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Previewing the Sixers’ second-round picks with The Stepien’s Jackson Hoy

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Liberty Ballers’ Jake Hyman talks to The Stepien’s Jackson Hoy for the first installment of a three-part Q&A centered around the Sixers’ draft.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs West Virginia Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Hinkie stockpiled two of the Sixers’ 2018 second-round picks through forward-thinking deals with Brooklyn and New York, and the Sixers’ current GM acquired Western Conference runner-up Houston’s second last offseason via trading Shawn Long. Philadelphia’s current or future GM now boasts a wealth of second-round picks and if we’re to judge Hinkie’s predecessor’s effectiveness with these assets, it’s a mixed bag.

The team’s current GM aced the Jonah Bolden pick (No. 36) in last year’s draft, as the talented combo big was a revelation in Summer League and found loads of success playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv this past season. Bolden will enter the Sixers’ rotation. Furthering the overseas pipeline, former No. 50 pick Mathias Lessort started in 58 of 75 total games for KK Crvena Zvezda this past season and contributed across the board as a power forward.

The fun, unfortunately, stopped there as the Sixers’ current GM sold the rights to two potential rotation players’ contracts in Jawun Evans and Sterling Brown for cash considerations. Cash considerations didn’t perform spectacularly this past season so Brett Brown received zero impact from his second-round picks. With a surplus of seconds and a viable opportunity to find rotation players, draft-and-stashes and Delaware projects, I wanted to get a much more clearer insight on the possible outcomes and players who might be available to the Sixers at picks No. 38, 39, 56 and 60.

Plugged in to the draft scene year-round and a contributor for the highly-popular draft site The Stepien, Jackson Hoy was kind enough to participate in an in-depth Q&A centered around the team’s four seconds and its possibilities.

Liberty Ballers: Hi Jackson. How are you doing?

Jackson Hoy: I’m doing great. Amped for the draft approaching. The field of available prospects is finally starting to crystallize, which is exciting.

LB: In the wake of the Combine, what’s your content starting to look like?

JH: I’ve been doing plenty of podcasts and Q&A type things like this, and I’ll probably start working on a write-up of my final big board soon. Things in the non-draft world have been a little busy for me so I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, but I will keep churning out content. As we get our player field finalized, most of what I do will probably be more macro draft stuff rather than in-depth looks at specific guys, but I will mix in both.

LB: I’m anticipating great pieces prior to June’s festivities. I just wanted to get your opinion on who stood out to you as risers/fallers.

JH: Most of my conclusions from the combine come from the measurements, so guys like Zhaire Smith and Sagaba Konate who measured out a little short got hurt a little bit. On the flip side, guys like Miles Bridges, Wendell Carter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., and Josh Okogie who all outperformed previous measurements were certainly aided. I also noticed the Kevin Huerter hype train really start to pick up post-combine as people bought into his shooting in the 5-on-5, but I’ve been a fan of his for a while so he wasn’t necessarily a riser for me.

LB: Zhaire Smith is definitely a talent we’re evaluating as fans here in Philadelphia. What are some notable measurements you specifically look for to possibly have a player rise in your rankings at The Stepien?

JH: Obviously height, wingspan, and weight are good to have to compare players within position groups and make defensive projections, but I also think the importance of standing reach and no-step vertical is underrated. Standing reach is especially important for interior players, with 9-foot-0 serving as kind of a Mendoza line for me when evaluating center prospects. No-step vertical has been shown to be the most valuable catch-all indicator of “athleticism”, so it’s good to have for the guys who do test it at the combine. All that said, I don’t really change a player’s ranking all that much simply based on one measurement, although I was really disappointed by Zhaire Smith’s height being just 6’2.5” without shoes.

LB: You touched upon Luka Doncic in your last Hardwood Homies podcast. With the Sixers boasting four picks in the second round who are some overseas players they could be looking at for a potential draft-and-stash?

JH: This year’s international class doesn’t have a ton of depth in terms of first-round talent outside of Luka Doncic, Dzanan Musa, and Elie Okobo, but there’s a deep class of intriguing second-round prospects headlined, in my opinion, by William McDowell-White and Goga Bitadze. McDowell-White is originally from Australia, was a 5-star recruit in the class of 2016, and had committed to Fresno State. However, he left the team due to troubles with his credits transferring to the university. Now playing for Baunach in Germany, he’s a big, heady point guard at 6-foot-5 who makes some plays that remind you of Lonzo Ball. He’s a streaky three-point shooter but he’s confident shooting off the dribble, has a promising stroke, and is an excellent free throw shooter. While he flashed good instincts on defense and has excellent positional size, he has a tendency to float at times and disengage from the game. On a team like Philadelphia with so many ball-dominant handlers, McDowell-White might not be the best fit, but his talent is worth it in the second round. Bitadze is an extremely young big man (18 at the time of the draft) with nice size (9-foot-2 standing reach) and an excellent feel for the game. Playing with prospect factory Mega Bemax (the same club that produced current Sixer Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, among many others), Bitadze has shown his outstanding positioning in help defense as well as solid touch and rebounding ability. He’s fairly limited athletically, and the Sixers already have a trio of young bigs stashed overseas, but Bitadze is arguably a first-round talent who should be available into the second. If Philadelphia wants to take a swing on a young guard/wing prospect, Isaac Bonga and Issuf Sanon are interesting options, though both are just 18 and may elect not to stay in the draft.

LB: I’ve watched some of his film but you’re a better source to articulate on his strengths. What are some of Elie Okobo’s main positive attributes he brings to the NBA?

