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Around College Basketball: Third Edition

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First-round prospects have started to separate themselves

NCAA Basketball: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Now over a quarter of the way through the NBA season, the league is really starting to take shape. Aside from the recent West Coast trip, the Sixers continue to win and have put themselves in position to draft at the end of the first round, something they have grown accustomed to over the last few years. With additional savvy minds in the front office now, look for the team to add more players necessary for a championship run.

Pick Projection: 26th Overall

Prospects To Watch:

Greg Brown, Texas (PF):

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Austin American Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the Sixers’ biggest weaknesses so far has been the up-and-down play of the bench unit. While there are some solid pieces to build around in that unit, as a whole it has been generally underwhelming. One of the reasons for that is the lack of a reliable backup power forward. Mike Scott has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, and when he has played, he hasn’t given the team much. By drafting Greg Brown, the bench unit will receive an injection of elite athleticism, physicality, and touch from outside.

In his freshman season, Brown is averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, while also shooting 37 percent from deep on four shots per game. When you look at the rest of a stacked Texas roster, you realize how impressive those numbers are. Brown isn’t always the first option, yet he is constantly making plays. Greg Brown is still a raw prospect, but his talent and potential are obvious. If he is available towards the end of the first round, the Sixers should swipe him up quickly.

Brandon Boston Jr., Kentucky (SG):

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With all of the top prospects the University of Kentucky has on their roster, everyone expected them to be competing for a national championship this year. Well, things could not have gone any differently for the Wildcats. They have been extremely disappointing as a team and many of those prospects have not lived up to expectations. The biggest name among those prospects was Brandon Boston Jr., the lanky shooting guard who could pull up from anywhere or drive and create separation with those long limbs. It has been tough sledding so far for Boston, as he has adjusted slowly to the collegiate level, but has shown signs of heating up as of late. His numbers as a whole are still unimpressive, but there has been improvement. In his last four games, he is shooting 61 percent from deep, compared to just 18 percent in his first 15 games.

The talent hasn’t gone all of a sudden. He just needs to be able to adjust, and some added weight that will come over the next few months as he prepares to potentially join the NBA ranks should help. Boston’s length should allow him to play down a position if he puts on some muscle. Adding his offensive mindset to the wing rotation alongside Matisse Thybulle’s defensive acumen could be a nice combination for the Sixers down the road.

Josh Christopher, Arizona State (SG):

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Surprise, surprise, another top recruit who has a solid chance of being a first-round pick after just one year in college. Unlike Brandon Boston Jr., Josh Christopher has been a steady contributor all year for the Sun Devils, and while it’s not always lottery-level production, Christopher has shown flashes of what teams can expect to see out of him at the next level. Some additional weight could be helpful once he reaches the NBA, but at the moment, Christopher’s body looks like it can handle the stress of the professional game. He attacks the rim often and plays a very physical style of basketball. His already muscular frame allows him to fight through contact and make tough baskets.

He hasn’t had to handle the entire offensive load by himself, which allows him to roam around and not have to worry about facing constant double teams, part of the reason he’s averaging 14.3 points per game. His shot from deep isn’t reliable just yet; he’s only shooting 30 percent from 3-point range, but he is still willing to shoot when necessary. Josh Christopher’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page but he has shown that his game can translate to the next level.