Duke's Jeff Capel: Sixers need shooting and 'shot-maker' Jayson Tatum can do that

Duke's Jeff Capel: Sixers need shooting and 'shot-maker' Jayson Tatum can do that

After netting the No. 3 overall pick Tuesday night — their fourth straight top-three pick — the Sixers’ focus now turns to who that selection will be on June 22.

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo left all options open Wednesday, keeping the door open for either drafting a player at No. 3 or trading the pick.

With the top two picks projected to be Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, the Sixers have to decide to draft for either the best fit or best player available.

One of those prospects is Duke forward Jayson Tatum. Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel spoke Thursday with 97.5 The Fanatic about Tatum and how he would fit with the Sixers.

“One of the things I think in watching Philly, you need shooting,” Capel said. “When you look at the NBA right now, everyone is going to spread the floor, it’s more of an open floor and you need shooting. And there are some guys in this draft — obviously Jayson.

“That’s something he can do. He’s a shot-maker. He can do that.”

Tatum is a projected top-five pick, and he will be in consideration for the Sixers at No. 3. CSNPhilly.com’s Sean Kane has the Sixers considering Tatum but ultimately deciding to draft Kansas forward Josh Jackson. Kentucky guards Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox (who would be Amy Fadool's pick) are other names to watch.

In his lone season at Duke, Tatum averaged 16.8 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range in 29 games. He averaged 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks. He had just three games under 10 points with a career-high of 29. He missed the first eight games of the season because of a foot injury, which Capel said credited for his slow start, as he was finding his legs without much practice time.

“He’s one of the most talented, most gifted offensive guys that I’ve ever seen,” Capel said. “With his footwork, with his shot-making ability, you’re talking about a guy who’s close to 6-9, has a 7-foot wingspan and has a very advanced offensive repertoire. He’s a really competitive guy and you look around the country, and all everyone’s talking about is Fultz, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Lonzo Ball and in Jayson’s mind, he thinks he’s better than those guys.

"Maybe you try to do a little bit too much right away, but certainly the second part of the season, we felt Jayson was as good as anyone in the country. One of the things that's interesting about him is that you can coach him really hard. He wants to be great. He has the talent where he has a chance to do that."

On Kansas' Josh Jackson
Capel recalled the Blue Devils' matchup with the Jayhawks on Nov. 15, a 77-75 Kansas win. Jackson scored 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting and one three in 18 minutes against Duke. 

"I love Josh. I love him as a competitor, as a player," Capel said. "He's incredibly talented, seems like a really good kid. Comes from a good family.

"He's a dog, man — that's the best way to describe him. He's as competitive as a young guy as I've seen in a really long time."

On N.C. State's Dennis Smith
Another prospect Capel is high on is Smith, a freshman point guard from Capel's hometown Fayetteville, North Carolina. Smith averaged 18.1 points and 6.2 assists in his lone season playing for the Wolfpack.

"I honestly think he's as gifted as any of the guards in this draft," Capel said. "I think the other ones went to programs that were higher profile but he's as talented as any of them. Incredibly explosive and you're talking about a guy that still has that explosion coming off an ACL injury. … I'm a big fan of his and I think whoever drafts him is going to get one of the more talented players in this draft."

On Ben Simmons
It's no secret the Sixers and Brett Brown's plan is to start Simmons out as the team's point guard next season. How that will work out remains to be seen. Simmons missed what would have been his rookie season last year with a Jones fracture. A highly-gifted passer, Simmons was considered to be a point-forward prospect.

But the Sixers do plan on actually playing him at point guard, an idea Capel wasn't so sure can work in the NBA.

"I'm a big believer — this is just me, though I certainly do not have all the answers — it's hard to make a guy a point guard," Capel said. "I think Ben obviously can really pass and he has a great feel for the game. The NBA level is very different than college, certainly from high school. The game is completely different.

"Can it work? Certainly, it can because he's talented. Obviously, Brett would know that better because he sees him every day and he knows his team. I just think he's going to be an outstanding player for the Sixers."

Check out Capel's full interview here, where he discussed Jackson and Smith more in depth, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid.

Unlike 2007, Flyers should get immediate impact player at No. 2

Unlike 2007, Flyers should get immediate impact player at No. 2

On April 29, the Flyers’ fortune changed 10 years after the same event dealt them a blow that may have altered the team’s narrative over the last decade. This time, they won.

The Flyers, by the fruit of blind luck, jumped 11 spots in the draft lottery to No. 2. It was the largest hurdle in lottery history. It could be a moment we look back on as a game-changer. It could be many things. What it’s not is what happened on April 10, 2007, when the Flyers, who finished with an NHL-worst 56 points in 2006-07, lost the lottery to the Blackhawks.