JH: The appeal with Okobo starts with his intersection of size, shot-making, and ability to run an offense. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Okobo has legit NBA size for playing the 1 and has shown an ability to switch onto bigger wings in a pinch. On top of that, he’s an exceptional off-dribble scorer with a killer stepback that he gets off and makes basically at will. He’s transitioned to the point guard position over the past year or so and has clearly made strides as his season with Pau-Orthez has gone on, with his assist-to-turnover ratio steadily rising along with his assist rate. Coming into the season he was known as a streaky player, but after working with a mental skills coach he’s started to dial things in and has been on a tear over the last four or five months. There’s no clear weakness that holds him back from being an NBA floor general, so he’s a very interesting potential pick at 26, or in the second round if he’s still there.

LB: Could he come over immediately or do you see him as a stash and a ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of possibly 2019 or 2020?

JH: I’m not sure what his contract situation is, but I think he’d be ready to contribute in year 1 if he were brought over. LNB Pro A (France’s top league, where Okobo plays) isn’t on the level of EuroLeague, but it’s better than the NCAA and Okobo is already one of the best point guards in the league. He’s still progressing in terms of fully understanding how to run an offense and make the right read, but a team like Philadelphia where he’d be able to spend time off the ball would afford a nice developmental infrastructure for him.

LB: Guards could be in demand in the second round if the Sixers fail to land two in their first two picks, how well does Jevon Carter fit alongside Ben Simmons or Markelle Fultz in the backcourt?

JH: With his ability to knock down open looks and lock up opposing guards, Carter is an excellent fit alongside bigger ball-handlers like Simmons and Fultz. I especially like Carter for that off-ball point guard role because he’s skilled enough to run an offense and create looks for himself in a pinch; he’s stretched in a primary PG role but he is still capable of creating offense. Another point guard I’d look at in that off-ball point guard mold would be Aaron Holiday. However, Holiday will probably be off the board before the Sixers pick in the second round. Jevon Carter has the best mix of point guard defense, ability to play off-ball, and on-ball creation of potential second-round guys, so he’d be a great fit in Philadelphia.

LB: Khyri Thomas is a name I’ve been seeing on the timeline as a possible Sixers fit, can he become a serviceable offensive player while being a sensational defensive two-guard?

JH: I’m not much of a fan of Thomas, as he has an underwhelming statistical profile and doesn’t really pop in terms of IQ on tape. There are not many successful NBA players who are 6-foot-3 who do not add primary creation ability, and at 22, Thomas isn’t a good bet to suddenly turn into a point guard. On top of that, his shooting signal isn’t super strong, as he doesn’t attempt a ton of 3-pointers, his free-throw shooting is mediocre, and he doesn’t mix in a ton of shot diversity. He may add valuable on-ball defense against point guards, but he’s nothing special in terms of off-ball instincts and is too small to be all that switchable. A player like Josh Okogie, who seems to have a similar draft range to Thomas, would be a much better fit, as he’s got extra size on Thomas while also being 3 years younger and already a more dynamic offensive player. If Thomas is going to be successful, it will likely be on a team like Philadelphia where he can effectively play point guard without initiating offense, but there will be better options at pick 26.

LB: If there’s a package to be made to move into the top-30, who would be of note who would be feasibly available among the late 20s?

JH: Depending on what kind of player the team is looking for, there should be many interesting options. I’d advocate for Kenrich Williams with a third first-round pick as an instant contributor, though he could probably be acquired with a second rounder rather than with a first. Landry Shamet, Shake Milton, Rawle Alkins, Keita Bates-Diop and Vince Edwards are all talented players who make sense in that range and could fill holes for the Sixers as guys who have positional size and who can hit shots on offense. If Jacob Evans is available, he’s an absolute no-brainer there given his shot-making ability and smart defense but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was off the board.

LB: The Sixers’ current GM sold two picks for cash last season, how pertinent will it be for him or his replacement to either use their seconds for depth, to stash overseas or develop in Delaware if a roster spot isn’t immediately available?

JH: I’d fully advocate for taking on as many of these young prospects as possible in the second round, as finding a useful contributor in that range is a great way to exploit a market inefficiency–especially for a team that in the coming years will likely be looking at a giant payroll. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to use all the second-rounders on international guys and stash them all just to see if any of them progress faster than expected, because the payoff, if they do, is worth far more than whatever cash the team may acquire. As a draft guy who is familiar with hundreds of prospects, I’m always opposed to selling picks because there will always be an interesting prospect available, even late in the second round.

LB: What’s your ideal scenario for their four picks playing out?

JH: 38 - Jevon Carter, 39 - Kenrich Williams, 56 - Issuf Sanon, 60 - Gary Clark

This scenario would give the Sixers some immediate two-way help between Carter, Williams, and Clark (if they chose to bring each aboard) along with a talented international guard in Sanon that the team can allow to develop overseas. It may be wise to package a couple of the seconds to trade up given the team’s limitations in terms of roster spots, but having too many talented guys (I think my scenario would really help them load up on bench players) is never a problem. If the team is looking for another shooter, depending on how the first round goes, Dakota Mathias is an interesting potential pick with one of the last two selections given his off-movement shooting acumen, ball-handling ability, and effort/strength combination on defense. He’d be a nice two-way candidate should he go undrafted. Regardless, loading up on high-IQ guys who can contribute right away off the bench-while mixing in some potential stash candidates-is the way I’d go in the second round.

LB: Thanks for contributing, Jackson. You can follow Jackson at @JHoyNBA, read his work here, and follow his draft podcast at @HardwoodHomies. Next week, we’ll focus our attention on the No. 26 pick.