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Sixers need to use second-round picks wisely in next month’s NBA draft

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Barkley Statue Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With time being an amorphous concept in 2020, I feel it’s important to remind you that the NBA draft is just six weeks away on October 16. In addition to the 21st overall pick, the Sixers have four picks in the second round. While it’s likely some of that draft capital will be used as sweetener to try and move one or more of the team’s exorbitant contracts, it would also be a huge boon for a cap-strapped club to find a viable rotation contributor with one of those second-round picks. The 34th and 36th overall picks, in particular, represent a couple chances to find a legitimate NBA player.

What exactly should Sixers fans expect to come of having that bushel of second-round picks? Since Sam Hinkie resigned in April 2016, the Sixers have had 11 second-round picks. Let’s break down what became of them:

2017: 2-36 - Jonah Bolden selected by Philadelphia
2017: 2-39 - Pick traded to Clippers for cash considerations (Jawun Evans selected)
2017: 2-46 - Pick traded to Bucks for cash considerations (Sterling Brown selected)
2017: 2-50 - Mathias Lessort selected by Philadelphia
2018: 2-38 - Pick traded to Pistons for New York’s 2021 second-round pick and Detroit’s 2023 second-round pick — two picks later sent to Clippers as part of the Tobias Harris trade (Khyri Thomas selected)
2018: 2-39 - Pick traded to Lakers for Chicago’s 2019 second-round pick (ended up 34th overall) and cash considerations (Isaac Bonga selected)
2018: 2-56 - Pick traded along with 60th overall pick for 54th overall pick (Shake Milton selected by Philadelphia)
2018: 2-60 - Pick traded along with 56th overall pick for 54th overall pick (Shake Milton selected by Philadelphia)
2019: 2-33 - Pick traded along with 24th overall pick for 20th overall pick (Matisse Thybulle selected by Philadelphia)
2019: 2-34 - Pick traded to Atlanta for 57th overall pick (later traded for Miami’s 2024 second-round pick and cash considerations), Atlanta’s 2020 second-round pick, and most favorable of 2023 second-round picks between Atlanta, Charlotte, and Brooklyn
2019: 2-42 - Pick traded with Jonathon Simmons to Wizards for cash considerations (Admiral Schofield selected)
2019: 2-54 - Marial Shayok selected by Philadelphia

Man, Bryan Colangelo sure was awful. Four second-round picks resulted in Jonah Bolden (not currently in the league), and Mathias Lessort (never made the league and later tossed into the Jimmy Butler-Josh Richardson four-team deal), with two picks sold for cash considerations. Could a GM have a worse draft than Colangelo did in 2017?

In 2018, while the process was sound, people are understandably upset in hindsight that Brett Brown sent Mikal Bridges to Phoenix on draft night. But Brett absolutely nailed the second round. He received two picks for one from Detroit, enlarging the trade asset chest from which Elton Brand would later draw. He ended up with a better pick the following year in the deal with the Lakers. And he turned two very late picks into Shake Milton, the exact type of rotational piece the Sixers would be happy to find in this year’s second round. Not bad considering Brown had only assumed temporary dual Coach-GM duties weeks earlier in the fallout from Colangelo’s Burnergate.

Then, we get to Philadelphia’s current GM, Elton Brand, who seems to have complete control now, but was the head of Team Collaboration for the 2019 draft. His work in the 2019 draft is mixed. We all love Matisse, but Elton pretty clearly got played by Danny Ainge by telegraphing the pick and lost the 33rd overall pick as a result. However, Elton did an excellent job in the deal with Atlanta. He traded 34th overall for what became the 34th overall pick this year, plus two future second-round picks. A three-for-one! The Wizards deal was disheartening. While there was some limited cap value in clearing the $1 million guaranteed on Simmons’ deal, that seemed like a money-saving move coming from ownership. Finally, Shayok doesn’t look like an NBA player, but you can’t write him off completely at this point, and it was the 54th overall pick anyway.

In an interview a week ago, Elton Brand claimed he has learned a lot since taking over as GM in September 2018 (courtesy of The Athletic’s Derek Bodner):

“I was a rookie, thrust in a position to lead a team with championship aspirations that the fan base had sacrificed and struggled for some years. My understanding of the game grew. I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot (back then), but now I do know a lot more and I’ve been through almost every situation there is, so I’m looking forward to leading this offseason and figuring out how to get us back on the right path.”

The second round of the draft is extremely hit-or-miss, but there is talent to be found. Alongside Milton, Thomas Bryant, Sterling Brown, Monte Morris, and Eric Paschall are a handful of useful players that were still on the board the last three years when the Sixers were on the clock. With the Sixers having a razor-thin margin for error to right this ship, they’ll have to hope Brand’s assertion is correct, and he is, in fact, the man for the job in maximizing the impact of Philadelphia’s draft capital.

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