Making Things Interesting: The Sixers' Options With the 15 Pick

Making Things Interesting: The Sixers' Options With the 15 Pick

#16, #17, #2, #16, #15. That weird year in between there aside (WHADDUP
ET), the Sixers are no strangers to picking in this stretch of the first
round of the NBA draft—the ever-creamy middle. The players we got with
those picks have, for the most part, been the kind of players you
normally end up with when you pick out of the lottery—borderline
rotation guys (Marreese Speights, Nik Vucevic) who help on occasion and
hurt on others. We did, however, get the boy Jrue Holiday with the 17th
pick a few years back, and he was just our best player in a second-round
playoff series that we improbably pushed to seven games, so it's not
just like we can tune this stuff out entirely, either. We just gotta
find a way to make it interesting.

So who's up for the Philadelphia 76ers this draft? Well, as always,
names abound, and with a variety of needs that need filling for the
Ballers—big men, floor-spacing shooters, young and generally talented
basketball players—the choices are many. Let's discuss some of the more
likely options:

Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor

The player currently going
to the Sixers according to Chad Ford's 273rd ESPN Mock Draft, Perry
Jones III was the lust of all the basketball world going into the 2010
NCAA season, but has seen his stock taper off considerably due to concerns about his effort level and emotional maturity. (Always the same
with these super-athletic big guys, seems—except for the guy going #1
this year, anyway.) Still, despite the risks, super-athletic big guys
that can rebound and score easily don't come around very often, and
considering that description fits precisely nobody on the Sixers' roster
at the moment, he might be worth rolling the dice on. For that reason,
I'm mildly skeptical he'll even be available for the Sixers at this
point—"Everyone is both scared to take him and scared not to take him,"
Ford says, and I imagine for at least one of the 14 GMs coming up before
the Sixers, the latter will outweigh the former.

Terrence Ross, SG, Washington

The guy who was mocked
to the Sixers most frequently before Jones was Ross, the kind of
positionally-ambiguous wing scorer the Sixers have been hesitant to take
in recent years (minus that guy they took at #2), for fairly logical reasons. He doesn't seem to be a first-option-type scorer, but he's more of a knockdown shooter than
the Sixers' current wing players, and could be a Jodie Meeks with
superior size and athleticism. Ford now has him going off the board
before #15, though, and you could probably argue that replacing Jodie
Meeks shouldn't be the team's highest priority in this draft anyway.
Personally, I'd prefer they go big, but after swinging and grounding
meekly to second on Nik Vucevic last year, maybe a shooter is in order.

Tyler Zeller, C, UNC

The one guy in this draft that
would be mildly disappointing if he went to the Sixers would probably be
Zeller, the four-year center out of UNC. Like many four-year guys,
Zeller has the polished game to be a consistent contributor, but not
necessarily the upside to be a core piece, and from his description, he
sounds like a slightly more athletic version of Spencer Hawes. Despite
this, his ability to be an instant rotation guy means that he's
projected to go higher than the Sixers would likely land him anyway, so
it might be a moot point, but if he did fall to Philly, it would seem a
waste to spent another first-round pick on a center that can't be a
defensive anchor.

Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State, and Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

Two
more project big men, one with more of an offense-oriented game
(Moultrie, also said to be a great offensive rebounder, but a mediocre
shot-blocker) and one with more of a defense-oriented game (Leonard, a
skilled and athletic defender but raw offensive talent). I would say
that if the Sixers were going to select a predominantly one-way player
up front I would rather it be a defensive presence like Leonard, though
having an athletic offensive big like Moultrie to run with our guards
would certainly be enticing as well. They like both guys over at Liberty
Ballers, with perhaps a little bias towards Leonard,
doing a good job of explaining why he shouldn't be judged on his skin
color, as he fares favorably in athletic comparison to guys like Hawes
and Cole Aldrich. Interesting.

Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

The most confusing guy
in the draft right now is probably Sullinger, a superstar power forward
for Ohio State originally projected as a lottery pick, but whose stock
has fallen so far over the last few weeks that the NBA didn't even send
him a Green Room invitation for tomorrow night. The main reasons for
that come from his pre-draft workouts, where he tested poorly in
athletic trials (though explosive athleticism was never his game) and
his back was flagged for possible future medical issues, dropping him
out of the lottery and possibly out of the first round altogether, as
happened when Kansas' Darrell Arthur fell to the Grizzlies at #27 in
2008 when he was similarly flagged pre-draft for a worrisome heart
condition.

