The Philadelphia 76ers have two things to thank for the golden position they are in right now – Sam Hinkie and a great deal of patience. After years of making fans and analysts shake their heads at the notion of tanking, the Sixers are timing their growth to perfection.
— Forbes (@Forbes) June 5, 2017
Entering the 2017-18 season, the 76ers have a solid core with serious potential: two Rookie of the Year candidates in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, playmaking rookie phenom Ben Simmons, reliable big-man Jahlil Okafor, quality role players Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, TJ McConnell, and Richaun Holmes, and plenty of cap space to play with in a loaded free agency class.
Had Embiid and Simmons both been healthy this year, the 76ers may have had a chance to earn 30 to 35 wins. Coach Brett Brown has shown promise in San Antonio, learning under one of the greatest coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich. Once this team matures and develops a winning mentality, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Rumors have broken of the 76ers being open to trade offers for their pick. If this is true and they do successfully trade the third pick, they will likely look for a veteran to help a young team grow into a playoff contender. In a seemingly talented draft class, the third pick could provide a great deal of trade value to a team starting to rebuild. Although this makes for an interesting story, it could very well just be noise which would simply result in the Sixers retaining the pick.
The 76ers are reportedly open to trading their #3 pick.
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) June 6, 2017
If the Celtics and the Lakers draft predictably, Markelle Fultz (University of Washington) and Lonzo Ball (UCLA) will be the 1st and 2nd picks. This realistically leaves five players for the 76ers to choose from.
The top forward prospects are Josh Jackson (Kansas) and Jayson Tatum (Duke). Both of these players are athletic forwards that can essentially do it all – pass, score, rebound and defend. One of the biggest issues with either of these choices, however, is the abundance of big men in Philadelphia currently, and thus, an understaffed backcourt. GM Jerry Colangelo does have the luxury of a fairly guard-heavy free agency. If Colangelo can sign a guard with winning experience, veteran confidence, and a reliable shot such as George Hill or Patty Mills, it would flex out the lineup affording one of these picks.
Of the two forwards, Jackson would serve as a better compliment to Ben Simmons than Tatum.
While acting as the point forward, Simmons is very effective in driving hard and kicking out to an open man after forcing the defense to collapse. Because of this, the 76ers need a player with a reliable jump shot. Jackson shot a healthy 37.8-precent from the three-point line in college, which is considerably more valuable to Simmons and the Sixers than Tatum’s 34.2 percent from deep.
Additionally, Jackson has a keen ability to move off ball to get open and score off a pass, while Tatum demands the ball for most of his offensive contribution, making shots off his dribble. Although Jayson Tatum would be a great option for a team looking for a leader to control the ball and create his own shots, Philadelphia’s needs are fulfilled more so by Josh Jackson.
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) June 4, 2017
Should GM Colangelo decide to draft a guard rather than turn to free agency for one, the three top guard prospects after Fultz and Ball are De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Malik Monk (Kentucky) and Dennis Smith (N.C. State). As Ben Simmons will likely be running the floor as a point forward, if the 76ers draft a guard, he will need to be able to score with a green light, provide explosiveness, energy and leadership when Simmons is cold, and move off ball to find an open shot from a pass.
De’Aaron Fox is arguably the most well-rounded, skilled player in the draft. He is a sharp, calculated, multifaceted talent that will undoubtedly make any team instantly better. That being said, he is not the best fit for the 76ers. Fox lacks a reliable shot from beyond the arc and a real skill for moving without the ball.
Dennis Smith is also very well-rounded, like Fox, but is a notably more reliable shooter. In N.C. State, Smith shot 35.9 percent from deep, was a very skilled passer and ran pick and rolls with great success. However, Dennis Smith is most talented running the offense with the ball in his hand, a roll already cut out for Simmons in Philadelphia.
Lastly, Malik Monk is arguably the most explosive player in the draft. His ability to score is unparalleled by any other guard (after Fultz) in the draft. Shooting nearly 40-percent from beyond the arc with a nasty dunk package and a sharp eye for finding holes to the basket, Monk will put up points in a hurry.
In a Ben Simmons-led offense, he will need a reliable shooter to kick out to on a hard drive to the paint, and Monk is the best shooter in the draft behind Ball and Fultz.
When LeBron James finally meets the end of his reign as King, and the Warriors can’t afford the “Big Four”, the 76ers will be part of the new era of champions. This draft could determine if they lead it.