The 2022 NBA Draft is next week, and the rumor mill is ramping up with talks of potential selections and trades. When it comes to the Sixers, we first heard that they’ve been “exploring trades” involving Danny Green and their first-round pick. Then news came on Wednesday that they’re also “gauging team’s interest” in Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton.
Apart from news of the Sixers doing their due diligence to evaluate their potential trade options, there have been a few new mock drafts with experts making their predicted and suggested picks.
Last week, I wrote an initial mock draft roundup, covering picks ranging from the likes of E.J. Liddell to Tari Eason. Now, let’s get into another new roundup, highlighting a trend of one particularly popular pick that’s being projected to the Sixers with the 23rd overall selection: the 19-year-old, 6-foot-4 guard Jaden Hardy from the G League.
Jonathan Givony, ESPN — Jaden Hardy, 6-foot-4 guard, NBA G League Ignite
Jaden Hardy has gone from being considered more of a lottery talent to being projected as a pick in the low 20s, starting with Givony’s mock for ESPN which has the Sixers taking Hardy at 23.
As LB’s Jason Kates broke down in his Hardy profile, the G League guard has his flaws. For instance, he forces things on offense at times and had poor efficiency this season with a 48.2 true shooting percentage, albeit on a very small sample of only 12 games with the Ignite. But Hardy clearly has a lot of offensive talent and upside. With his range, explosiveness and handle getting downhill, and passing chops, there’s plenty to like about him.
Here’s what Givony has to say about Hardy to Philly:
With James Harden turning 33 in August and on the downside of his career from a physical standpoint, adding more talent in the backcourt could very well be a major priority for the Sixers, if only to protect Harden’s health and ensure he’s at his best entering the playoffs. Hardy still has plenty of upside to tap into as a shot-making, instinctual scorer who is only 19. Adding more shooting alongside Joel Embiid should be an attractive proposition for the Sixers, and Hardy has the type of scoring talent that could allow him to anchor a bench unit down the road if he continues to progress with his frame and decision-making.
The Sixers’ biggest roster weakness is their complete lack of wing depth, and finding reinforcements to correct that should be their top priority this offseason. However, if some of the wings that could better address the Sixers’ needs — such as players like E.J. Liddell and Tari Eason — are already off the board, Hardy could be an interesting option. Athletic guards who can create offense both inside the arc and from distance aren’t that easy to find. Having Hardy’s offensive potential to help fire up bench units down the line could be a valuable luxury to have behind the shot creation of James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report — Jaden Hardy
The second major outlet to publish a mock draft this week with the Sixers taking Jaden Hardy at 23. Jonathan Wasserman didn’t add any extra insight or analysis on Hardy or what the Sixers’ plans may be with their first-rounder, but it could be noteworthy that another well informed draft analyst is going with Hardy here.
Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation — Nikola Jovic and Ochai Agbaji
Not everything has been about Hardy this week, though. When making two selections to cover the most likely pick available and the best pick, Ricky O’Donnell opted with two forwards: Nikola Jovic and Ochai Agbaji.
Here’s O’Donnell’s case for each:
Why Nikola Jovic is the most likely pick on the board: There have been rumors Philly could shop this pick as a sweetener in a deal for veteran help, which makes sense. If they do keep the selection, adding an offensive talent like Jovic would be a great addition for the front court long-term. Jovic is a 6’11 Serbian forward comfortable playing out on the perimeter with a deep bag of scoring tricks. His defense will be an eyesore for the early part of his career, but the shot-making and ball handling at that size should translate.
Why Ochai Agbaji is the best pick on the board: Agbaji will likely be long gone by this pick, but his 3-and-D skill set could be a nice replacement for Danny Green after he tore his ACL.
In Jovic, the Sixers would be getting a highly talented offensive threat, while Agbaji would bring more defensive ability and upside. Due to Jovic’s defensive issues, the 22-year-old Agbaji should clearly be the preferred pick here if he falls. With his quality shooting, length, and defensive tools, he could contribute early on and is a better fit to address some of the Sixers’ weaknesses at both ends of the floor. As O’Donnell mentioned, though, it’s hard to see Agbaji being available at 23.
Kyle Boone, CBS Sports — Mark Williams, 7-foot-2 center, Duke
A second mock draft that has the Sixers going in a different direction. This time, taking the star center from Duke, Mark Williams:
Unlikely Williams falls this far — he’s one of the best shot-blockers in the draft — but if he’s still on the board he’s an auto-pick. Lob threat who can finish around the rim and affect shots, potentially serving as a high-level Joel Embiid backup.
Personally, as a bit of a draft novice this year, I’m not too familiar with Williams’ game and just how much value the Sixers would be getting by taking him at 23. However, as Boone noted himself here, it’s unlikely Williams is even available when the Sixers are on the clock anyway (he’s a popular projected lottery pick for the Hornets). Plus, I’d argue the Sixers should save their pick and free agency budget to focus on fixing their serious need for wings, and instead roll with Paul Reed and Charles Bassey as their backup centers. Reed and Bassey have both shown promise, and Reed did a solid job as the team’s backup through the playoffs. Drafting another young big definitely wouldn’t be the Sixers’ best use of their one first-rounder.
So, the trend in mocks this week has certainly been very pro Jaden Hardy. In addition to the mock drafts above, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer even mentioned Hardy as a possible Sixers target, along with some other intriguing wing options that we’ve been covering in more detail here at LB:
Santa Clara guard Jalen Williams, LSU forward Tari Eason, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell, Notre Dame guard Blake Wesley, and NBA G League Ignite guards MarJon Beauchamp and Jaden Hardy are among the prospects who could be at No. 23 if the Sixers keep the pick.
Of course, this could simply be a general suggestion, but perhaps there’s at least a touch of informed speculation behind it. Maybe Hardy is on the Sixers’ list of players they’d be interested in taking. Either way, there could be a little smoke building around the potential for the Sixers to take Hardy, especially if some of their best wing targets are taken before 23.
In the final days leading up to draft night, we’ll be sure to keep you updated with all the latest rumors.