Philadelphia 76ers

The case for Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade ups/downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Nigel Williams-Goss
Position
: PG
School: Gonzaga
Height: 6-4
Weight: 182
Wingspan: 6-7¼ 

Gonzaga University has had some great college players in recent years. Go back over the last decade or so, and guys like Adam Morrison, Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer all spent time in Spokane. But not until this season had future hall of fame coach Mark Few’s team made the Final Four. Much of that breakthrough has to be credited to the Zags’ point guard, Nigel Williams-Goss, who, if he had stayed healthy in the national championship game, might have been able to lead his team to one more win.

Williams-Goss spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at the University of Washington but left after a sophomore campaign in which he was the team’s best player. He wasn’t happy with the way the program was going, which isn’t hard to believe considering this season the Huskies won just nine games even with Markelle Fultz on their roster this year. 

After sitting out the 2015-2016 season due to transfer rules, Williams-Goss was an immediate difference maker for the Zags. As the West Coast Conference’s player of the year and a second-team AP All-American, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists. It’s hard to ask anyone to be that consistently productive in multiple facets. After getting his degree, Williams-Goss elected to forego his final year of NCAA eligibility and enter the draft. 

The case for Williams-Goss
His greatest advantage is his size. A 6-7 wingspan is desirable for a point guard, and he can use it to make up for his less than stellar athleticism on both ends of the floor. Often it helped him get to the rack when electing to keep the rock on the pick and roll, which was a big part of the Zags’ offense with the inside presence of Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. And the extra inches allow him to guard multiple positions. 

Offensively, his game is well-rounded. His shooting numbers are solid, and 48 percent from the field makes up for his 36 percent from three. But the most encouraging stat lies in Williams-Goss’ turnovers, or rather lack thereof. Critics are skeptical of his composure when pressured at high speeds, but with just 2.4 turnovers per 40 attempts, he’s careful with the ball.

The case against Williams-Goss
It’s fair to argue that Williams-Goss’ numbers were puffed up a bit thanks to the circumstances he was in. At Washington, he was a go-to guy, so you’d sure hope he’d score in double-figures. At Gonzaga, he played in the West Coast Conference, which pretty much had no answer to the Zags’ level of play. He played bad teams and stuffed the stat sheet.

Plus, he lacks that one blatantly marketable skill. Out of his athleticism, shooting and defending, none are first-rate. His percentages do take a slight dip when shooting off the dribble, and that’s a tad alarming for a point guard.

Analysis
Williams-Goss isn’t even a lock to get picked. As of now, DraftExpress predicts he’ll go to the Knicks with the 58th selection. Regardless, he’ll get a chance with someone and try to prove himself this summer. Philadelphia is not the most likely destination. 

The point guard position is crowded here. The Sixers want to play Ben Simmons at the one. Jerryd Bayless and T.J. McConnell are under contract for the next two seasons. Another point presence, albeit a scoring one that will act as a combo guard, appears to be coming out of the first round in the form of Fultz. While there is some upside in taking Williams-Goss, it’s hard to see him finding a fit. Should the Sixers’ value his size and see room for improvement, maybe they take him late in the second round and give him some time in the summer league and D-League. 

Joel Embiid's and Ben Simmons' 2017-18 NBA MVP odds

Joel Embiid's and Ben Simmons' 2017-18 NBA MVP odds

The odds are in for the 2017-18 NBA MVP and a pair of Sixers are in the mix.

Joel Embiid’s odds are 50/1 while Ben Simmons’ are 66/1, according to Bovada.

Russell Westbrook is the frontrunner at 7/2. Kevin Durant (9/2), Kawhi Leonard (13/2), LeBron James (15/2) and James Harden (8/1) round out the top five.

At 50/1, Embiid has the same odds as DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. Embiid always jokes he wants to be a point guard one day, now he’s in the same company as some of the best in the league in this case. 

Embiid’s odds are better than Draymond Green (60/1). Simmons follows behind Green at 66/1, ahead of Gordon Hayward (70/1), Carmelo Anthony (75/1), Jimmy Butler (75/1), and Andrew Wiggins (75/1). 

