The Philadelphia 76ers enter a crucial offseason this summer. They have acquired the players to build around in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, now they just have to correctly build around them. The rebuild is almost complete, but they still need to find the appropriate fits around their future stars in order to graduate from the tanking stage and enter in to the develop and compete stages.
What the Sixers have now is a center who can dominate games at times, a slashing point forward with outstanding passing skills and a combo forward who is also an outstanding passer. The Sixers desperately need shooters and a secondary ball handler to pair with Simmons. The shooters will space the court enough that Simmons and Embiid can do a lot of damage in the paint while also creating open shots for other shooters.
Simmons is a similar player to what LeBron was coming out of high school. A point foward with great size, athleticism and passing ability, but not a natural shooter. In LeBron’s first stint with Cleveland he shot over 50% just once, in his final season before taking his talents to Miami. In the 7 seasons since(4 with Miami, 3 with Cleveland) he has shot over 50% in 6 of the 7 seasons. He has been surrounded with shooters since the 2010-2011 season. They properly space the floor allow for more driving and kick-out opportunities and less bad shots for LeBron.
The Sixers front office needs to build in a similar fashion. Loading the roster with shooters is key for the growth of both Embiid and Simmons and will lead to a much more efficient offense in 2017-2018. This had a big impact on how I ranked the top 14 prospects in this year’s draft class. That doesn’t mean I ranked a slower player who can shoot over someone like Josh Jackson, who is a great athlete but not a great shooter at this point, but the better shooters in this draft who also move really well were ranked higher than they might be on other boards.
I also put a premium on ball movement and defense. The goal here is to win a championship and that starts with proper ball movement and defense. Players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden are fun to watch, but they are both defensive liabilities and consistently dribble the air out of the ball on every possession.
2017 NBA Draft Lottery Big Board
1) Josh Jackson SF/PF Kansas- I know the consensus has been that Markelle Fultz is the best player in the draft, but in this league you win with athletic scoring wings, not ball-centric point guards. Even if Jackson doesn’t develop into at least a decent shooter(very possible) he is still a great player with or without the basketball who can defend 3 or 4 different positions.
Outside of his shot, his skills are really well developed for a 19 year old kid. He averaged 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a freshman on an already loaded Kansas team. He is a good defender, gets to the basket consistently and plays hard on every possession. He can make an impact right away on an NBA team which isn’t a given when you consider most early draft picks are 19 year old kids still filling out their bodies and learning to play the game.
He’s 6’8, 203 pounds right now. If he can get up to 230 in a couple years and develop a nice shooting stroke his ceiling will be very similar to what Kawhi Leonard has become for the Spurs this season.
The Sixers really don’t need Josh Jackson and his fit with Simmons isn’t great, but wings like this don’t grow on trees and Simmons has yet to play an NBA game. If Simmons stays healthy and lives up to his number one overall pick, then you can always move Jackson down the road. You don’t pass on an elite talent in the crapshot that is the NBA Draft just because shooting guard is the bigger need.
2) Markelle Fultz PG/SG Washington- The biggest concern with Fultz I have is how inconsistent his effort was on defense. With the length(6’9 wingspan) and athleticism he has along with his 195 pound frame, he should have been a dominant defender at the guard position. I get that he was in a really bad situation at Washington, but when was the last time a player had up and down effort on defense in college and always great effort in the NBA?
I see Fultz as a James Harden caliber player. A combo guard who is a great passer when he wants to be, can put up a ton of points. He can shoot from anywhere, create shots for himself and teammates and has huge upside on defense.
Philly could actually be a good fit for Fultz. He could play either guard spot and be a secondary ball handler who could do more damage playing off the ball. He’s a good enough shooter to compliment Simmons well and if Brett Brown gets the most out of him defensively he can shut down most opposing point guards.
3) Malik Monk SG/PG Kentucky- There are other prospects that huge bigger upsides than Monk, but his fit here is a slam dunk. He is a pure shooter that feeds well off a primary ball handler. He can shoot it well from all over the court and is one of the best contested shooters in this class, if not the best. He’s only 6’2 1/2″, but his 6’6 wingspan will help him on defense. He’ll need space to shoot because of his lack of height for the position, but his length will help him a lot when defending 2s.
I think of Monk as an unselfish Dion Waiters, if you can even imagine that. He doesn’t take many bad shots, he can put up a ton of points in a hurry and he meshed quickly with his 18 year old teammates at Kentucky.
4) De’Aaron Fox PG/SG Kentucky- Fox gets labeled as a bad shooter or a player with a broken shot, but the truth is his release just needs to be cleaned up. He shot under 25% from outside this past season, but he was a 52% shooter from inside the arc, has a nice mid-range game and was a 74% free throw shooter. His outside shoot will eventually become a part of his arsenal at as well.
His best asset by far is his speed and everything else plays off of that. He’s very similar to John Wall coming out except for his struggles from deep. He shut down Lonzo Ball in the NCAA tourney and will become a very good defender at the next level. Even when he takes a bad angle or gets screened, he recovers so quickly that he is very difficult to get good looks against or beat to the basket and his 6’6″ wingspan helps a ton as well.
I believe that Fox would be a consensus top 5 pick if he was a proven outside shooter. The thing to remember with these kids is that most of the lottery picks are 19 and 20 year olds. They are very far from finishes prospects so you are really drafting based on what you believe they will develop into, not who they are right now. The lottery picks are all about high upsides. Once you get past the first 14 picks you are really just looking for players who can serve some type of role on your team based on what they’ve already shown on tape.
5) Lonzo Ball PG/SG UCLA- Ball is the best passer and the player who will impact your team’s ball movement the most positively. He finds open teammates, but the ball is rarely in his hands for more than a couple seconds and that’s exactly what an offense needs in today’s NBA. He’s also an outstanding shooter with the height to shoot and pass over most defenders he will face at the next level.
