The Sixers will look to acquire a second-round pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, a league source confirmed to Liberty Ballers.
On Tuesday, Harrison Grimm gave you five prospects he’s got his eye on. Thursday, it is my turn. While my draft prep was minimal considering the Sixers still as of now do not possess a single pick, I scraped together five players that are both realistic targets and the types of players the Sixers should go after.
If you’re looking for comprehensive draft coverage, Ricky O’Donnell dropped his top 60 rankings on Wednesday and his full two-round mock on Thursday over at SBNation.com. Sam Vecenie’s draft guide over at the Athletic is an outstanding resource if you really want to nerd out. All their work helped me compile this small list.
Here we go!
Julian Strawther, 6-7, Wing, Gonzaga
Strawther’s most exciting NBA skill is his shot. It steadily improved over three years at Gonzaga. He hit over 40 percent from three on 5.3 attempts last season for the Zags, showing off easy NBA range. What makes him an intriguing prospect is that he’s not a one-trick pony. Strawther showed the ability time and again to beat aggressive closeouts with a pretty floater, helping him average 15.2 points a game. Off ball, he understands spacing and has experience in playing with a dominant big in Drew Timme.
He’s a decent on-ball defender with good length and decent lateral quickness. His off-ball defense is OK, but he didn’t rack up steals and blocks. Most importantly, he is aggressive and shows a desire to play defense. He’ll likely need to add a little strength and you won’t want him guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player, but there’s a foundation to work with.
The 21-year-old is likely available here because he projects more as an excellent role player than a star. There’s a little Cameron Johnson in there. That’ll suit the Sixers just fine. They need size and shooting on the wing. Check and check. Plus, don’t discount selecting a winning player from a winning program.
If I’m targeting one specific player to fit the Sixers best, it’s Strawther. For a team that’s acquired so many “one-way” players over the years, Strawther has few holes in his game.
Seth Lundy, 6-4, Guard, Penn State
Like Strawther, Lundy’s most appealing skill is his shot. He also hit over 40 percent of his threes on just over six attempts per game. Lundy’s stroke is smooth and effortless off the dribble. He’s audacious, willing to fire from anywhere at any time with plenty of NBA range. He’s comfortable putting the ball on the deck and hitting from the midrange as well.
He flashed those skills with a strong showing at the NBA combine.
The 23-year-old has an interesting frame. He only measured at 6-4 but has a 6-10 wingspan and is solidly built at 214 pounds. Physically, he should do better guarding up than down, but showed the ability to defend guards effectively at times. He’s physical and tough on ball, but can be a little stiff and struggle to get through screens.
His build is a little reminiscent of Eric Gordon — Lundy also has the same level of audacity as Gordon did at Indiana. Lundy is not a playmaker though, averaging less than an assist per game throughout his four years with the Nittany Lions. He can handle the ball, but any creation will most likely be for himself. He’s also not a great finisher at the rim.
A four-year player, Lundy closed his college year by leading Penn State to a strong season. Before his career at State College, the Paulsboro, New Jersey native starred at Roman Catholic. A homecoming could make sense.
Maxwell Lewis, 6-6, Wing, Pepperdine
A year after making the WCC All-Freshman Team, Lewis followed it up with an All-WCC nod as a sophomore, leading the Waves with 17.2 points a game. The 6-6 Lewis boasts an impressive 7-foot wingspan. His size allows him to shoot over defenders and his long strides make him a difficult guard off the dribble. He also showed off some playmaking skills with 2.8 assists a game.
The soon-to-be 21-year-old has a silky smooth jumper off the bounce and off the catch, despite hitting only 35.4 percent of his threes during his two college seasons. He can put the ball on the floor, though he gets open looks more from his size and craftiness than quickness or burst. There’s a little Pascal Siakam to his game in that regard.
Defense is going to be a big question mark. Lewis has impressive physical tools that could translate to the NBA, but you didn’t see them much at Pepperdine — even against lesser competition. As a team, the Waves were bad defensively. Perhaps in the right system and culture, Lewis could become a viable defender.
Lewis is still bit of a projection, but it’s easy to see why teams are intrigued. It’s rare to find players like this with his size, skill and touch. Under Nick Nurse and his staff, he’d be an intriguing prospect for the Sixers.
Keyontae Johnson, 6-4, Wing, Kansas State
Johnson was part of national headlines back in December 2020 when he suddenly collapsed on the court. Then playing for Florida, Johnson had just finished an alley-oop against Florida State, a timeout was called and Johnson collapsed when walking back onto the court. He was eventually diagnosed with “athlete’s heart,” or an increase in cardiac mass because of systemic training.
Before that happened, Johnson was the SEC preseason Player of the Year as a sophomore and looking like an easy first-round pick. After missing most of the next two seasons, Johnson transferred to Kansas State for the 2022-23 season, essentially picking up where he left off averaging 17.4 points a game and helping the Wildcats get to the Final Four.
Health and age concerns aside, Johnson is an intriguing prospect. He’s a big, burly wing, measuring at 6-4 but with a 7-foot wingspan and weighing 238 pounds. He’s a do-it-all player, with the ability to shoot, pass and dribble. He hit 40.5 percent of his threes on over three attempts a game and averaged 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
He’s got a little bit of a bag off the bounce, a quick first step and is athletic and strong enough to finish at the rim. He did average more turnovers than assists, but you’d rather have to reign in a player’s aggressiveness than vice versa. He understands spacing, is a good off-ball mover and does well shooting off the catch.
Defensively, his strength, length and athleticism make him a strong on-ball defender. You would like to see a player with his athletic profile be more disruptive off ball, but his stock numbers are low.
Johnson has a pretty ideal role player package. At 23 and having played in big situations, he’s a guy that could be a factor for the Sixers in 2023-24. Feels like the type of player Nurse would love to work with.
Jaylen Clark, 6-4, Wing, UCLA
Clark is easily the worst shooter of the bunch, but his all-around game is impressive. Like Johnson, the 21-year-old is a do-it-all wing in the mold of Bruce Brown, who helped the Denver Nuggets win the title. Though he’s not quite the playmaker Brown is, Clark averaged 1.9 assists as a forward this season and even initiated the offense at times.
He spent a lot of time offensively in the dunker spot where he hit the offensive glass (1.9 offensive boards per game), finished at the rim and did well finding cutters and open bigs. He was also excellent in the open floor, either pushing the ball or finishing in transition. As mentioned, the shot isn’t there, though you could talk yourself into it coming around. He hit 33 percent of his threes and shot just under 70 percent from the line. The release is slow and there are a lot of moving parts. It’s going to need work.
Though he only measured 6-4 at the combine, his 6-9 wingspan is notable (literally the same measurements as Brown coming out of Miami). He can guard up and down the lineup, but he was most effective using his length and lateral quickness against guards. He was excellent off-ball, averaging 2.6 steals a game this season.
As is the case with many NBA prospects, the shot will be the swing skill. The Sixers don’t have a great recent track record for developing jumpers. Tyrese Maxey’s improvement is notable, though it feels like Maxey himself did a lot of that heavy lifting. Perhaps under Nurse and the current coaching staff, you’d feel better about developing a guy like Clark.