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Around College Basketball: Edition 8

The end of the season is near

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Around College Basketball is back with its eighth edition! This is the last edition before the NCAA tournament, where many prospects will hope to make a name for themselves. This is the time of year that players can impact their draft stocks for better or worse, so it will be interesting who the Sixers have their eye on.

Pick Projection: 26th overall

Kings Watch: With a record of 33-33, the Sacramento Kings are currently projected to have the 14th pick. Remember, the Sixers get whichever pick is worse between their own and that of the Kings, with the better going to Boston, unless it’s #1 overall. As of now, the Sixers would keep their pick at 26th overall, barring the 0.5 percent chance of the Kings’ pick moving to #1.

Prospects to Watch:

Coby White, North Carolina (PG): Coby White is my favorite player in this draft class for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is that he plays with a frenetic energy that the Sixers would love to have on the second unit. Some players are too energetic, playing out of control as a result, but White seems like he knows how to toe that line and channel his energy productively.

As the lead ball handler for the UNC Tar Heels, White has shown he is much more than just a facilitator. He currently averages 16.3 points per game, good for second on the team, as well as a team-high 4.1 assists per game. As the season has progressed, White has become one of the go-to players when the Tar Heels are in need of a basket. As one of the only freshmen on the team, that is saying something about his level of play.

In their final regular season game against rival Duke, White was able to shoulder much of the load down the stretch in order to give North Carolina a huge win. Finishing the first half with a modest 7 points (3-of-6 from the field, 1-of-4 from 3), White was able to turn a corner in the second half, scoring 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting (3-of-6 from 3). This performance showed exactly what White can do on the brightest stage, play fast-paced and hit outside shots.

Right now, T.J. McConnell has a vice grip on the backup point guard role, but if the Sixers do go ahead and draft White, they might be able to play alongside each other. White’s outside range (38 percent from deep) would make up for McConnell’s lack of a 3-point shot. Of course, White could also be McConnell’s replacement should T.J. leave in free agency.

Tyler Herro, Kentucky (SG): Losing Landry Shamet has hurt the Sixers’ bench since the big trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Clippers. The overwhelming star power the team has now makes up for the lack of punch on the bench, but this offseason, the team should make it a point of emphasis to add more scorers to the second unit. One of the things that made Shamet so attractive was his small contract that came with being a late first-round pick. The Sixers should have another one of those picks this year and can draft his replacement.

Tyler Herro has seen his draft stock soar over the last two months, and the Wildcats sharpshooter now looks primed to be drafted in the first round. With so many mouths to feed in Kentucky, it seemed like Herro wouldn’t be able to get the shots necessary to put up solid numbers as a shooter, but as of late, he has taken over as one of the leading scorers on the team.

Over eleven games dating back to the beginning of February, Herro has averaged 16 points per game, a nice increase over the 13 points he was averaging before this span. Shooting 37 percent on the season, Herro may be known for his 3-point range, but he also isn’t afraid to drive into the lane and draw contact. Attempting 10.7 shots per game, Herro uses his threat of an outside shot to drive inside and finish at the rim, which accounts for 6.1 of those shots. By driving inside, Herro is able to get to the foul line where he excels, shooting an incredible 94 percent on the season. The Sixers miss having a deadeye shooter off their bench, and by drafting Tyler Herro, they could find a replacement with even more athleticism than they had in Landry Shamet.

Cameron Johnson, North Carolina (SF): The second Tar Heel on the list is the leading scorer for the team this year. Cameron Johnson has stepped up in a big way this season and become the player that the team turns to in big situations. Averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game, the lanky graduate student has become a fringe first-round prospect. The Sixers hope Zhaire Smith can become a solid rotational wing on the second unit, but adding another athletic wing with a bit more shooting touch could help beef up the bench.

One of the problems the Sixers have is that too many of their bench players are one-dimensional; the University of Pittsburgh transfer can be the exception. Johnson is shooting a career high 47 percent from 3-point range this year, but doesn’t have to rely on his jumper to score, as he is also hitting non-3-point shots at a 55 percent clip.

As a graduate student, Johnson has the most to lose during tournament season. If he can’t prove to be a true prospect, his career on this side of the pond could be over. Unlike the freshmen that were listed above him, Johnson can’t go back to school, so expect him to play with an extra fire over the next few weeks.

In order for the Sixers to compete with some of the other Eastern Conference powerhouses, they will need to be able to have playable wings throughout their roster. Johnson could be one of those guys. Whether he is drafted towards the end of the first round or somewhere in the second round, Cameron Johnson could become a difference maker at the next level.

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