Need a break from the Donald Trump and Eagles stuff? I hear you.
This is part two of our NBA draft preview. I wrote on Monday about Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, and Jevon Carter.
The consensus is that the Sixers should look for wing depth in the draft, a small forward type of player who can score a bit but also defends at a level consistent with how Brett Brown likes to play. That’s why the Bridges pair is ideal in my mind, and probably the reason why I started by previewing those guys.
But what happens if Mikal and Miles are gone by the time you pick at #10 overall? What happens if somebody else slides down the board, a top-eight talent who gives you a ton of value at a position you might not necessarily need? Do you draft the “best player available” or just plug whatever holes you think you have?
Here are a couple of those guys who are hovering in that 6-12 range and might still be there when the Sixers hit the clock:
Wendell Carter Jr. (Duke)
Carter is a 6’10”, 250 pound center who averaged 13 and 9 while being overshadowed by Marvin Bagley (and probably Grayson Allen’s antics) in Durham. He’s projected to go in the 6 to 10 range based on most of the mock drafts I’ve looked at. Some mocks have him going 7 to the Bulls with fellow big men Bagley, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson, and DeAndre Ayton coming off the board ahead of him.
Draft a center? What for?
Well the Sixers need a backup for Joel Embiid, because with Amir Johnson becoming a free agent and Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel long gone, you’re looking at Richaun Holmes and Jonah Bolden as the early options heading into next season. Are you ready to rock and roll with one of those guys? Holmes has defensive issues that caused Brett Brown to leave him on the bench and Bolden is a totally unproven commodity at this point.
So if the Sixers like what they have elsewhere on the floor and Carter is available at 10 overall, do you pull the trigger? You’re looking at an athletic guy with stretch-five potential who does some things similar to Embiid. For starters, he shot 41.3% on 46 three point attempts during his only year at Duke. He was a 56.1% finisher overall with a 62.8 true shooting percentage, so he was very efficient in college.
There’s a lot to like from his tape, with good movement around the court, the ability to find space, post up, knock down open shots, and also pass from the post as well:
With Embiid among the first to come off the floor in Brett Brown’s rotation, Carter would theoretically play a decent chunk of time with the first unit. Johnson, for example, spent 108 minutes with Simmons, Covington, Redick, and Saric this season, some of which was due to Embiid’s back-to-back situations, but a lot that was also due to rotational patterns.
As far as weaknesses, Carter is still very young, just 19 years old with one year of college basketball under his belt. There were some times where it looked like he had trouble getting up around the rim, sometimes getting blocked and sometimes not getting that power or lift when going up for a dunk or a putback. He doesn’t appear to be much of a runner or transitional player and sort of shuffles up the court the same way Embiid does. That gives him the ability to try that trailing three that Embiid loves, but he didn’t hit a ton of them last year. You also see some airballs in the film where it looks like he just rushes some mid-range and three point shots instead of moving the ball around. He also doesn’t really pull up off the bounce, but nobody on the Sixers does that well and I can’t imagine you’d want your 6’10” rookie center trying much of that anyway.
Defensively, it’s hard to get a true read on him. If you watched Duke later in the year, you probably saw Carter playing zone and not man. He doesn’t necessarily move laterally that well but he’s a good rim protector and blocks shots. He feels like he’ll be able to show more of his potential in the NBA, rather than being limited by his college system.
ESPN’s Mike Schmitz did a good film breakdown with Carter on set during the recent combine:
There were some Al Horford comparisons being thrown around during Carter’s Duke and combine performances. Elton Brand was another name, too. Those aren’t bad shouts at all, though experts seem to think that Carter’s measurables would restrict him to playing center in the NBA despite some of those stretch tendencies he’s displayed.
No, center isn’t necessarily the Sixers’ biggest need right now, but I think finding a backup for Embiid is one of the storylines that’s sort of flying under the radar.
Trae Young (Oklahoma)
A high usage, pure scorer, I watched a lot of him in the Big 12.
He’s Steph Curry in more ways than one, about one inch smaller and maybe 5-10 pounds lighter, but he’s got the same quick release and penchant for chucking it from deep that made me feel like I was watching Steph at Davidson all over again.
