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 being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."