For the first time in six years the Sixers won’t be picking in the lottery. Instead, they’ll have the 24th overall pick and a bevy of second rounders to address their needs.
While the team could simply use their first round pick on the best player available, a lot of fans and pundits are clamoring for Elton Brand and Brett Brown to find someone who can contribute as a rookie, ideally in a “3-and-D” role on the wing.
The Sixers are in dire need of shooting, and considering how limited they are in resources to improve their bench this offseason, they can’t waste this pick on another player who won’t contribute as a rookie—let me stress the fact that “best player available” and being “pro-ready” are not mutually exclusive. I normally make that argument for the Eagles, but it applies in the NBA as well.
Here are four prospects who would make sense for the Sixers at 24:
1. Cam Johnson
G/F, North Carolina
Johnson is a popular option mocked to the Sixers. He’s a lengthy, sharpshooting wing who has an offensive package that figures to translate smoothly to the NBA. He’s a career 41% from three, shooting 46% on 5.8 three-point attempts per game as a senior (and over 50% from the field overall). He has the consistent stroke and polished footwork of a prototypical high-volume shooter, and his height (6’9”) and quick release allows him to get a shot off over tight defense.
His age (23-years old) will hurt his value, but it also means that he’s more prepared to contribute as a rookie than his peers, which has specific appeal to a Sixers team that is ready to contend next year, and is in need of wings who can step in immediately.
Outside of being able to knock down jump shots, Johnson has the ability to attack closeouts and put the ball on the floor against weaker defenders, but he won’t make a career out of getting to the rim nor hitting jumpers off the dribble at the next level. He’s a capable distributor and protects the ball, and with enough polish he could become a bigger threat in this area as a pro than he was in college, but by and large his profile projects as that of a catch-and-shoot, three-and-D wing.
Defensively he has great length, but at 210 lbs. he could stand to bulk up a little more—his lack of physicality could get exposed in the NBA. And while he moves well laterally, he’ll likely be a vulnerable when switched onto the league’s quicker guards. All-in-all however, he should be a plus wing defender with the right coaching.
His ability to space the floor and knock down threes would be hard to pass up if available, but we figured the same thing with Mikal Bridges last season and they opted for the high-ceiling Zhaire Smith instead, so we’ll see.
2. Keldon Johnson
I would say over 50% of Sixer-mocks are a Johnson, whether it be Cam or Keldon Johnson of Kentucky.
Similar to Cam, Keldon is a wing with good length (6’6”) and a solid shooting stroke. He knocked down threes at a 38% clip, while shooting 49.8% from the field overall (13.5 ppg on 10 shots) in his lone season with the Wildcats. He’s pretty good off the dribble and is a capable scorer from mid-range and in the paint—he clearly has the tools for a complete offensive package, but he was somewhat inconsistent at putting it together at Kentucky.
Nonetheless, at just 19 years old he has a much higher ceiling than most prospects with a fairly high floor. Johnson is a good athlete with a high motor, which translated to solid perimeter defense as a freshman. As long as he’s a fast learner and can knock down a three off the catch he could contribute in a ‘3-and-D’ role off the bench as a rookie.
If the Sixers want to split the difference between ‘NBA-ready’ and ‘potential’ then Keldon Johnson would make sense if he’s still available at 24.
3. Dylan Windler
More of a big two-guard (6’8”) than a forward, Windler is another deadeye three-point shooter who can dial it up from deep at a high volume, shooting 42.8% from three on 6 attempts per game over the past two seasons, with a true shooting percentage of 67.5%. Windler also provides some playmaking off the bounce and around the rim—as a senior he averaged over 21 points per game on just 13 shots, staggering.
Beyond an impressive offensive package, Windler is an exceptional rebounder for his size—as a senior he had a true-rebounding percentage of 17.7% (for comparison, Ben Simmons had an 18.2% true-rebounding percentage in his lone season at LSU).
Defensively, he’ll likely be more of a liability than the first two prospects as a product of his limited athleticism. Quicker guards will burn him for sure, but his high IQ and good length/size means he can become an average defender with time.
He’ll be able to contribute on offense from day one, and immediately provide spacing for the Sixers off the bench. Whether or not he can crack the starting lineup and 30+ minutes a night will depend on his defense. Because of his age (he’ll be 23 next season) and limited athleticism I think he’s likely to be around at the 24th pick, and if that’s the case the Sixers would be getting a really polished basketball player who does a lot of things really well to complement his elite shooting stroke—a sleeper for sure.
4. Nickeil Alexander-Walker
G, Virginia Tech
Rather than looking for a ‘3-and-D’ floor spacer, Alexander-Walker fits more of the combo-guard mold that the Sixers would be wise to pair with Ben Simmons in the backcourt. While he still knocks down the three at a high-rate—38.3% in his two seasons at VT (43% on spot-up looks—he’s a capable ball-handler who can set the table and create for an offense (though likely in a supplemental role in the NBA).
He’s a two-year player, so he’s still on the younger side (21 y.o. next season), but after appearing in 67 total games (67 starts) and logging over 2,000 minutes he’s far more pro-ready than most. He doesn’t have high-end athleticism, but his good instincts and long wingspan (6’9”) will be enough to harass defenders at the next level (he averaged 1.9 steals in college). He’ll never be a lockdown-guy on the perimeter, but he could be a plus-defender sooner than later.
He’s not the sexiest pick, but I like Alexander-Walker for his ability to handle the ball, knock down spot-up looks, and defend (at least at league average). He doesn’t have as high of a ceiling, but he would cover a lot of bases off the bench for the Sixers.