The Brooklyn Nets have officially deferred the draft pick owed to them by the Sixers (from the James Harden trade) until 2023, and Daryl Morey now has the 23rd overall pick to operate with to improve the roster on the margins—if he chooses to. While the team may use this selection to draft a young, high-upside prospect to flip in a trade package over the offseason, there’s another school of thought that believes the Sixers ought to use the pick to add a could-be immediate impact rookie to a roster that’s light on role players and even lighter on the assets required to add more.
Taking a swing on adding a two-way prospect—albeit likely older, and with less upside—who can help the franchise take advantage of the Embiid/Harden window and contend next spring might be the best value proposition for this pick given the franchise’s current circumstance. If the front office decides that to be the case, then there are a few strong options expected to be available in this range. Here’s four of my preferred prospects:
EJ Liddell, F, Ohio State
The skinny: A big wing with inside/out value on both ends of the floor.
Measurables: 6’7” (7-foot wingspan) 243 lbs.
Defensive skillset: (Helper/wing stopper) Liddell has the requisite size to bang in the paint, and is at his best operating as a weakside help defender where he can deter/alter shots at the rim. After displaying real growth as an on-ball defender in college he’s expected to develop into a capable wing stopper at the next level. In terms of on-ball/off-ball and inside/out role versatility, Liddell checks all the boxes that NBA teams search for in modern impact defenders.
Offensive skillset: (Stationary shooter/face-up big) Liddell mainly profiles as a spot-up shooter at the pro level (more lift and a sharper release could take him from average to elite). He displays great feel as a screener, where he’s a threat to pop, slip, or roll hard to the rim. He’ll never be a dynamic threat on this end of the floor, but his ability to attack closeouts, make the correct reads, and punish mismatches in the post are enough to round out his skillset.
Swing trait: Tighter handle/sharper playmaking
Role/fit on the Sixers: Three-and-D/switchable-4 off the bench
Jake LaRavia, F, Wake Forest
The skinny: A sneaky athletic 4-man with ample skill, a sweet shooting stroke, and an elite feel for the game.
Measurables: 6’8” (6’9.5” wingspan) 227 lbs.
Defensive skillset: (Helper/perimeter big) LaRavia plays long and sturdy on this end of the floor, and understands how to stalk the rim/passing lanes off-ball (where he’s most capable of making an impact). His lateral quickness is passable, and good instincts allow him to hang as an on-ball defender with the ability to switch 1-5 if need be.
Offensive skillset: (Movement shooter/playmaking big) LaRavia is a highly skilled offensive player who can shoot, playmake, and finish at the rim. He has a feathery touch from deep, tight handles, patient post moves, excellent feel as a cutter, and powerful finishing ability. To boot, he’s a willing ball-mover who reads the defense at an elite level. He could be featured as a shooter, point-forward, or blend in as a glue-guy.
Swing trait: Improving on-ball D
Role/fit on the Sixers: Glue-guy/switchable-4 off the bench
Walker Kessler, C, Auburn
The skinny: A towering defensive anchor who erases shots at the rim and takes care of the small things on offense.
Measurables: 7’1” (7’4” wingspan) 256 lbs.
Defensive skillset: (Anchor big w/ some mobility) Kessler will be an All-Defense quality anchor big from day one. His ability to prevent and erase shots at the rim is next to none in this class, and he possesses the requisite agility to slide on the perimeter in a pinch if need be. Plug him in the middle of a defense and forget about it.
Offensive skillset: (Roll + cut big) Kessler is a no-frill offensive player who sets good screens and is an efficient roller/cutter/finisher at the rim. He plays with a high IQ, knows how to handle/protect the ball (for a big), and keeps an offense moving. If he’s able to further develop a sometimes-decent catch-and-shoot ability then he’ll have All-Star potential.
Swing trait: Three-point range
Role/fit on the Sixers: Backup-5/Harden rim-runner
Kendall Brown, F, Baylor
The Skinny: A bouncy defender with a feel for knifing to the rim on/off ball and finishing at an elite rate.
Relevant measurables: 6’7.5” (6’11” wingspan) 201 lbs.
Defensive skillset: (Wing stopper/PoA) Brown is capable of locking down on-ball matchups against premier wings and guards, and has the tools to make a similar high-impact in off-ball responsibilities. He’s a legitimate option defending 1-4 and with added muscle can develop into a small-ball-5. There’s All-Defense potential in this skillset.
Offensive skillset: (Roll + cut/slashing wing) Brown has a good feel for impacting an offense without the ball in his hands. He’s an instinctive cutter, a freak in transition, and a savant finishing around/above the rim. While he’s not currently a reliable shooter from deep, the peripherals—good free throw shooting, touch around the rim, solid mechanics—point to a safe projection as a spot-up threat in the NBA.
Swing trait: Perimeter shooting
Role/fit on the Sixers: Athletic wing/stopper off the bench
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