Ten years ago, the lottery operated under a different system. Until 2013, the lottery consisted of the five teams with the fewest points in the standings. No team could move up more than four spots, and the team with the fewest points (the Flyers) could only pick either No. 1 or 2 in the draft. The Flyers had a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

We know the story. Chicago, which had an 8.1 percent chance at the top pick, won the lottery, and the Flyers, who had the worst season in franchise history, got sloppy seconds. The lottery system changed in 2013. Now, any team that does not qualify for the playoffs is eligible to win the lottery, which paved the avenue for the Flyers’ climb last month.

"I'm not sure it really matters," Paul Holmgren, then-Flyers' GM and now team president, told NHL.com on April 12, 2007, of losing the lottery. "The thing about having the first pick is you get the first pick. Now, we don't, but I'm confident we're still going to get a good player. As I've said all along, I'm not sure there's an immediate impact guy there anyway."

That is where the 2007 and 2017 similarities come into play. Ten years later, we know how the 2007 draft panned out, with Patrick Kane, the top pick, being head and shoulders atop the class, and James van Riemsdyk, whom the Flyers drafted No. 2, now playing in Toronto.

There was an immediate impact player in the 2007 draft, which is where Holmgren was wrong, and it was Kane, who scored at a 0.89 points per game clip in his rookie season, finishing with 72 points in 82 games.

van Riemsdyk never developed into an impact player with the Flyers. In 2013, the Flyers traded van Riemsdyk to the Maple Leafs, where he’s matured into a solid complementary scoring winger with a 30-goal season under his belt and two 60-plus-point campaigns.

“We were both put in different situations and we were both in different stages, I guess of our hockey development,” van Riemsdyk told The Daily Herald, a Chicago-area newspaper, May 27, 2010. “I did what I thought was best for me to be a better player, and he was obviously ready to make that jump right after the draft. He made it happen right away.”

If we go back to 2007, it was not considered to be a slam dunk atop the draft. It was a three-player race between Kane, van Riemsdyk and Kyle Turris, who went No. 3 to Arizona. There was thought that even if the Flyers had the top pick, “JVR” would have been the pick. 

“All three of these kids were very close. Very close,” Holmgren told Kevin Kurz, now with NBC Sports Bay Area, after the draft on June 23, 2007. “We’d have been happy with any of them, but you have to make a decision and James ended up on top.”

Fast forward to this year. The Flyers’ luck shifted. They finished with 88 points, seven points out of a playoff spot. Without the lottery, they would have picked 13th in what general manager Ron Hextall has described as “an average draft” — like it was in 2007, a draft that generated five All-Stars, including the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek, who was drafted seventh overall by Columbus, and van Riemsdyk is not one of them. There were several big misses in the draft.

This year, it's widely considered a two-player draft, with Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick and Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier as the cream of this year’s crop. Barring any unforeseen surprises, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier come June 23. It really is as simple as whoever New Jersey does not take at No. 1.

But that is where we see the difference between 2007 and 2017 for the Flyers. Ten years ago, the Flyers played their way into a top-two pick and rotten luck cost them the top pick. Their choice was between the two players Chicago didn’t take — van Riemsdyk and Turris.

In van Riemsdyk, the Flyers were drafting a player who came up in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and still needed years to develop. He decided to play at the University of New Hampshire before turning pro after his sophomore season.

With either Patrick or Hischier — it seems to be a pick-your-poison situation — the Flyers will be getting a player closer to making an immediate impact than they did in 2007. Neither will have the impacts we have seen from the No. 2 picks from the last two drafts — Jack Eichel and Patrik Laine. 

When asked about Patrick and Hischier’s NHL readiness on May 8, Hextall refused to tip his hat about his views on the prospects, sticking to his mantra that any kid has to earn a spot.

“We would like to think we know that, but until the kid comes in and shows you what he can do … you make an educated judgment and then you go from there,” Hextall said. “A player has to come in and prove that he’s ready, and at this age, not many are.”

Patrick has three years of experience in the Western Hockey League, and there is some belief he will not benefit from a fourth season in the WHL. Despite battling groin and abdominal injuries last season, he still produced above a point-per-game pace (1.39). 

As a 17-year-old two years ago, Patrick put up 102 points in 72 regular-season games and led the Wheat Kings to a WHL championship with 30 points in 21 playoff games. He still will have to prove his worth to either the Flyers or Devils, but one has to believe the likelihood of him making an immediate impact is far greater than him going back to junior.

Hischier broke out during the world junior championships for Switzerland, scoring four goals and three assists in five games. With Halifax during his rookie season in the QMJHL, Hischier finished as a 1.5 points-per-game player, putting up 86 points in 57 games and earning the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, describes the Swiss center as “definitely worth the price of admission.”

