Tomorrow night the NBA offseason kicks into high gear with the commencement of the NBA Draft. In such a weird time there are sure to be some twists and turns, and whenever the Sixers are involved drama seems to follow. We at Liberty Ballers try to tackle some of the frequently asked questions around Sixers Twitter.
Do you think the inability to play on a big stage like the NCAA tournament has helped or hurt the stock of some of these prospects?
Daniel Olinger: Generally, basing your entire draft strategy on a series of 1-6 games for a prospect that happens over the course of three weeks is not smart if you’re running an NBA front office (those in charge of the Kings when they drafted Nik Stauskas because he shot 8-17 from three in four games are slowly nodding). I definitely feel bad for the players on potential title-winners of Kansas, Dayton, San Diego State, Baylor and so on. Prospects from those teams include Devon Dotson, Udoka Azubuike, Obi Toppin, Jalen Crutcher, Malachi Flynn and, a guy who won’t get drafted but might have gotten hype with a tournament, Freddie Gillespie of Baylor.
Tom West: If teams love a prospect enough, they should take them regardless. That said, I think it has probably hurt the stock of some younger players in the sense that there’s obviously a slightly smaller sample of what they can do, and they missed out on the opportunity of bumping their stock with some March Madness hype. But beyond just the shortened season, there have also been reduced opportunities for NBA teams to meet with players in person and hold workouts in recent months. Some teams might at least feel more confident that they know what they’re getting with older prospects.
Steve Lipman: A little bit of both, I’m sure. If somebody like Cassius Winston had the giant, Kemba Walker-esque tourney of which he’s certainly capable, maybe he’d cement his status as a first-rounder rather than what he currently is — a late 1st/early 2nd candidate. Meanwhile, somebody like James Wiseman is gonna be a top-3 pick based on raw tools, but if he’d played in the tourney and looked overmatched, his stock may have sunk.
Should the Sixers make a trade before the Draft, do you think the team will be more willing to move their first round pick or a younger player like Matisse Thybulle or Shake Milton?
Daniel Olinger: Personally, I’m not hoping for any of these three assets to be traded, as I love Shake and Matisse and am always captivated by the potential a first-round pick offers. In terms of what the team might be more willing to do, I’d guess they’d opt in favor of trading Shake or ‘Tisse due to them being known quantities. They’re both good players with fairly clear ceilings due to Shake’s subpar athletic burst and handle, and Thybulle’s lack of offensive skills, whereas a draft pick has at least the tiniest fragment of potential to be something more.
Tom West: I’d say their first-round pick. Thybulle might be the most valuable asset here (depending on the trade partner) as a young yet more known commodity, but there should be plenty of intriguing prospects available in the 21 range — teams always value making their own picks and finding their own prospects. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Daryl Morey use No. 21 to sweeten a trade offer, while making good use of picks 34 and 36 or potentially packaging them together to try and trade up so he can still make a first-round selection.
Steve Lipman: I think they’ll be most willing to move #21. Already equipped with #34 and #36, I’m sure the team isn’t too keen on rostering 3+ rookies anyway. Plus, they’ve already seen Thybulle and Shake play real minutes with the (current) nucleus of the team. I also think there’s something alluring about a pick while it’s a pick — before it becomes an actual player. #21 on or even during the draft contains multitudes of possibilities.
Which position do you want the team to target the most in this draft?
Daniel Olinger: Guard, guard, guard and guard again. The Sixers need shot-creators, and most of those in this class are smaller guards. A guard-wing hybrid like Ty-Shon Alexander or maybe even Skylar Mays is also acceptable. Maybe a backup big in the late second round, but overall, taking as many bites at the apple to fill the off-the-dribble shooting void the team is currently flustered with should be priority number one.
Steve Lipman: Guard! Let’s get crazy. Let’s draft a guard who can shoot and dribble. As I’m writing this, James Harden may or may not be coming to Philly (or New Philadelphia, whichever) and that would of course decrease the importance of this particular skill set. But as we sit now, the Sixers need guards who can and will shoot and make plays in order to make life easier on Simmons and Embiid. Ideally, the guard(s) we draft are proficient both with and without the ball.
