When the Sixers look bad, and lately they’ve been looking bad more and more often, I start thinking about the built in silver lining of being bad in the NBA. The Lottery!
And with Thad and JRich out for a while, and Bynum still not running under earth conditions or playing basketball against visible humans, I guess we should start planning for next year.
For the Sixers this year there is an added twist, if we make the playoffs then we lose our pick to the Heat. If we are in the lottery, then we keep it. Some have labeled this draft weak, but I’m not sure I agree. I don’t think there is a clear #1, but I do think there is some depth and a few players who are likely all-stars. In what follows I break down some of our 1st round options.
I’ll get started with a few assumptions.
1. The Sixers will not be interested in a PG for their first round pick, although maybe for their 2nd round pick.
2. Their two greatest needs are an athletic wing that can defend and hopefully hit a 3pt shot, and a big with some sort of physical toughness (I think this is true whether they resign Bynum or not).
3. Unless the Sixers make the playoffs (in which case they lose their pick to the Heat), then they will probably be picking somewhere from 6th to 14th, and most likely 8-11th.
So, let’s get this out of the way. It appears that there are 3 players who are most likely to be picked first, and make up the top tier of the draft: Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Shabazz. Muhammad. The Sixers have very little chance of landing one of the top 3 picks, but if it somehow happens which one would be the best option for the Sixers?
Nerlens Noel PF/C – U. of Kentucky: 10.6ppg, 9.5rpg, 4.6bpg
I think Noel is going to be a solid NBA player, but I do think he will be limited offensively and therefore his ceiling is lower than the other two players. I think his ceiling is probably Serge Ibaka, which isn’t bad, but Ibaka has shown some ability to contribute offensively in a variety of ways. Probably the more likely comp is a shorter Tyson Chandler. The height difference will mean he won’t be as effective defensively, but I think his offensive skills may be similar to Chandler’s. He could also be compared to Bismack Biyambo, the size is close and the shot blocking will probably be similar. Noel should be more polished initially and will have a chance to be more productive offensively.
Shabazz Muhammad SG/SF – UCLA: 18.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 42.6 3P%
McLemore and Muhammad are both basically SG’s in the NBA, although Muhammad is probably more than an inch taller than McLemore at 6’6". Muhammad could play the 3 in the NBA, but I think he’ll reach his full potential in the NBA if he can play and defend the 2 effectively. It seems as if he has the athletic ability and lateral quickness to defend the quickest 2’s in the NBA and it also seems like he can shoot well enough to be a SG. He would fit well between Jrue and ET because he can guard those a little too tall for Jrue and little too quick for ET. I think the ceiling for Muhammad is pretty high. I think a comp like Paul Pierce is probably a possibility. He has a lot of tools, seems to have a very strong and competitive personality. On a lower end, I’d say Corey Maggette is a comp. I think he’ll at least be able to score in the NBA, whether he’ll be efficient and also play good D is where the unknown lies.
Ben McLemore SG – Kansas: 16.4ppg, 5.4rpg, 45.5 3p%
McLemore ceiling is also pretty high. Some have thrown out Ray Allen as his ceiling, and I think that may be fair. I’d probably think Eric Gordon or Ben Gordon as being more likely. He may be slightly taller than those two, but I think plays a similar style game. He’d fit fairly well with Jrue and ET on offense. He’s a great shooter, but also has the ability to get into the paint and finish. On defense, I’m not sure he’d fit as well as Muhammad. In some ways he’d be like a poor man’s Jrue on defense and would struggle against the taller SG’s. On the other hand, I also think he may have the highest ceiling of the group simply because he very well could be an efficient 20+ppg scorer.
Of the three, I think I’d have to pick Muhammad for the Sixers as I think he is the safest bet to be an all-star and also probably fits the best with our needs on both ends of the court. McLemore is a very close second.
Most likely we won’t have a chance at those guys. Here are some guys I think we may have a shot at and who would be a good fit for a potential first round pick.
