It’s been a weird year, that much is obvious. We’re still waiting on the NBA regular season to start and are left with just college basketball to keep us occupied until then. The good thing about this odd situation is that fans can start daydreaming about which upcoming prospect would be a good fit for the team. With such a deep draft class, there are bound to be a few available no matter where the Sixers pick.
Prospects to watch:
DJ Steward, Duke (SG): With a 2020 high school class as loaded as this one, many top prospects take the spotlight away from names that aren’t as flashy. I think this happened a bit to DJ Steward heading into his freshman year at Duke. The Blue Devils had one of the top recruiting classes in all of college basketball, and because of that, Steward has been struggling to find his role early in the season.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has shuffled around the starting lineup to try and find the combination of top talent able to halt an uneven beginning to the year. Steward has started two of the team’s four games, but one has to wonder if the constant change is hurting his rhythm. So far, he is averaging 11.8 points per game and shooting 35 percent from 3-point range, but the thing that has stuck out is his ball-handling ability and willingness to drive the lane, even with a wiry frame. The Sixers need more ball handlers that can also shoot. Looking past an uneven start to his collegiate career, if DJ Steward is available for the Sixers to draft, they shouldn’t shy away from the sharpshooter.
Really impressed with Steward’s continued willingness to initiate contact even with a smaller frame. Constantly looking to get to the free throw line pic.twitter.com/0dARpJ0rTv— Tyler Monahan (@TMon_19) December 9, 2020
James Bouknight, UConn (PG/SG): Coming back for his sophomore season at UConn, James Bouknight has a chance to really turn some heads now that the national media knows him. Last season, Bouknight was a member of the American Athletic Conference All-Freshman team and third team All-AAC, propelled by his stroke from deep and ability to make quick reads.
Now back as a sophomore, he has shown that he can lead a team offensively on all levels (18.7 points per game, 35 percent shooting from 3), and has taken a step forward on the defensive side of the ball as well. He seems stronger this year, not getting pushed off the ball and able to use his quickness to reach in and find steals more frequently (1.7 steals per game compared to 0.8 per game last year). It’s still very early in the season, but Bouknight looks like a potential first-round pick. The Sixers are still looking for a true backup point guard; while he plays off ball a decent amount, I could see Bouknight filling that role in Philadelphia.
James Bouknight with a really nice floater here, a quick pull when his defender seemingly expects him to take another step toward the basket. pic.twitter.com/7HgPvq5uDR— Tyler Monahan (@TMon_19) December 4, 2020
Jared Butler, Baylor (PG): You might be seeing a trend here — the Sixers need some more ball handling on their bench. This draft class is the perfect time to find one of those players late in the first round and Jared Butler might be the best out of the entire group. A more defined player, Butler leads a top-ranked Baylor team in search of a national championship as a junior.
Butler knows what he is and what he isn’t. He thrives finding open teammates, but also isn’t afraid to let it fly from deep with a seemingly unlimited range. The Sixers did a good job this offseason of surrounding Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with plenty of shooters, but you simply can’t have too many, and Butler would bring an energy that the Sixers bench unit doesn’t seem to have right now. Jared Butler has steadily increased his numbers across the board, to the point where he is now averaging 15.3 points per game on 48 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range, while also chipping in 4.8 assists per game. Players who can do that consistently don’t grow on trees. The Sixers would be lucky to have a player with Butler’s combination of smarts and athleticism.