There are a plethora of reasons why 2007 and 2017 are different for the Flyers. Luck is atop the list. But the player they’ll be getting this June is one they should be able to reap immediate benefits from, something they weren’t getting in 2007.

Future Flyers Report: How No. 2 pick changes long-term landscape

Future Flyers Report: How No. 2 pick changes long-term landscape

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall called it a “big day for our franchise.”

He was right.

The Flyers on Saturday night somehow beat long odds and landed the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft. The good fortune changed the entire outlook going forward. The Flyers’ long-term trajectory was already on the upswing despite a disappointing season that saw the team miss the playoffs for the third time in five years.

With the pipeline loaded with defensive prospects and goaltenders, the Flyers will now have an opportunity to add an impact forward into the pool (see draft options). That was not necessarily the case had they drawn the 13th pick, which was the most likely outcome Saturday.

This year’s draft class isn’t considered, by many, to be as deep as those in recent years. Hextall said Saturday that it “isn’t as bad as a draft as people say it is” and “it’s probably an average draft.” He is probably right. Recent years have been special. There was the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel draft in 2015. Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine last year. Beyond the top two picks, the last two drafts were deep too. The 2015 class was compared to the 2003 draft, one of the best drafts in league history. Last year was a solid crop as well.

By many accounts, this year’s class is all about Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, one of whom the Flyers are now guaranteed to snag at No. 2. Either prospect will give the Flyers a forward piece to build around, which will allow their supplementary pieces to fall into their rightful places without any increased pressure.

There is no guarantee that either Patrick or Hischier will provide an immediate impact, or that either of them will make the Flyers’ roster on opening night. But to be able to add a player of their caliber into the fold albeit this season or 2018-19 accomplishes a few things. More importantly, it bides the Flyers more time to win with captain Claude Giroux.

Much has been written about Giroux’s recent decline. Last season, he dealt with confidence issues after offseason hip/abdominal surgery. His numbers have been downturn over the past three seasons. There hasn’t been much help around him, either, but that’s about to change.

Either Patrick or Hischier should give the Flyers a player they can eventually slide into the role as their offensive catalyst, which would take pressure off Giroux to carry the workload as he ages. It also allows Sean Couturier to slide into his role with less outside pressure to live up to expectations as a No. 8 overall pick. There would be less of a burden on Brayden Schenn to score at 5-on-5 and allow him to be a 20-goal per season, power-play specialist.

The point is there should be secondary scoring to mesh with their primary scoring in the coming years. Giroux is 29. Wayne Simmonds is 28. Jakub Voracek is 27. Couturier is just 24. Schenn is 25. Jordan Weal just turned 25. Travis Konecny is only 20. It's still a young group.

Adding either Patrick or Hischier to a prospect group consisting of German Rubtsov and Oskar Lindblom suddenly changes the Flyers’ landscape up front. Konecny made the Flyers as a 19-year-old last year and Lindblom is expected to be here next season. Rubtsov is a year or two away from being NHL ready. Neither Patrick or Hischier will be guaranteed a spot but will have ample opportunity to earn one in training camp. But the Flyers’ future at forward looks at lot brighter today.

Hextall’s plan appears to be injecting more young blood into the lineup in 2017-18. Ivan Provorov and Konecny made the roster last year as 19-year-olds. All signs point to at least two more defensive prospects joining the team next season, with Robert Hagg and Sam Morin being the favorites. (Hagg and Morin both made their NHL debuts during the final week of this season.) Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers could also push for a spot. If Lindblom doesn't make it, it would be a disappointment.

Landing the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft does another thing: It expedites the Flyers’ timetable to be contenders assuming all goes as planned. Injuries can happen and players don’t pan out as projected, but Patrick and Hischier are what the Flyers desperately need.

A young, dynamic scorer to build around — exactly what the Flyers are looking for.

Quick Hits
• The Phantoms were bounced from the AHL playoffs on Sunday night with a 3-2 loss to the Hershey Bears in Game 5 of their best-of-five series. Hershey took a 2-0 series lead before Lehigh Valley battled back to force a Game 5. Per Highland Park Hockey’s Tony Androckitis, it’s just the second time ever a road team won every game in an AHL playoff series.

• Sanheim had three assists in five postseason games. He finished his first professional season with 37 points in 76 regular-season games.

• Morin picked up two helpers in five playoffs games with Lehigh Valley. He had 16 points in 74 regular-season games this year. He’s expected to be a Flyer next season.

• Brynäs IF lost to HV71 in the SHL finals. Lindblom will be coming to North America full time next season, while goalie Felix Sandstrom could make the jump overseas too.

Samuel Dove-McFalls had a goal and two assists in three games last week. Saint John’s beat Chicoutimi in the QMJHL playoffs and will now face Blainville-Boisbriand in the final.