Anthony Bennett PF - UNLV (Pick Range: 4-8): 18.5ppg, 8.5ppg, 35.4 3p%
He’s probably out of reach unless he slips a bit or the Sixers really tank in the second half of the season. I don’t think he’ll crack the top 3 because he’s probably a bit small for a PF, but he is putting together a great production resume at UNLV. He is a 6’8" PF who is a can do a lot of things well, including shooting and rebounding. I think Paul Milsap is probably a good comp, although he probably has a higher ceiling – think Elton Brand in his prime, but less fundamentally sound and a weaker defender. Or, if you want the obvious UNLV comp, think Larry Johnson (OK, he’s not this much of a beast). Although he may add some toughness to the Sixer’s inside game, I think he is probably a little redundant with Thad. He should be a better shooter than Thad and should have a better back to the basket game, but defensively he probably doesn’t add much that Thad doesn’t bring.
Alex Len C – U. Maryland (Pick Range: 4-7): 12.7ppg, 8.2ppg, 1.9bpg
Since Len is a solid 7’, has some post moves, is athletic, can rebound and block shots, he’ll probably be a top 5 pick. He does have some weaknesses - mainly that he is fairly weak. He can get moved out of the paint by a serious post player, and can also disappear offensively at times. His best comp is probably Myers Leonard, but he is also similar to a slightly taller Tiago Splitter or a more athletic Hawes. He probably won’t be the shooter Hawes is, but he has much quicker feet. He isn’t a great fit since we have Hawes, but getting a 7fter with these skills is rare, so there is no way we should pass on him if he would fall to us.
Alex Poythress SF/PF – U. Kentucky (Pick Range: 6-14): 12.8ppg, 6.5rpg, 45.5 3p%
Poythress is 6’7" and a bit of a tweener, in that he may not be big enough to play PF in the NBA, but may not bring the requisite ball and shooting skills to play SF either. He’s kind of a Kidd-Gilchrist type player, with less intangibles and a slightly stronger body. He has shown some ability to hit the open 3’s at a decent clip, although with a small sample size (10-22). Defensively he’d fit great with the Sixers. He could definitely guard SF’s, and allow ET to guard the SG’s. With him and ET on the court together they should really add to the rebound capabilities of the Sixers. He could also guard some of the quicker/smaller PF’s and would be effective to switch with both ET and Thad on pick and rolls. Offensively he doesn’t fit nearly as well. He’s has a lot of skills, but adding another 6’7" guy who isn’t a great shooter isn’t the best idea. If he shows some signs of developing a consistent 15-18ft jumper and occasionally being able to hit an open 3pter, his fit may increase a good bit.
Archie Goodwin SG – U. Kentucky (Pick Range: 5-15): 14.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 3.2apg
I basically think of Goodwin as the riskier version of McLemore. He probably has pretty similar skills as McLemore, but doesn’t show as much maturity and decision-making skills as McLemore. He also is a streakier shooter, so you could say he just needs more work and he’ll be a polished shooter, but more likely he’s just not the pure shooter McLemore is. I’d be interested to know which one is actually taller. Both get listed at 6’5", but I think McLemore is closer to 6’4". Goodwin, at the least seems to be a little longer. I think his comps are probably Aaron Affalo or OJ Mayo on the higher end and Austin Rivers on the low end.
Mason Plumlee PF/C - Duke (Pick Range: 7-14): 17.6pg, 10.8rpb, 1.7bpg
This 6’10" senior plays C for Duke, but is projected to play some PF in the NBA. He has shown some offensive skills this year that he hasn’t in years past. We know he can jump and dunk, but this year he’s been able to efficiently post up and even hit some free throws. Having a guy like Plumlee, who can leap out of the gym, catching passes from Jrue and ET would be very satisfying after watching Hawes and Levoy struggle to roll to the basket and finish this year. I don’t think he’ll ever be a player to get more than 20-25 mins consistently in the NBA. He may start for some teams, but unless he can really become a true defensive force (a la Chandler) his limited offensive skills will probably keep him from being a big contributor. That being said, having someone like Plumlee coming in for 20mins a game would be great. He could fill in for either the PF or C, he runs well, and like I said, watching him dunk would be fun. He, Spencer, and Levoy would be a good group behind Bynum and Thad. Just don’t think of him doing what he’s doing at Duke. He’s reached most of his potential, but could provide efficient limited minutes for a good team.