Embiid only has played 31 games and Simmons has not played at all, yet they are right up there with All-Stars and proven players. Here’s the complete list:

Russell Westbrook (OKC)            7/2 
Kevin Durant (GS)                       9/2
Kawhi Leonard (SAN)                 13/2 
LeBron James (CLE)                   15/2
James Harden (HOU)                   8/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)   17/2
Steph Curry (GS)                         11/1
Anthony Davis (NOP)                 16/1 
Paul George (OKC)                     25/1 
Chris Paul (HOU)                        25/1 
Isaiah Thomas (BOS)                  25/1 
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP)          33/1 
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)       33/1 
John Wall (WAS)                        33/1
Blake Griffin (LAC)                   40/1 
Nikola Jokic (DEN)                    40/1 
DeMar Derozan (TOR)               50/1
Joel Embiid (PHI)                       50/1 
Kyrie Irving (CLE)                     50/1 
Damian Lillard (POR)                50/1 
Draymond Green (GS)               60/1 
Ben Simmons (PHI)                   66/1 
Gordon Hayward (BOS)            70/1 
Carmelo Anthony (NYK)          75/1 
Jimmy Butler (MIN)                  75/1 
Andrew Wiggins (MIN)             75/1 
Kevin Love (CLE)                     100/1 
Kyle Lowry (TOR)                    100/1 
Kristaps Porzingis (NYK)         100/1 
Marc Gasol (MEM)                   150/1
Paul Millsap (DEN)                   150/1 
Kemba Walker (CHA)               150/1 
Bradley Beal (WAS)                  200/1 
Mike Conley (MEM)                 200/1 
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)                250/1 
Andre Drummond (DET)          250/1 
Dwight Howard (CHA)             250/1 
Jeff Teague (MIN)                     250/1
Hassan Whiteside (MIA)          250/1

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid back-to-backs and toughest opponents

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid back-to-backs and toughest opponents

The release of the NBA schedule is a highly-anticipated announcement every summer. Now we know what the next 82 matchups will look like for the Sixers, and there is so much to discuss regarding their opponents, road vs. home contests and frequency of games.

One of the most popular questions I received was about individual tickets for home games. Those will go on sale in September. Ticket information for the Jan. 18 game in London is available here.

Thanks to those who submitted questions with #CSNSixersMailbag.

When the schedule was released, I first looked to see the home opener. Then I counted the number of back-to-backs, of which there are 14.

The number of consecutive games is significant for the Sixers because of the restrictions placed on Joel Embiid last season. Embiid did not play both games during his rookie year, his first after recovering from injuries.

I expect the Sixers will have a back-to-back restriction on Embiid again this season. Perhaps not every time — I wouldn’t be surprised it if they tried to get a sense of where he is at with conditioning and workload — but the majority of the season. I put my prediction at Embiid playing in two back-to-back series.

I would think Simmons would face similar restrictions in his rookie season as Embiid did, and I would not be surprised if Simmons does not play in any back-to-backs. The Sixers have yet to see how he performs in an NBA game. They are going to be extremely cautious with the 2016 No. 1 pick when he makes his debut after suffering a Jones fracture last year in training camp.

The Sixers will take a closer look at these situations during training camp once they get to see both of them on the court. When it comes to the health of Embiid and Simmons, it’s all about the career longevity, not a race to play 82 regular season games.

The Sixers' schedule is a tale of two seasons: Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference. They will play 11 games against the West by Nov. 22, including twice against the Rockets, Warriors and Trail Blazers in less than a month. Meanwhile, the second half of the season includes only four Western Conference opponents.

Those aren’t the only early challenges. The Sixers open the season facing some of the best teams in the East, with the Wizards, Celtics and Raptors three games in a row. They encounter another tough Eastern Conference stretch in late November against the Cavaliers, Wizards and Celtics (on a back-to-back).

So what does all this mean for their record? The Sixers are positioned to improve, and despite these challenges I still expect them to make the playoffs. There will be a lot of bumps in the road early on, though, with a new team — a young team at that — learning to play together. So if they start out struggling against this stacked lineup of opponents, that won’t be cause for panic. The Sixers have a lot of areas in which they will need to grow and these matchups will be a good test for them. It is more beneficial to face these teams early on than coast through an easy schedule for the first few months, get comfortable playing against lesser competitions and then run into these contenders.

The second half of the season favors the Sixers if they are making a run at a playoff berth. Among their opponents, they play the Nets three times in a month and the Hawks twice in two weeks to close out the regular season.

The games in this question are Nov. 11 at Warriors, Nov. 13 at Clippers, Nov. 15 at Lakers and Nov. 18 vs. Warriors at home compared to Nov. 27 vs. Cavaliers at home, Nov. 29 vs. Wizards at home and Nov. 30 at Celtics.

I am going with the Western Conference matchups.

The three games in this question are part of a five-game road trip that runs Nov. 7 through Nov. 15 with the first two games in Salt Lake City and Sacramento. The Sixers will be facing the defending champions at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors went 36-5 last regular season.

From there they will go to the Staples Center. That game against the Lakers will be just as much about basketball as it will be about the Lonzo and LaVar Ball storylines. Based on the Summer League crowd in Las Vegas, I’m sure Lakers fans will be ready for this one. It will be a test of focus for the Sixers.

Then it’s welcome back home to face the Warriors again. I don’t know many teams that want to play the Warriors twice in eight days.