The NBA Draft is quietly approaching (three days away) and hopefully this is the last time the Sixers pick in the lottery for a long time—hopefully.
There will be a slew of options for the team to add with the 10th pick, and the intrigue has intensified with reports of the team being seriously interested in trading up within the top-5.
It’s fun to speculate which player they may be targeting with such a pick, but the most likely scenario is that the front office will use that asset in a trade for Kawhi Leonard. While Fultz, Saric, Covington, and #10 overall are fine pieces that would draw the Spurs interest, a pick within the top-5 of a draft this loaded would far and away be the most valuable chip that any of the potential trade destinations has to offer.
Beyond that, it’s hard to imagine the team is willing to sacrifice the multiple assets it would require to move within the top-5 just to add another 19 or 20 year old. I love some of the prospects at the top of the draft board, but I just can’t envision a scenario where the front office gives up multiple assets for an unknown commodity.
The far more likely scenario is that the team sticks at #10, and if that’s the case there are plenty of prospects who can fit into the team’s long-term plan while being able to contribute immediately.
Without further ado, here’s the Full Scale Philly NBA Draft Big Board:
*This list only includes players who will potentially be available at 10 overall.
*My assumption is that Luka Doncic, Mo Bamba, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr., & Trae Young will all be drafted by the time the Sixers are on the clock.
1. Mikal Bridges SF, Villanova
26.8 PER .623 EFG% 17.7 PPG 1.9 APG 5.3 RPG
There has probably never been a player leaving college who fits the mold of ‘3 and D’ wing better than Bridges. On top of that, 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 why 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.
2. Wendell Carter Jr. PF/C, Duke
28.2 PER .591 EFG% 13.5 PPG 2.0 APG 9.1 RPG
Carter may not be a popular choice because he doesn’t have a clear fit with the Sixers, but it’s very possible that he’ll fall to the back end of the lottery. If that’s the case, the team shouldn’t overlook drafting the Duke prospect as he’ll easily be the best (& safest) prospect on the board.
He’s capable of playing both the 4 and the 5 in the NBA, and that versatility shouldn’t be taken for granted.
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 an exceptional passer for a player his size.
He’s little known by most casual basketball fans because he played in the shadow of Marvin Bagley at Duke, but he is oft-compared to Al Horford for his versatility, high IQ, and innate ability to make the right play.
I firmly believe that if he hadn’t been forced to take a back seat to guys like Bagley and Grayson Allen, that Carter would be in the conversation for a top-5 pick and a lock to be drafted well before the Sixers are on the clock.
As far as fit goes, he would immediately be a better backup center to Embiid—way better than Amir, Holmes, and Illyasova; who all saw sporadic success in the role but are far from ideal. 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.
However, anyone who’s seen his game knows that he has more to offer than backing up Embiid. What should really excite people is his potential fit at power forward next to Embiid.
I mentioned his shooting touch earlier, and he’s more than athletic enough to occasionally put the ball on the deck and make plays attacking the rim. On the flip side, if Embiid wants to hang around the top of the key (which, inexplicably seems to be his favorite spot on the floor) then Carter can go to work on the low block. Any team wanting to go small at the 4 would be punished by the 260-lb Carter, whose post game is underrated and extremely polished for a 19-year old.
Make no mistake about it, if Carter is available at #10 it would be a steal. The glut of big men at the top of the draft has pushed him down draft boards, and if he’s available the Sixers shouldn’t let need get in the way of taking the best player available.
3. Khyri Thomas SG, Creighton
21.8 PER .629 EFG% 15.1 PPG 2.8 APG 4.4 RPG
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.
4. Miles Bridges SF/PF, Michigan St.
23.1 PER .563 EFG% 17.1 PPG 2.7 APG 7.0 RPG
I’m not as big of a fan of Miles Bridges as most but he deserves mentioning and has unsurprisingly been 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.
5. Kevin Knox SF/PF, Kentucky
17.0 PER .510 EFG% 15.6 PPG 1.4 APG 5.4 RPG
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 and 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.
He reportedly dominated in a workout for the Sixers, where he filled up the basket in just about every way imaginable. He can score in the post, on the wing, with the ball in his hands, or as a slasher off the ball. It’ll be hard to peg his exact fit with the Sixers until he actually suits up for the team, but if they end up taking the Kentucky product nobody should be disappointed.
6. Collin Sexton PG/SG, Alabama
23.5 PER .498 EFG% 19.2 PPG 3.6 APG 3.8 RPG
I left Shai Gilgeous-Alexander off this list for obvious reasons: he’s a ball dominant point guard with an unreliable jumper—which is the last thing the Sixers need right now.
Following the same “Sixers don’t need a point guard” logic, there have been a lot of fans and pundits who have dismissed the possibility of the team adding Collin Sexton. But, unlike Gilgeous-Alexander, there’s reason to believe Sexton could co-exist next to Ben Simmons in a similar way that Fultz was, and still is expected to.
