Perfect Fit: D’Angelo Russell
D’Angelo Russell is a fantastic scorer. The Sixers need a guy who can put the ball in the basket. Russell can do just that. At Ohio State last season, he averaged 19.3 points and had an offensive rating of 115. Quite impressive for a freshman. The Sixers, though, have a big hole to fill at the off guard position. A flashy and efficient scorer would certainly help the team in the years to come. So would a good perimeter shooter. And Sixers definitely need a “go to guy,” someone who can score at the end of the shot clock and in the final seconds of the game. Russell could give them of these things and more. Plus he could fit right into Brett Brown’s system. He is ready to play substantial minutes next season and fill the big hole at the guard position for years to come. Russell is the perfect fit for the Sixers’ puzzle.
Sleeper Pick: Stanley Johnson
From day one, Stanley Johnson will be a defensive stopper. He is a 6’7 small forward with a extremely long 6’11 wingspan. But he isn’t just big, he is quick and strong and weighs 243 pounds. This combination of size and agility will allow him cover multiple different positions, kind of like Kawhi Leonard. In his one year at Arizona, Johnson excelled. He ranked in the top 20 of all NCAA players in numerous categories, including overall defensive rating (87.6) and defensive win shares (2.9). Offensively, Johnson has a beautiful stroke that allowed him to hit 37% of shots from three, a respectable number. His size and lateral quickness also give him the ability to attack off the wing to get to the rim. Furthermore, he loves to use a quick jab step that gets defenders off balance and allows him to get to the rim. But again, it is his defense that should interest the Sixers. If the Sixers decide to stress their “defensive” identity going forward, they should pick Johnson. This would certainly be an interesting move. Night in and night out, Johnson could cover the opposing team’s best player (unless he is a center or a speedy point guard). With Noel and Embiid alongside of Johnson, the Sixers would be tough to score on and they could win a lot of games this way. This version of the Sixers might not be fun to watch, but they would have a clear identity as a team. If the Sixers pick Johnson, they would be on their way to being one of the NBA’s most defensive minded teams and I would be okay with that.
Risky Take: Justise Winslow
Winslow was fantastic through the Madness of March and Duke’s title run. I mean, the kid was unstoppable. During the tournament, he shot above 60 percent in 3 of his 6 games. Plus, he added 2 double doubles. He scored in double digits in every game except for the opener, a blow-out, when he played only 24 minutes, a tournament low for him. Again, what a fantastic, head-turning run on the largest stage of his career. Plus Winslow doesn’t have to grow. He already has an NBA body with a 6’6 frame and 6’10 wingspan. Like Johnson, Winslow could help create a defensive identity for the Sixers. Like Johnson, his size and lateral quickness gives him the versatility to cover many positions. Plus when he gets going downhill on the offensive end, he is hard to stop. But Winslow was often inconsistent and ineffective in his time at Duke. And he isn’t a great free-throw shooter. He would disappear for long stretches or make bone head plays. During his freshmen year, he had a 14.2 turnover percentage, averaging nearly 2 giveaways a game in just 29 minutes of play. In the end, Winslow could be a superstar on both ends of the floor or just a March Madness sensation without that essential NBA level of intensity.
Bad Pick: Jahlil Okafor
Let’s be honest: the Sixers DO NOT need another big man. They already have two guys with tremendous athleticism and potential to play on the frontline for years to come. If Okafor was a “once in a lifetime” talent, then I wouldn’t pass up on him. But the Duke standout is not. He is a very good college player, but he might not be as good at the next level. During the NCAA tournament, Okafor was good, but not as impressive as he was during his ACC POY regular season. Despite some big games, the 6’11 big man was inconsistent. He had two single digit games. He had had only one prior to the tournament. During the games, he often disappeared for stretches. That is not, of course, something you want from your best player on a regular basis. And Okafor is not a top tier defender. My point is Okafor is sub par defender and solid offensive player, but throughout the most important part of the season, March Madness, he was not always at his best. He wasn’t even the past player for Duke down the stretch. Winslow and Tyus Jones provided the punch for the team. Will the Chicago native really give the Sixers more than their current big men? How would he fit in with his back to the basket style? He wouldn’t and Sixers should pass him in the draft.
First picture courtsey of collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com
Second picture courtest of thebiglead.com