USA TODAY Sports
With the 76ers 7.5 games behind Milwaukee for that last playoff spot, it's time to start looking towards the draft. A brief introduction to some of the 76ers potential draftees -- Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, and Victor Oladipo
Let me start this off by saying that it's still very early to start talking about the draft. From now until June 27th, everything will change. Where the 76ers will pick, who will declare for the draft, and even how those players are rated will change a lot. In the last instance, it will probably change more than it rightly should, as there is frequently too much of an emphasis placed upon performances in the NCAA tournament and pre-draft workouts.
That being said, and I may be biased on this, but it's never too early to start talking about the draft. This is especially true when everything there is to talk about pertaining to the 76ers is frustrating at best, infuriating at worst.
So talk we shall.
This isn't meant to be a scouting report(s). We'll get to writing about those, but not yet. Those will come after we know for sure who will be in the draft and where the 76ers will pick, and we can focus our efforts towards those who are actually possibilities of being drafted by the 76ers. If you want detailed scouting reports on prospects now, I know of a good service that you should go check out.
This is also not a ranking. Any ranking is purely coincidental. Every year we release a Liberty Ballers big board, but that won't be done until we get closer to the draft time and we know who is going to be in it.
This is really just a 'getting to know you' for those who may not follow college / international basketball all that closely, with some brief thoughts on what makes them interesting as a prospect, what I'm concerned about, and how they may fit in with the 76ers.
There will be a couple of these posts in the coming weeks as we gear up to the NCAA tournament and draft season, each with anywhere between 3-5 players listed.
Big man who makes his living as a weakside help defender. Torn ACL ended his season early after only 24 games.
What I like
What Noel can provide is fairly obvious. He has ridiculous length, a quick and explosive leap, and great timing, which combine to make him a shot blocking force. He's overall very athletic and fluid.
Even though his lower body isn't fully developed, his length makes him a great post defender, and he's incredibly tough to shoot over or through. For a guy of his length he moves his feet fairly well on the perimeter and is very quick running in a straight line. Overall, he should be a great all-around impact team defender.
While his lack of range may not work well with Bynum on the offensive end, his fit with the 76ers without Bynum is tremendous. He would do a lot to hide the defensive deficiencies of the team, and he and Jrue Holiday would form an incredible defensive nucleus.
What I don't like
Uh...he won't be available when the 76ers pick, barring a miracle. That's kind of a big one.
Also, I'm gunshy of knees now. Thank you Andrew Bynum.
In all seriousness, his offensive game obviously isn't very refined. I just watched all of his jump shots for the season, which isn't all that hard to do because Synergy had all of 3 attempts logged for him. He doesn't establish deep post position well, which isn't all that much of a problem because he's fairly methodical when he does get the ball in the post anyway, so this was unlikely to become a major part of his game.
Which is mostly fine. If he's an impact defender, he doesn't need to create a ton of offense for either himself or his teammates. If he's an opportunistic scorer, who can add a jump shot to his repertoire, and maybe developers into a pick and roll/pop threat, who dominates the game defensively and is a force on the glass, he'll be a wonderful top 3 pick.
That last part is the key. So far, with a 21.6% defensive rebounding rate, he hasn't been dominating on the glass. He hasn't been bad, but with his physical profile, I would hope for a little more.
A big man throughout much of his high school career, Ben McLemore emerged as a top guard prospect relatively late. He has since turned into himself into a prototypical off-guard player, excelling in catch and shoot opportunities and shooting 44% from three point range.
What I Like
McLemore is an incredible athlete, very strong and with explosive leaping ability.
He's a great catch and shoot player, with excellent elevation, release, and mechanics. How quick of a release he has and how consistent he is with it would make him a tremendous fit with Bynum and Holiday, as he will make you pay for leaving him to provide help and legitimately space the floor.
He's also a very good shooter coming off of screens, which would add another much needed facet to the 76ers stagnant offense.
Unlike many offensive players, he's a pretty good defender. He moves his feet very well, and his strength helps him quite a bit, and he's an excellent pick and roll defender.
What I don't like
I'm always a little bit leery of drafting a guard this high who creates very little offense for himself or for his teammates. McLemore really doesn't show much of anything creating off the dribble yet, despite his athleticism. He doesn't have much of an off hand, doesn't change direction or speed all that well, and his first step isn't as strong as you would assume with his excellent leaping ability.
(Side note: exercise for college basketball fans: try to find one clip of McLemore finishing with his left hand).
He may have some untapped potential here, but this is by far my biggest concern with him. He should be valuable because of his shooting, and being a threat as a catch and shoot threat and as a threat coming off screens and curls will open up scoring opportunities for his teammates. But top 3 pick valuable? He also runs the risk of not being great at getting to the line at the next level, a deficiency the 76ers don't really need more of.
His length also limits his defensive potential a bit, as he clearly can't defend the 3 with his relatively small wingspan, and might run into some bigger 2's he could struggle with.
Defensive stud who has improved as much as anyone in the country this year.
What I like
Really, is it that hard to like a guy like Victor Oladipo?
Watch him defend for 5 minutes and it's easy to see him contributing to any NBA team. I think he's a better college defender than the recently departed Andre Iguodala. He's that good. Tenacious, strong, quick, long, relentless, high energy. Every attribute you want in a perimeter defender.
(Note, I'm not sure he has as much upside as Andre Iguodala as an NBA defender, but how much of his defensive potential is presently realized is higher, in my opinion, than Iguodala's was at Arizona).
He's also now shooting 49% from three point range, a huge improvement on one of his primary weaknesses before this season. He's an excellent finisher around the basket, and moves well without the ball and makes strong cuts to the basket.
What I don't like
I'm a little bit worried about the sample size on his jump shots. 49% is a tremendous rate to be connecting at for such a stud defender, but it's likely a bit inflated because of such a low sample size. It's clear just watching his form that he has put a lot of work into this area of his game, and I expect him to continue to get better. I just don't expect him to step onto an NBA court next season and shoot 40% from three.
He still doesn't create all that much on the offensive end, either. His offense primarily comes in transition, in spot-up attempts, and cutting to the basket. With his improved jump shot it's possible that he can create more off the dribble in the future, as he is an excellent finisher at the rim with his leaping ability, body control, touch, and willingness to initiate contact.
We'll have more going forward, but this should whet your pallet for now.