Sexton may have been a point guard in college, but his premier attribute isn’t an ability to create for others or set up an offense, it’s his ability to put the ball in the basket—whether that be at the rim, from mid-range, or from downtown.
He averaged a staggering 19.2 points per game at Alabama and well over 20 points per game in the SEC tournament. He shot 45% from the field on 13.3 shots and 34% from three.
Think of him in less of a mold of a traditional point guard and more in the mold a player like Jamal Crawford, who spent his career as a more ball-dominant shooting guard, and microwave scorer off the bench. Much like Crawford, Sexton can score in bunches.
I also don’t expect his value to take a dip playing off the ball. In fact, I think being in an offense where he’s not the primary ball handler will help him become more efficient offensively. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be a knockdown spot up shooter, who, when driven off the line by closeouts, will be lethal attacking the basket.
At just 6’2’’ there are concerns over his defensive ability. But considering Ben Simmons has unexpectedly blossomed into one of the best young defenders in the league, it’s no longer a necessity for our shooting guard to be able to lock down opposing point guards.
Given Sexton’s elite speed, he will have no trouble chasing around two-guards and maneuvering around screens.
At the very least, Sexton could fill an immediate sixth man role where he’ll give the Sixers the offensive option off the bench that they sorely lacked all season. In the long run, he could be much more. Sexton’s best quality is his relentless motor, which has garnered comparisons to players like Russell Westbrook. That’s not something you can teach.
While I don’t love his fit with the team when compared to other players who will be on the board, that reason alone shouldn’t be enough to dissuade the front office from pulling the trigger if they consider him to be the best player available.
7. Lonnie Walker IV SG, Miami
PER .503 EFG% 11.5 PPG 1.9 APG 2.6 RPG
Walker is a local kid from Reading who probably should have been included in my original list of prospects that should interest the Sixers at 10.
You can file Walker under the category of players whose draft stock was hurt by a less than ideal situation in college. He played next to a ball dominant, trigger-happy point guard at Miami, and was somewhat limited by an offseason meniscus injury.
He’s not particularly great at creating for himself, but the lack of a true point guard forced him to seek out his own shot more often than not, and this lead to him taking a lot of low percentage, highly contested looks. Despite that, he averaged a respectable 11.5 points per game.
His low efficiency numbers don’t do him justice, as he is fairly polished on the offense end of the floor. His 34% shooting from three justifiably creates concern over his ability to consistently knock down threes in the NBA, but that number isn’t indicative of his true ability. Walker has a pure shooting stroke and he easily could have connected at a higher rate if he was in a better offensive system.
On top of his offensive ability, there is little doubt over his potential on defense. At 6’4’’ with a 6’10’’ wingspan and elite athleticism, he’ll be able to keep opposing point guards in front of him. Unlike a lot of prospects, Walker was committed to playing hard on both ends of the floor in college, and that effort will obviously translate to the NBA.
Overall, he’s a fairly polarizing prospect. Some scouts and fans love him—it’s even been rumored that the Knicks may take him with the 9th pick. I’m not as bullish on his potential as some are, but if the team decides to take him at 10 you won’t hear any complaints from me.
8. Zhaire Smith SG/SF, Texas Tech
23.0 PER .588 EFG% 11.3 PPG 1.8 APG 5.0 RPG
Smith has been rising up draft boards for the past few weeks, and while I like him, I think his original projection as a middle-to-late 1st round pick was spot on.
He wasn’t a highly-regarded prospect coming out of high school, but made a name for himself in the NCAA tournament. He has the same athletic profile as Walker (6’4’’, 6’10’’ wingspan) and his highlight reel isn’t short on eye-popping dunks.
With that said, the role he played in Texas Tech’s offense doesn’t translate to the NBA whatsoever. He played as a small-ball big in an offense that was led by senior point guard Keenan Evans, and made the most of frequent looks at the rim created more so by the motion offense he played in rather than individual talent.
He wasn’t asked to create much, and he wasn’t all that effective in isolation. While proponents of Smith will point to his 45% shooting from deep, that efficiency came on just 1.1 attempts per game—which is concerning for a player who projects as a shooting guard in the NBA.
What sells me is his ability as a defensive-stopper. He excelled in that role for Tech, and should be able to translate that part of his game to the pros with ease. He harassed the opposing teams’ best scorer (regardless of position) and was particularly impressive in the Elite 8, where he was able to frustrate the unflappable National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson to the tune of 4-14 shooting (0-4 from three).
The problem is, there are plenty of prospects who will be available at 10 who can provide similar defensive-stopper potential while possessing a more projectable offensive game. I like Smith, but he would have been better off staying in college for another season to prove to scouts that he’s worthy of a lottery pick.