Really though, the thing that jumped out the most was that he’d do it in a variety of ways. It wasn’t just catch and shoot, or straight-line pull-ups, he’d find ways to unload when I wasn’t expecting it at all, not really wasting much motion at all and just requiring the slightest of windows to knock down any shot from any range.
Specifically, look at how stupid these two shots are:
He’s not just a distance shooter, though. He shows really nice touch on his floater and creates a ton of looks for teammates due to his gravity, finishing the season with 8.7 assists per game. That did come with turnover issues though, 5.2 per game, which I’d say is due to his incredibly high usage rate primarily. By the same token, he also drew a ton of fouls and really showed great ability to feel out contact and get whistles to go in his favor.
The question is how much of a fit he’d be in this Sixers system. Young handled the rock almost exclusively at Oklahoma and isn’t an off-ball player. He’d cede that to Ben Simmons, and the Sixers would certainly find a ton of open looks for him, but it’s just a totally different style than what he played in college. You’d often see him get a switch, then slow the game down and iso up against that mismatch. That’s not really the Sixers’ game, though you would have liked to see Simmons do more of it, especially in the Boston series.
The weaknesses are what you would expect from this type of player. Sometimes he’d force shots, try to do too much, and get sloppy with the ball. I watched him battle Big 12 defensive player of the year Jevon Carter in a pair of losses, and Young finished with these lines:
- 29 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 8 turnovers (8-22 shooting)
- 32 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 6 turnovers (10-20 shooting)
So he got his points, but his assists were way down and his turnovers were incredibly high with a full court press chasing him around the floor. There were some yuck possessions, like this one:
Trae Young has 30 points & 0 assists. Wonder how pic.twitter.com/sOJIIERLvx
— Howie (@45gotFAT) February 6, 2018
Young will be going up against some excellent perimeter defenders in the NBA, so there’s always the possibility that he struggles to navigate length and get his shots off against the highest level talent in the world.
On the defensive end, he obviously does not have elite physical tools. He’s similar to Curry in this way, too, and offenses will likely hunt mismatches to get him marked up on a bigger and more athletic player. He’s not tall and he’s got a short wingspan, so I could see opposing guards get shots up over him with ease. I don’t know if Brett Brown wants that type of player considering how much he emphasizes defensive intensity and versatility.
That’s pretty much it. It’s very straightforward. Young is projected to go in the 6-9 range, but if he’s sitting there at 10 you might have found your affordable shooting guard of the near future and can move on from JJ Redick and 22 million dollars a year.
It’s something to think about.
Collin Sexton (Alabama)
A point guard? What the hell for?
Well, maybe the Sixers lure LeBron or Paul George and feel fine with Markelle Fultz playing off the ball in the starting lineup alongside Simmons. Maybe the Sixers feel like Bolden is the guy to backup Embiid, or that they can find that player at #26 overall. That leaves T.J. McConnell on an expiring contract as your second unit ball handler, so you take a look at Sexton as a guy who can score the basketball and maybe inherit that backup PG role going forward.
I really like his game. He’s a hard-nosed dude who plays tough and finishes through contact at the rim, just a competitive guy overall. His handle is incredibly tight and he looks very polished on drives, doesn’t really flail around or put up some weak crap. He decides where he’s going and gets there. He sort of stays in this attack mode, which might fit the Sixers up-tempo and transitional style of play.
He’s not a great three point shooter, just 33.6% at Alabama this season, though he did shoot 44.7% overall. That’s probably redundant considering the fact that the Sixers point guards already do not shoot the three ball that often (McConnell) or at all (Simmons). Sexton did, however, average 19 points per game on a variety of different shot types, so there’s a lot to start with.
I see Eric Bledsoe floating around there as an NBA comparison. Some people have said Russell Westbrook, which I don’t really see. He’s similarly bullish but doesn’t have the hops that Russ does, even if they do play the game in that same downhill fashion.
Here’s a good video of his matchup against Young in the non-conference portion of the schedule:
Sexton is a lead guard, so again, I think the Sixers are more than fine here, even if Fultz ends up being a bust. But, again, if Bridges and Bridges are gone, and you’re not in love with one of the centers or a guy like Lonnie Walker, where else do you go? You at least do your homework for this 8-12 range, where Sexton is expected to fall.