To get some insight on the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, we brought in draft expert Mark Schindler for a Q&A. Mark covers the NBA and WNBA for BasketballNews.com, SBNation’s Indy Cornrows, and WNBA.com, while also co-hosting the Tag the Roll podcast with Jake Rosen. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @MG_Schindler.
Sean Kennedy: The Brooklyn Nets have deferred their acceptance of Philadelphia’s first-round pick until 2023, meaning the Sixers will retain their 2022 pick at 23rd overall. Is this an outcome that should please Sixers fans? Is there any consensus that either the 2022 or 2023 draft class is much better/deeper than the other?
Mark Schindler: The depth of 2023 is certainly going to be dependent on how the next year unfolds, but I really like some of the players in that 25-35 range in this draft, although it could certainly be deeper next year. I think we saw routinely this year how much this team lacked a consistent 8th or 9th man that could hang in a multitude of situations and it really hurt them in the playoffs. Although there are questions about the top end talent in this draft, I really like some of the players in the later first range for this team to play a part in their contention over their rookie contract.
SK: I think Sixers fans are still fist-pumping that Tyrese Maxey somehow fell to the team with the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Is there any player this year expected to go in the mid-teens that might be rumored to be a slider for whatever reason and the Sixers should pounce?
MS: As they should be! It was crazy that it happened then and stands out even more now given his development. Although not technically a wing and more of a combo big at the 4/5 slot, I love EJ Liddell. I buy his shot mechanics and touch, he has the ability to put the ball on the deck a few times while attacking, and the defense is legit. He has some switchiness in his toolbox, really excels as a secondary rim protector, and is very good at containing strength based matchups. His help defense alongside Joel could be special. My biggest concern would be how he’s utilized. If you’re drafting him just to screen and pop, I’m a bit mum on that. I like what he could be as a really dynamic roller with some playmaking chops and decision-making that I believe will look better in a honed role. If he’s just chilling in the corner, it’s a bit wonky for me.
It would be less of a fall and more of an immediate pick, but I think Wendell Moore out of Duke could make a lot of sense for the Sixers. He’s a quality connective playmaker, runs secondary actions with efficacy, and has a good array of finishes inside the arc. There are definite questions about how below the rim he can be at times, but I believe pretty strongly in his ability to attack an already bent defense and he’d get A LOT of that playing alongside Harden and Embiid. His off-ball defense is pretty rough right now, however, so this would be more of an offensive bet and hoping there’s some room for improvement. I think he can defend at the POA well enough, but I don’t love his screen navigation and he certainly falls asleep off-ball as well. It is worth noting how bland and sleepy Duke’s defense was in general, as he wasn’t the lone mistake prone culprit, but he’d be a lottery pick if the defense was a plus. I still really like his potential fit with this team.
Ochai Agbaji is the guy in this draft who actually fits “3 and D” as a player with a ton of shot versatility and good not great defensive abilities. I probably am higher on what his ability to attack off the catch is right now than consensus is, but he still hovers a bit beneath lottery for me due to an ultimately underwhelming level of on-ball juice. That’s not meant as a knock, rather just an explanation of why I’m not quuuuite there! That being said, that’s why I love his fit with the Sixers. All he’s going to be asked to do off rip is attack closeouts, shoot his shots, and play defense. I trust him to make the right plays and if he really can find some shift attacking closeouts, he’s a solid start in the league in my opinion. I like some of the interior reads and kicks he makes when he does get downhill. This team needs more players who can just be neutral or better on both ends and I’d bet on Ochai being that type of player.
SK: The Sixers have any number of holes on the roster, but the most glaring ones appear to involve athleticism and toughness on the wings. What players projected to go around Philadelphia’s selection would best fit that profile?
MarJon Beauchamp out of GLI brings some of that and then some. As mentioned earlier, I think Liddell and Agbaji fit that similar mold. Tari Eason brings that in abundance, but he’d really have to fall. I rate him pretty highly, but he’s all over the place on boards and in thought right now amongst scouts and team personnel.
SK: The group you mentioned is comprised of older prospects (Moore is 20, everyone else is 21 or older), so the good news is maybe Doc Rivers would actually be inclined to trust them sooner rather than later. Of the guys you’ve referenced (Liddell, Moore, Agbaji, Beauchamp, Eason), who is the most ready to contribute on day one? On the flip side, who would least shock you if they underachieved and never reached a rotation-player level in the NBA?
I believe pretty strongly in all as NBA players, but if you’re poking holes, it would probably be Wendell Moore. Especially because the defense is a bit of a question mark, immediate returns on offense are pretty necessary. He went from relative non-shooter his first two seasons (28.3% on 92 attempts) to plus plus shooter his junior season (41.3% on 126 attempts). If the shot isn’t at least average on high volume, it’s a lot harder for him to utilize his secondary skills that make him so intriguing to me. If your best traits come from attacking closeouts and you don’t routinely demand them, you get Matisse Thybulle without the defense. Not great Bob!
SK: Finally, this doesn’t impact the Sixers, but the top of the draft is interesting with no consensus first overall pick and multiple prospects for whom people are making the argument as the top guy. Who would you take with the first overall pick (assuming a blank slate roster, not that you were the Magic with positional fits to consider)?
It’s Paolo Banchero for me and pretty squarely. I’ve been a bit perplexed by the immediate tanking of his stock post-tournament, especially considering how impressive he was from a prospect standpoint in the tournament. He was immediately ratcheted down to the third overall spot by every major draft board... and that’s weird? His ability to create off the dribble from pretty much anywhere on the court is second to none in the class. He has good playmaking vision and feel, maybe the best handle in the class (him or Ivey), and the scoring skillset and foundation is much better than it’s gotten credit for. I know what the percentages were from mid-range, but he has really quality touch on the ball and gets where he wants how he wants with ease. The level to which the shot gets to will be important without a doubt, but it’s just not something I’m concerned about. He has the goods.
Thanks again to Mark for joining this Q&A and providing his insight. Again, be sure to follow him on Twitter for more great analysis @MG_Schindler.