Cody Zeller PF/C – Indiana (Pick Range: 5-12): 16.3ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.4bpg
Zeller is projected to be a center and is close to 7ft, but if his brother’s wing span is any indication his reach will probably smaller than someone shorter like Noel or Anthony Davis. He is more athletic and skilled than his brother, but also a little lighter at this point. I think he has the ability to be a starting 5 in the NBA, but he’ll really need to work on being more of a defensive presence and add to his rebounding ability. He is more athletic than Hawes, but a lot of his strengths and weaknesses line up with ol’ Spence. If you assume Bynum will be a Sixer for a while, drafting someone with Zeller’s skills and basketball IQ might make sense. He could player the 4 and 5 backing up Thad and Bynum and makes Hawes eligible for trade.
Otto Porter SF - Georgetown (Pick Range: 7-16): 14.8ppg, 7.6rpg, 46.2 3p%
A 6’8" SF who can rebound, pass, defend, and hit 3’s. Sounds good. He is pretty good at all of those things, but it is unclear at this point if he’ll be really good at any of those things in the NBA. The skill he is most likely to bring to the NBA is his rebounding and unselfish play. If he can also excel as a shooter and a defender a good comp may be Nicolas Batum or even Luol Deng. Maybe Amino is a more realistic comp, although he may not be quite as athletic and has a better handle and shot. If he continues to improve his 3pt shooting (12-53 last year, 24-52 this year), he could be a great fit for the Sixers.
Issiah Austin SF/PF/C – Baylor (Pick Range: 6-18): 14.5ppg, 9.5rpg, 1.3bpg
He is a mystery. He is a true 7fter, is a good shot blocker and a good rebounder, but yet it appears he wants to play the SF position. He is a great shot, even hitting 17 of 49 3pters this year; runs the floor great and can actually handle the ball fairly well. He is super skinny, and really has no ability to bang in the post. Where would he play for the Sixers? I suppose he could play the 4 most of the time, but you’d have to avoid certain matchups. Same at the SF, but I suppose off the bench he could fill in at the 3,4 or 5. The fit isn’t really there. Playing with Bynum could hide some of those flaws, and would give the defense a lot of shot blocking, but you already have Thad who seems to have the starting 4 locked down for a while. If you’re optimistic his comp is a poor man’s Durant, but more likely he’s closer to any number of long, weak European shooters who didn’t really make a big impact in the NBA.
Glen Robinson III SG/SF – U. Michigan (Pick Range: 8- 20): 11.7ppg, 5.7rpg, 40.5 3p%
A very good athlete who has shown the ability to hit 3’s (17-42), score at the hoop, and rebound. I guess there are some concerns about his motor, but it seems like his production on a winning team and his athleticism will overcome those worries. I think he’s probably most likely to be a Jason Richardson type player, although it is yet to be seen if he’ll develop into as consistent 3pt shooter. Having an athletic wing with length (he’s a lanky 6’6") would really help on defense. He’d probably match Muhummad in that manner, if his motor isn’t an issue. He projects as a SF, but I could see him playing either the 2 or the 3 and definitely has the ability to defend either. He may be a great compliment to ET.
If anyone reads this and enjoys it I could do an update closer to draft day as well as projecting some 2nd round possibilities.
Of course I still have hope that Bynum and Thad are back after the break and we somehow get the 7th seed and find our way into the conference finals. Never give up hope!