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.

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Redskins: 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles are coming off their third straight loss and have dropped five of their last six. 

The Redskins have dropped two straight, but are still very much in the playoff hunt at 6-5-1.

The Birds are looking for their first win against the NFC East this season. Here are five matchups to watch.

Eagles defensive line vs. Redskins offensive line
In the matchup in Washington, the Redskins' O-line owned the Eagles' D-line to the tune of 230 rushing yards and nearly 500 yards total. The Eagles also failed to record a sack. And that was at a time when their line was playing fairly well.

The Eagles' line has come under serious fire and for good reason. They've grossly underperformed for a unit that's supposed to be the team's strength. As for the Redskins, their line has been very good all season and they'll get All Pro Trent Williams back after the massive tackle served a four-game suspension.

DeSean Jackson vs. Eagles' corners
DeSean has been on a roll. The Eagles' corners have not. In his last three games, Jackson has nine catches for 228 yards (good for 25.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. 

Last week in Cincinnati, the Eagles were burned by the formidable trio of Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core for 11 catches for 219 yards. Each receiver had at least one reception of 29 yards plus. It could be a long day for Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin and Jalen Mills.

Carson Wentz vs. Joe Barry
It's no secret that Wentz has been struggling. In his last three, Wentz  has three touchdowns to six interceptions and has completed less than 60 percent of his passes. Equally as alarming is that Wentz is 83 of 141 over that span. That's a ridiculous 47 attempts per game. Yes, the Eagles have been behind in those games, but Doug Pederson still needs to find a way to give this offense balance.

Barry's unit hasn't exactly set the world on fire, ranking 23rd in yards per game and 20th in points allowed. They've let up 31 points in each of their last two games, but it is important to note that they've played the Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Eagles don't have playmakers like Ezekiel Elliot and Dez Bryant or David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Allen Barbre
Kerrigan looked unstoppable in the NFL debut of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Kerrigan racked up 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries in the Redskins' win. Kerrigan has already reached double-digit sacks for the second time in his career and has notched a sack in each of his last three.

Barbre has performed admirably in the absence of both the suspended Lane Johnson and the injured Vaitai. It's also pretty clear that Barbre's best position is guard. It's going to be a stiff test for Barbre to contain Kerrigan. 

Jordan Matthews (maybe) vs. Josh Norman 
With Paul Turner performing well in the slot, it'll be interesting to see if Pederson decides to use Matthews on the outside more. Matthews is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of the Eagles' loss to the Bengals and is listed as questionable on Sunday. Even if Matthews is 100 percent, it's not an ideal matchup for the Eagles.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

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USA Today Images

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK -- Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

The sensational sophomore quarterback became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

Watson, who finished third in Heisman voting last year, led a stacked group of contenders entering this season that included five of the top seven vote-getters in 2015.

Jackson outdid them all in his first season as Louisville's full-time starter, accounting for 51 touchdowns and averaging 410 yards per game in total offense. He ultimately won going away, with 2,144 points to Watson's 1,524. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson's victory was the sixth largest in Heisman history, and he became the youngest winner at 19 years, 352 days.

Jackson is the first Heisman Trophy winner to play on a team that lost its last two games of the regular season since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. He's the first to enter the postseason without a chance to win the national title since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012.

No matter. Jackson did so much before November it was difficult to deny him the award because of a couple of missteps at the end.

He provided a signature moment against Syracuse, hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville's toughest competition.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clemson, Jackson threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and accounted for eight touchdowns. After ripping apart Florida State in September, he earned the stamp of approval from his idol, former Virginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

Jackson left that Oct. 1 game in Death Valley as a threat to run away with the Heisman, but losses to Houston and Kentucky, when he committed four turnovers, in late November provided an opportunity for others to sway voters.

Watson made the biggest surge, but ultimately fell short.

Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Jameis Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).

Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Jackson was such a dynamic talented Louisville coach Bobby Petrino altered his offense to accommodate Jackson's speed and elusiveness.

Jackson flashed brilliance as a freshman and showed what was to come in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M. He had 453 total yards and led Louisville to a victory.

Still, with so many well-established stars from Watson and Mayfield to running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, Jackson entered the season without much fanfare.

Just the way he likes it.

Jackson spent this season adjusting to newfound fame, growing into the role of face of the team and trying to stay out of the spotlight. He said he cut down on trips to the mall to avoid the inevitable crowds he drew.

He is about to become even more popular. Especially back in Louisville, where he has another year before he can even consider his next big jump -- to the NFL.