While it’s reasonable to speculate the Sixers’ draft assets being used as part of a blockbuster trade this offseason, the 2021 NBA draft is now just a week away and Philadelphia still holds the 28th and 50th overall picks. Daryl Morey and the front office should have a good idea, then, of which prospects they like if they are on the clock next Thursday night, and that process is underway.
Per reporting from The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, the team took a look at big men Luka Garza and Neemias Queta yesterday at a predraft workout in Camden. Garza swept all six National Player of the Year awards last year, averaging 24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game as a senior for Iowa. Queta averaged 14.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks as a junior at Utah State.
While finding additional on-ball creators and shooters is undoubtedly a priority, the Sixers also need to address the backup center position, hence evaluating these young big men prior to draft night. Dwight Howard is a free agent this offseason, and while bringing him back on a veteran minimum deal is certainly a possibility, it would behoove the franchise to bring in a younger guy to develop as Joel Embiid’s reserve. Tony Bradley could have been that guy before being shipped to Oklahoma City in the George Hill trade.
Howard or no Howard (and I’m of the opinion that his return on a minimum deal is perfectly fine, especially if Ben Simmons is dealt — those two-man lineups were dreadful), the team should be looking to bring in a stretch 5 reserve option. Garza is particularly interesting in that light, after shooting 44.0 percent on 3.2 3-point attempts per game last season. While valid concerns about his defensive mobility have him going late in the second round in mock drafts, he could prove a viable changeup in offense-heavy lineups for certain matchups. Garza represents an interesting option with that 50th overall pick.
Meanwhile, Queta was the measureables guy at the combine — the tallest player with the longest wingspan and the tallest vertical reach. He also stacked up with Embiid collegiately in some rarified statistical airs:
Since '08, only four D-I players had a DRB% > 20, ORB% > 10, BLK% > 10 and AST% > 10 over the course of their NCAA careers.— Bryan Kalbrosky (@BryanKalbrosky) June 14, 2021
Neemias Queta (2021 NBA draft prospect)
Queta has a rare blend of rebounding, rim protection and passing. pic.twitter.com/OFxozWsLGs
While Queta projects as an elite rim protector, he should struggle defending out to the perimeter. Offensively, he has proven to be a solid finisher around the rim, but has little shooting range. In a league where big men are increasingly asked to defend high pick-and-rolls and stretch the defense on the other end, his weaknesses don’t stack up with the direction the game is heading. However, how good Queta is at the things he does well could make him an interesting project, and he would certainly be another possibility at 50.
While the need for upgrades on the perimeter is certainly the more buzzy topic (and Pompey also reported Oklahoma guard Austin Reaves being a part of that workout), the Sixers could certainly afford to upgrade their reserve frontcourt as well. We’ll see if any efforts are made to do so on draft night.