This week's edition of the Sixers mailbag includes answers on potential suitors for Jahlil Okafor outside of the Celtics, my top realistic choices for the Sixers to select with their late first round picks, and when Dario Saric might sign with the Sixers.
@Darth_Doug: What teams beside the Celtics would have interest in Jahlil Okafor?
When I took a look at the NBA Trade Machine right before this year's trade deadline, I struggled to find any teams that made sense outside of Boston from the perspectives of a sensible fit and tradable assets. The offseason changes that a little bit. Lottery picks now have a determined spot, and now is the time of year where you start to hear whispers about potential free agents looking to change teams, which opens up some previously locked down roster spots. The latter part is why the Chicago Bulls could possibly get involved. Pau Gasol seems to be set on hitting the open market as he seeks out one final title run, and there are reports that Joakim Noah will be looking for a new team as well. Regardless of whether those two leave, Chicago has missed their window of opportunity to compete for a championship. Breaking down that team is something they might genuinely have to consider, and maybe that means getting rid of Jimmy Butler. Butler's relationship with teammates seems to have deteriorated over the past year, and GM Gar Forman sounded open to listening to offers for the 26-year-old after the end of their disappointing 2015-16 season. On the flip side, Bryan Colangelo has expressed interest in trading picks for a veteran, so there could be a match here. Does Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, and two future firsts of the Bulls choice get it done? That should at least get the Sixers a serious conversation. Outside of Butler, Chicago does have the pick no. 14, Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis, but trading Okafor for any of those pieces doesn't make a ton of sense. I still think Butler leaving Chicago is a long shot, but if there was ever going to be a time in the near future for it to happen, it's going to be this summer.
Outside of Chicago, another team that would make some sense is the Phoenix Suns. Tyson Chandler took a serious turn for the worse last year, and Alex Len is decent defensively but doesn't provide a whole lot else. The Suns also have over $61 million in salary committed for 2016-17, $27 million of which is being spent on Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, a pairing that has been a tad bit awkward. Phoenix also has the picks no. 4 and 13, and a solid swingman in T.J. Warren. There are some intriguing pieces if Philadelphia is interested.
@WiseSageMan: Who are your top three guys you want to see the Sixers get with picks 24 and 26 to go with the guy you want at number one?
Assuming the Sixers take Simmons, these are three guys that I think would be great fits around him:
1. Taurean Prince (Baylor) - Prince probably won't be here at 24, but a couple mock drafts do have him falling further than that. I think he's talented enough to be a lottery pick. He's the perfect mold for a 3-and-D wing, and the Sixers could certainly use some insurance for Robert Covington. Prince shot 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, and averaged over one steal per game. His strong frame makes him an effective scorer around the rim, and he's shown some potential as a slasher. The 21-year-old is somewhat of an awkward ball handler and hasn't shown the ability to knockdown pull up jump shots yet, but his size, defensive awareness and standstill shooting make him really covetable. I've seen him compared to DeMare Carroll, which I think makes some sense.
2. Ben Bentil (Providence) - The last thing the Sixers need is another power forward to add to their smorgasbord of bigs, but Bentil is way too talented to pass up on. He shot a hair under 33 percent from long range on 158 attempts, but I believe that's going to be the one skill that helps solidify him as a quality stretch four in the NBA. He's listed at 6' 9" (which is a tad generous), but plays bigger than that. Providence ran a lot of small lineups with him at the five, and he held his own. He averaged 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He's going to really need to improve his ball handling in order to keep defenders at bay, but I like his chances to become a really solid pro. Colangelo has no real ties to Jerami Grant or Richaun Holmes, anyway.
3. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky) - Philadelphia probably won't have the chance to take Wade Baldwin or Demetrius Jackson at this point in the draft, so I'd take a shot on Ulis. He's the definition of a floor general; Ulis has great command with the ball in his hands and always makes the right pass. I think his range might be maxed out, but he's a really good spot up shooter from the mid-range. He's going to really need to put on some weight to compete at the NBA level (he weighed in at 149 lbs. at the NBA Combine), but Ulis is a cerebral assassin. I think he might just have too high of a basketball IQ to fail in the NBA.
@Whats_Up: Hypothetically, lets throw Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel in the 2016 NBA draft. Where would they likely be drafted?
It's impossible to play this game because there are players from those respective draft classes that are going to shape the way a team would attack this fake draft class, so instead I will rank them in comparison with other draft eligible players from the 2016 class. It would also only be fair to rank them based off of how they were viewed coming into their draft class and not now, obviously.
Ben Simmons would still be my top rated player in this class, just because I think he's got a more complete game than any other player here with almost no red flags and a very high ceiling. Players like that are pretty rare. I wouldn't consider the outside shooting woes a red flag because he can still be super effective in the NBA without a jump shot. People just treat it like one because he's likely going to land in Philadelphia and they need shooting. Jahlil Okafor would be my second ranked player. The effectiveness around the rim and his passing capabilities out of the post he displayed at Duke made him a safe bet to be a really solid player with some superstar potential. That potential is still there today, it just may not be realized in Philadelphia.
Brandon Ingram would be third, but I've flip flopped about ranking him over Okafor. I think Ingram can be a two-way terror, it just may take a handful of years for him to get there. I'd rank Joel Embiid fourth, mostly because the seriousness of the foot injury as well as the questions about his back make him hard to take over any of the aforementioned players, who feel like sure things. A healthy Embiid is the top pick in just about every draft class for the past four seasons. I'd place Nerlens Noel below Dragan Bender, Jamal Murray and Henry Ellenson. ACL tears on a guy built like a stringbean was certainly a serious worry, and at the time I wasn't sure if he'd have any real effectiveness offensively. Dario Saric would round out my top 10, behind Kris Dunn. His limited outside shooting ability and defensive abilities were certainly questionable, but his ball handling and passing make him a weird niche player that the NBA is starting to look for more of.
Based off my last big board, the four current Sixers would push Timothe Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz and Jaylen Brown out of my top ten.
@Piratebro: What is a realistic time frame to get definitive news on Dario Saric?
Saric is currently in the midst of a playoff run with Anadolu Efes. The team is currently up 1-0 in the semifinals, and that series will run through at least the first week of June. There's no set dates for the Tukrish Basketball League finals (if they even get there), but they didn't wrap up until June 19 last year. Summer league starts in the beginning of July, but Saric has been named to Croatia's preliminary roster for Olympic qualifiers July 4-10. He's probably a lock to make the final roster as well. That makes the likelihood of him playing in Utah or Las Vegas really slim. I would imagine any resolution on his contract situation will get done in late July, at the earliest.
@mrcrockpot: What are the chances Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray reach superstar status?
I would guess that Murray has a better chance although I doubt either one ever get to that point. Jamal Murray has solid combo guard skills at the young age of 19, and will only get better as time goes on. I think he can be a serious catch-and-shoot threat as soon as he steps in the league, and his ability to score off the dribble will come with time. He's got a skill set similar to that of C.J. McCollum, who averaged nearly 21 points while shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc. McCollum probably doesn't qualify as a superstar, but those are elite numbers he put up this past season. Murray should be capable of doing similar things.
I think Dunn's ceiling is a lot lower than Murray's, although he probably has less bust potential. I continue to question his decision making and don't really trust his jump shot enough to think he'll be anything more than a mid-tier point guard in the NBA.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can send me your mailbag questions on Twitter @JakePavorsky or email them to me at email@example.com