA offense or defense is debatable. While some think he can play both forward spots he doesn’t have the quickness to guard the league’s elite players on the wings and at 6’6” (6’8” wingspan) he’s actually undersized for both positions. His leaping ability is impressive but the rest of his physical profile isn’t enough to compensate for the fact that he’s more of a “tweener” than he is “versatile”. Additionally, if he’s unable to develop into a more efficient three-point shooter (36%) then we could run into the same situation we’re in with Covington. Bridges is an extremely talented scorer but if he doesn’t demand respect from 25 feet then NBA defenders will have no problem forcing him into low percentage shots.
On the flip side, if he does develop into the type shooter that many scouts think he can then he has the potential to be an all-star in this league. His ceiling is very high for a player projected at the end of the lottery, it just depends on how well his game translates to the league. If the Sixers are forced to choose between the two Bridges it will come down to potential vs making the safer pick.
Kevin Knox F, Kentucky (Fr.)
I like Knox a lot but I anticipate that his unique skillset will leave most observers debating how he best fits in an NBA offense. Neither his numbers nor his tape do him justice, and a lot of that can be traced back to Calipari’s chronic inability to use his freshman properly.
While he was athletic enough to be a wing-scorer at Kentucky, he’ll be better served as a playmaking-four in the NBA where he can take advantage of slower forwards. He has solid size and will continue to fill out as he ages, which should only improve his above average rebounding ability. His 34% from three is probably concerning to some but that doesn’t account for the difficulty of his looks, as the ineptitude of Kentucky’s offense allowed opposing defenses to key-in on Knox. As his mechanics become more consistent, he should develop into a reliable shooter from beyond the arc.
On defense Knox will have the versatility to switch onto bigger or smaller players but the question is how good can he become? He has a lot of the tools required to develop into an above average defender, but that didn’t show up in college and he’ll need to work at that end of the floor at the next level.
Knox is the youngest player on this list and is loaded with potential because of his diverse skillset. His best opportunity to succeed will be as a skilled stretch-4 in the mold of more fluid Paul Millsap; the difference between he and Millsap is that he’s a score-first type of player. There isn’t much precedent in the NBA for a talent as unique as Knox.
Khyri Thomas SG, Creighton (Jr.)
Thomas is another player who fits the ‘3 and D’ mold, as he garnered back-to-back Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards while shooting 41% from beyond the arc. Like Mikal Bridges, Thomas also averaged over 1.5 steals in both his sophomore and junior seasons—further evidence of his on-ball prowess. He’s not as tall as Bridges but he is as long — 7′ wingspan. He may not be able to defend up and down the lineup as much as most elite defenders, but he has the potential to be a premier guard stopper for years to come—something this team desperately needs.
Thomas shot 41.8%, 39.3%, & 41.1% from three in his time at Creighton. He has a feathery touch and the ability to put the ball on the floor if your run him off the line. He may be pigeon-holed to shooting guard but he has the potential to become a top five two-way player at the position. And despite him being just 6’3” he’s not afraid to get involved on the glass.
Best case scenario: Thomas is a knock down three point shooter who routinely harasses the opposing teams point guard on a nightly basis—sign me up.
Wendell Carter Jr. C, Duke (Fr.)
While center may not be a popular pick considering Embiid has the position on lock, the team still needs to find a formidable backup. Amir Johnson, Richaun Holmes, and Ersan Ilyasova all saw sporadic success but the Sixers need more stability in the long term.
I think the player who fills this role needs to have enough size to hang down low, as all three of the players I mentioned had problems against more size. Beyond that, considering Simmons and McConnell lack of shooting it would be ideal if this player could stretch the floor to the three-point line. This is where Carter fits. At 6’10’’ 260 nobody ever accused him of getting pushed around, and while the sample size isn’t huge, the 41% on 1.2 attempts from three and 74% at the free throw line is clear evidence of his potential as a shooter. However, stopping there does a disservice to Carters skillset, as he’s polished in the low post and an exceptional passer for a player his size.
When Embiid came off the court the team not only suffered in defending the rim but they’re spacing suffered as well—Carter could potentially reverse those trends. His potential is much higher than the other players on this list, and there’s a chance he’ll be gone well before the 10th pick because of it.