Tyler Monahan: The obvious answer to this question is guard in the first round. The Sixers need players who can create their own shot in the worst way and at the end of the first there should still be a ton of different players who can fill that role. In the second round I’d love to see the Sixers draft a backup center who they can develop over time and another option on the wing. While they have several players who could play in front of these draftees we’ve seen how injuries can decimate a team, the more options the better.
Who is your favorite player in this draft class?
Daniel Olinger: If we’re talking favorite in terms of best overall player, I’ve had LaMelo Ball ranked at number one on my board for months and have written about him several times. If we’re talking just a guy I like, I just find Kira Lewis Jr of Alabama to be a fun guy to root for. He’s lightning quick, makes good decisions and competes like crazy on defense to compensate for his small stature and frame. Any undersized guard who finds a way to make it work is definitely my cup of tea (in a related note, T.J. McConnell is my favorite basketball player ever).
Tom West: Partly because I’ve been focusing on prospects the Sixers could draft and just because I love his game, I’m going to say Desmond Bane. He’s widely regarded as the best shooter in this class (44.2 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game over the last three years) and for good reason. He’s elite off the catch, off movement, off screens and he can comfortably pull up from deep. He’s a super smart, strong, high-effort team defender as well, and provides some complementary pick-and-roll play and quality passing to succeed as far more than a shooter. With his IQ, work ethic, and maturity as well, he’s going to be a really helpful player for a long time.
Tyler Monahan: My dream scenario for the Sixers is for them to take Tyrese Maxey in the first round, not just because I think he’s an amazing fit but also because he’s my favorite player in this draft. He’s a great shooter both on and off ball and already has a strong frame that he can continue to grow in to become even stronger on the defensive side of the ball. I’ve also grown to really appreciate the two way abilities of Saddiq Bey and Tre Jones.
Are there any players you find underrated or could end up being steals in the second round?
Daniel Olinger: Elijah Hughes is interesting to me as a good shooter who can even create in some circumstances, as his 34 percent three-point mark in college was more due to his role as “the guy” at Syracuse. Cross some shooting upside with great in-game leaping ability and a tenacious style of play, and I think Hughes just sticks in an NBA rotation. Other guys projected to go in the second round that I like include Mason Jones, Zeke Nnaji (who might fall to the second round, that’s a toss-up to be honest), Killian Tillie and Jalen Crutcher.
Tom West: Depending on who else is available, Grant Riller would be a good choice for the Sixers at 21 as a talented and explosive shot creator, driver and finisher, but he’s been placed well into the second round in some mock drafts. Isaiah Joe is another. He’s one of the best shooters in the class, excelling both off the catch and off the dribble with deep range, shifty footwork and the ability to use step-backs and side steps to create space. He also has some sharp defensive instincts with his ability to break up passing lanes and rotate well off the ball. But due to some of his limitations as a scorer inside the arc, lacking strength and defensive versatility against stronger players, some mocks have him falling later into the 30s and 40s. Given how badly the Sixers need shooting, Joe would be a good target for them in the early second round.
Steve Lipman: Cassius Winston gets buckets and I would adore him on the Sixers. If he makes it to the 30s I’d love to scoop him up. Grant Riller also seems like he could be had there, as people seem low on his defense and his level of competition in college. I like Isaiah Joe a lot from what I’ve read. He seems — offensively — like a Covington facsimile; a tall guy with no conscience when it comes to shooting threes.
Tyler Monahan: I really like what Immanuel Quickley brings to the table offensively. He was the player that Kentucky went to when they needed a big basket, he has the calm demeanor to make those shots and that’s something you can’t teach. He’s nothing special on defense but I think with the right coaching he can become a solid defender, and as long as he continues to shoot with the confidence he has he can become a really nice option off any team’s bench.