All that said, the Sixers are still talking about taking Sullinger
at #15, and it's not hard to see why—the guy was dominant for much of
his college career, with strength to make up for his lack of
athleticism, and the ability score and rebound with the best of them in
the post. He doesn't fit the mold of what the Sixers are looking for by a
long shot, but if they have a chance to take a flier on a guy as smart
and talented as Sullinger outside of the lottery and none of their other
dream guys as available...well, at least he won't be another Marreese
Speights, right? I'm certainly intrigued, and more importantly, so is my
dad, whose instincts on these matters are rarely wrong. And hey,
another Ohio State guy to pair with Evan Turner! Anybody know if his
Twitter account is any good?

Trading Andre Iguodala to move up in the draft

As he
has been prior to each of the last two NBA drafts, Andre Iguodala's name
is being mentioned in myriad trade rumors. Seemingly every team
drafting in the lottery is in desperate need of an upgrade at the small
forward position, so for teams without a realistic shot of getting
Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—the only two prize SF
prospects in the draft—Andre Iguodala might be a reasonable alternative.
(Then again, so might Rudy Gay, Wilson Chandler, Luol Deng, or any
number of other threes with proven talent and big contracts.) If we
could move 'Dre to the Warriors for their #7 or the Raptors for their
#8, that might be the best return we get for him, and would enable us to
take a higher-upside guy like Andre Drummond or John Henson with our
pick.

Still, after two years of the trade deadline coming and going with
Andre Iguodala remaining stationary, we know better than to put too much
stock in the rumors, and were I a betting man, I'd probably bet on Dre
going three-for-three and still being on the Sixers' roster on June
29th.

So, in conclusion, by my humble and misguided estimation, the Sixers...

Should Take: Perry Jones III or Jared Sullinger (Take a chance, why not? Move forward or backwards, guys)
Will Take: Meyers Leonard if available, Terrence Ross if not
Would Luck Out If They Got: John Henson or the chance to move up in the draft
Should Resist Taking: Tyler Zeller

Talk to you guys again later tonight.

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Ben Simmons rolled his right ankle during scrimmage on the final day of training camp. He was taken for precautionary imaging. The results have not yet been completed.

Jerryd Bayless did not scrimmage because of a sore left wrist, which the team continues to monitor. He sat out of Thursday's scrimmage for the same reason.

Jahlil Okafor participated in Friday's scrimmage in accordance to his load management. The Sixers are being cautious with players as they return from injury. Okafor underwent right knee surgery last season. 

Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

temple-smu-matchup.jpg

Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

Temple (2-2, 0-0 AAC) vs. SMU (2-2, 0-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, Noon, ESPNews

If recent history tells us anything, we should expect to see some crooked numbers on Lincoln Financial Field’s scoreboard Saturday afternoon when SMU visits Temple in the conference opener for each team.

The last two times these AAC programs have met, the final scores have wound up 59-49 (a SMU win in Dallas in 2013) and 60-40 (a Temple win in Dallas last season).

Temple is coming off a 48-20 homecoming demolition of Charlotte. The game was basically over early in the second quarter, a frame in which the Owls scored 28 points to blow away the 49ers. SMU is coming off a 33-3 home loss to in-state rival TCU. The Mustangs hung tough for the first half and the score was 6-3 at the break, but the Big 12 powerhouse Horned Frogs took over in the second half.

Weather could play a factor Saturday, though, as current forecasts call for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in the Philadelphia area all afternoon.

Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s the matchup.

Scouting Temple
The Owls’ offense has been in a much-needed groove since the second half of the narrow loss at Penn State two weeks ago.

Last week, Walker went 15 of 26 for 268 yards and two touchdowns – a 51-yard bomb to Adonis Jennings and a 40-yard quick strike to Brodrick Yancy. On the season, Walker has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 846 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. His favorite target has been Keith Kirkwood, who has 14 grabs for 191 yards and two touchdowns through four games.

It should be no coincidence that Temple’s offensive revival has come with the return of star senior running back Jahad Thomas, who missed the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb. In the two games Thomas has played, he’s got 127 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who also has four rushing scores, leads the Owls with 166 yards on the ground. Last year against SMU, then-freshman Jager Gardner ripped off a school-record 94-yard touchdown run.