As far as the issues with his dad, I’ll leave that alone for now. On the court, his thin frame(6’6, 190) and lack of elite quickness will hurt him on defense at the next level and creating his own shot.
When projecting Ball’s draft ranking it’s important to understand what his role will be in the NBA. He’s not Chris Paul or John Wall and never will be. I think of him more similarly to John Stockton. A pass first point guard who can shoot and run a very efficient offense, but not someone you should rely on to score 20-30 points a game.
6) Jonathan Isaac PF/SF Florida State- Think Nerlens Noel at the power forward position with the versatility to guard wings as well. Isaac was a perimeter player in high school until a late growth spurt shot him up to 6’11. Now he’s a power forward with a perimeter background.
All that sounds great, but Isaac is razor thing at 205 pounds and is still extremely raw. He’s not a great passer and lack awareness away from the ball on defense. His shot is very inconsistent and will take time before he is a threat outside of the paint.
His immediate impact is going to be a slasher and transition weapon on offense and a good defender outside of the paint. Until he gets strong and improves his shot he’s not going to be anything more than that and it may take him 2-3 seasons before he gets to that level.
7) Jayson Tatum SF/PF Duke- While I was watching Tatum I thought to myself, does Duke even teach defense to its freshmen anymore? He was just as bad defensively as Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Brandon Ingram were. The effort isn’t there, he gets caught ball-watching and he’s pretty easy to bully in the post. Defensively he is going to be a project at the next level.
Offensively though, there is a lot to like about Tatum’s game. He’s a 6’8 combo forward with a really nice shot and handle. He can shoot it from anywhere and can create his own shot, though his lack of vision prevents him from creating offense for his teammates.
His role early in his career will most likely be a spark offensive player off the bench. He can come in, be a small ball power forward and help space the floor and hit a ton of shots. He’s not a starter until he gets his frame over 204 pounds, but he can come off the bench and give you 10+ points a night .
8) Dennis Smith PG/SG NC State- A lot of people think this kid is a top 3 prospect and I can see why. He already has an NBA body(6’3, 195) and he’s an explosive athlete. The reason I have him ranked lower is because I see him as the bad version of Russell Westbrook all the time. He doesn’t play much defense and despite his stats(6.2 assists per game) he would much rather take a contested jump shot than pass to an open teammate.
He’s going to score a ton of points in this league, but he’s going to take a lot of shots to get there and his turnover rate won’t be pretty. He doesn’t make his teammates better enough of the time. He plays like the guy who is more concerned with his stats than anything else.
I still have him as a top 10 pick because the upside is there, but if I’m Bryan Colangelo, I probably avoid this kid altogether.
9) Donovan Mitchell SG/SF Louisville- He’s only 6’3, but his 6’10 wingspan more than makes up for his lack of height for a wing player. He has deep range and is a very streaky shooter. When he gets going early he can put up a ton of points in a hurry. He’s a good athlete in space, but usually plays more below the rim in traffic.
His ideal situation is that of a role scoring shooting guard who feeds off better playmakers(like a Ben Simmons). When he’s feeding off playmakers and attacking in transition he is at his best and with that long wingspan and quick feet, he also projects to be a solid defender as well.
10) Terrance Ferguson SG/SF Adelaide(Aus)- Ferguson decided to skip the one and done route in college basketball and instead play overseas in Australia for a year. I get why a player would go that route, but he only played 15 minutes per game(quite common for a first year player at the international level) and he wasn’t going up against as many future NBA players as he would had he gone to Kentucky.
He’s an explosive athlete and a decent shooter at this stage. He can boost an offense right away, but he really needs to fill out his 185 pound frame before he can take on a full-time role in the NBA. He got exposed a lot because of his lack of strength in Australia and that will only get worse in the NBA.
11) OG Anunoby PF/SF Indiana- An ACL tear in January as really hurt his stock, but if he gets back to 100% from that injury, somebody is getting an elite athlete at forward who can guard multiple positions.
Before the injury he was a physical player at 6’8, 235 pounds with a 7’2 wingspan who lived above the rim. He consistently filled up his stat sheet with rebounds, blocks and steals and he was a nightmare to cover on the break. He’s a minor threat from the outside on catch and shoot plays, but he’s never going to be a high volume scorer.
He’s a player that, if healthy, will get to the rim whenever he wants and prevent his man from doing the same. He probably falls out of the top 20 because of the knee injury, but you aren’t going to get more upside from a draft pick in the teens.
12) Lauri Markkanen PF/SF Arizona- His evaluation is pretty simple. Hes a seven foot pure shooter with deep range and a decent handle who doesn’t offer much else. He’s a major defensive liability who doesn’t offer much in post ability at either end.
He gets out-muscled for rebounds, he can’t create his own shot and he isn’t much of a passer. He might develop those skills in time, but for now he’s really just a tall three-point artist.
13) John Collins PF/C Wake Forest- A poor man’s Chris Bosh. He has a great motor and a ton of speed for his position, but he’s still really raw on defense and doesn’t offer a ton of physicality. Collins is a fast break weapon and outstanding lob target who is developing a nice mid-range game, but the rest of his skillset is going to take some time.
14) Frank Ntilikina PG/SG France- A long point guard with a ton of work ahead of him. His shot is slow, his handle is loose and he only averaged 18 minutes per game this past season. His overall feel for the game is very much in the developmental stage and he might be best served playing overseas for another year.
His defensive upside is what gets me the most excited about his prospects. He’s incredibly long and has quick enough feet to stay with anybody. He has that rare length/quickness combination at the point guard position that allows him to shut down any opposing point guard and he still has that 170 pound frame he can fill out.