First Mock Draft of the Year Lands Sixers Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell

First Mock Draft of the Year Lands Sixers Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell

With the NBA draft just around the corner, a mere nine and two-thirds months away, it's of course time to break out the first mock draft of the season. If that somehow seems a tad premature and excessive, that's because of course it totally is, but excitement about this 2014 draft--any Sixers fan who hasn't already bought a 2014 calendar so they can circle the dates of May 20th (Lottery) and June 26th (Draft) is of course no true Sixers fan--is such that any premature and excessive talk about it is still exceedingly welcome.

Anyway, ESPN draft guru Chad Ford (and we'll be referring to him as that so much over the course of the next nine and two-thirds months that we may as well just call him ESPNDGCF from now on) has projected next summer's draft, using the site's projected standings for all 30 teams to determine the order. Surprise surprise, Ford has the Sixers picking first overall, and surprise surprise surprise, he has them taking Canadian prospect and future Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins with the pick. Writes Ford:

I've been very bullish on the 76ers this summer; having the best shot at Wiggins is why. Wiggins is one of the best prospects to come into the draft in a decade. He has NBA size, elite athletic ability and does just about everything well. With young anchors in the middle (Nerlens Noel) and at the point guard position (Michael Carter-Williams), the Sixers could add an uber-athletic wing to the mix. Combined with the No. 11 pick (see below), they suddenly have one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. Even if the Sixers don't win the lottery, a player like Julius Randle, Dante Exum or Jabari Parker would add another potential star to the team.

No real news there--the Sixers could start selling Wiggins jerseys at the Wells Fargo Center this upcoming season and he'd outsell actually anyone on the team 5 to 1. He'll be the most talked about player in Sixerland months before he even declares for the draft. More notable, however, is the player Ford has us taking at #11, where he projects the pick owed to us by the Hornicans in the Jrue Holiday trade to fall: Second-year Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell. Quoth the ESPNDG:

Putting Harrell on a team that already includes Noel, Carter-Williams and, if they win the lottery, Wiggins is just plain greedy. Harrell is a bouncy energizer who should be a great fit in Philly. He has a terrific motor, is an excellent rebounder and he proved this summer that his offensive game is coming along nicely. If he has a big sophomore year in Louisville, he might not be around at No. 11. But if he is, he'll be another great building block for the Sixers.

Interesting. I'll admit to not being nearly as familiar with Harrell as I am with Wiggins at this point--I had no idea he was even on the Louisville title team last year--but after reading Ford's write-up on him, and after watching this one perfunctory YouTube highlights compilation:

I'm pretty well sold. What's more, I agree with Ford's analysis that he'll be a likely target for the Liberty Ballers--he fits the young/athletic/lengthy mold the team has been consistently going for in the Sam Hinkie era to a T, and would be an absolute terror of a frontcourt partner with Nerlens Noel, catching lobs from Michael Carter-Williams and running the floor with (allegedly) Andrew Wiggins. Plus, his first name is Montrezl, and any name with a somewhat superfluous "z" in it is an automatic winner. He's definitely yet another college player worth monitoring for Sixer fans over the course of the year, to help us forget about the 85-68 losses to the Pistons the night before and whatnot.

Oh, and if you don't already watch them nightly as you fall asleep, here's some spare Wiggins highlights for the hell of it:

(s/o to Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers for the Twit-tip here.)

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.