One other offensive note: Temple head coach Matt Rhule was finally pleased with his offensive line after the way it played against Charlotte. Earlier this week, he praised offensive line coach George DeLeone and the job he’s done recently trying to get work out the issues on the line. The Owls didn’t give up a sack last week. True freshman Matt Hennessy started at left guard last week while redshirt sophomore Jaelin Robinson saw time at right tackle. Don’t be surprised if they see significant playing time again.

Two things have concerned Rhule defensively – a lackluster pass rush and the tendency to give up big plays.

Through four games, the Owls have yet to establish any sort of consistent pass rush. They have just four sacks through four games. They had 10 in last year’s opener against Penn State alone. The good news for Temple’s pass rush is that SMU starts a freshman QB and his given up nine sacks through four games, so opportunities to disrupt the pocket should be there on Saturday.

Temple’s defense has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage this season, including a 66-yard touchdown run by Charlotte’s Kalif Phillips last week.

Injury-wise, the Owls are relatively healthy. Sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, who was believed to be dealing with a shoulder injury, announced on his Instagram this week that he’d been cleared to play.

Scouting SMU
The Mustangs’ rebuilding efforts took a big hit during the first game of the season when senior quarterback Matt Davis, who played very well against Temple last season and hurt the Owls with both his arm and legs, was lost for the year with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks has stepped in and his tenure so far hasn’t been so hot. He’s completed just 50 percent of his passes this year and has thrown just two touchdowns compared to seven picks.

Despite the inexperience and lack of production at quarterback, SMU will still push the tempo with a fast-paced offense that can rip off chunks of yardage instantly and averages 448 yards per game. A big reason for that is the play of sophomore wideout Cortland Sutton, who has 449 receiving yards and four touchdowns already this season. Sutton, whom Rhule had very high praise for earlier this week, averages 24.9 yards per reception. Sophomore tailback Braeden West is no slouch, either. He’s averaged 93.8 yards per game on the ground this season and has two rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, SMU has a couple of ballhawks in its secondary. The Mustangs are tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions through four games. Sophomore corner Jordan Wyatt is tied for the team lead in picks with three and also leads the Mustangs with 25 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Walker will have to be wary of where Wyatt is at on the field. Senior Horace Richardson also has three picks already for the Mustangs.

While SMU’s takeaway numbers are pretty, the Mustangs’ total defense numbers are ugly. They give up an average of 449.8 yards per game, which ranks 98th out of 128 teams in the FBS. The 27 points the Mustangs allow per game are good 70th in the FBS.

History
Saturday will mark the third meeting between the schools in the last four years and fifth overall. As mentioned above, the two teams combined for 208 points the last two times they’ve met. Those last two meetings have been the only meetings between Temple and SMU that have had definitive finals. They tied in both 1942 (6-6) and 1947 (7-7). So feel free to call Saturday’s game a rubber match.

Storyline to watch: Second test for Temple's secondary
Thus far this season, Temple has faced a triple-option team in Army, an FCS team in Stony Brook, a weapon-filled offense in Penn State and a second-year FBS team in Charlotte. Needless to say, Penn State was the only true test Temple's defense, specifically the new-look secondary, has had to face and it didn't go so well, especially in the first half when the Nittany Lions tore the Owls apart with slant plays for huge chunks of yardage. While the Owls' defense calmed down, the Nittany Lions still finished with 287 passing yards and 403 total yards. Temple's secondary will have its next test on Saturday with Sutton and SMU's receivers. Corners Derrek Thomas, Artrel Foster and Nate Hairston and safety Delvon Randall have a prime opportunity to gain more confidence against a young quarterback with a tendency to make mistakes. Junior safety Sean Chandler is still the unquestioned leader of the group.

What’s at stake: Getting conference play started on the right foot
If the Owls want to be taken as a serious threat to repeat in the AAC East, this is a game they have to have against an inferior SMU team. This is the first of nine straight AAC games, and even though SMU is in the AAC West, this game is still a tonesetter for rest of conference play. The Owls don’t want to fall behind right off the bat. And they really don’t want to fall behind right of the bat this week, with a short week and travel to Memphis for a game on Thursday looming. Yes, that’s two games in five days coming up for Temple.

Prediction
Even if the weather doesn’t hold out, points will be scored at the Linc on Saturday. Just not as many as the past couple of years. At this point in time, Temple just has more talent and it looks like the Owls are finally getting things in sync. Temple 38, SMU 21