Philadelphia 76ers

The case for Malik Monk as the Sixers' first-round pick

The case for Malik Monk as the Sixers' first-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 downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Malik Monk
School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3
Weight: 197
Wingspan: 6-3½ 

The latest in a long line of Kentucky guards to make a one-year stop in Lexington, Malik Monk has one of the most impressive résumés out of John Calipari’s program in recent memory. John Wall, Devin Booker, and Jamal Murray all spent one year hooping for Big Blue Nation, but none of them managed as many points as Monk, whose 754 were good enough for the program’s freshman record. He connected on 104 three-pointers, just under 40 percent on the year from deep, and averaged 19.3 points per game. It’s simple what Monk brings to the table — he’s a pure shooter and can score in bunches.

As usual, Kentucky had a roster stuffed with NBA prospects (cough, De’Aaron Fox, cough), but the Wildcats had a hard time losing when Monk was the one locked in. His percentage beyond the arc sat at 41.3 in UK wins, but just 32.7 in losses. Often, 32 times in fact, Monk powered the Wildcats to a win, and if it weren’t for drawing eventual national champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight, he might have led the way to earning the trophy at the Final Four in Phoenix.

While it is the crux of his game, the jump shot isn’t all Monk brings to the table. His hops are explosive for someone of his height, something he exhibited on plenty of dunks last season. That same athleticism aids him on the other side of the ball, where, with some growth, Monk projects to be a fine defender.

The case for Monk
The Sixers believe they have some young pieces in place for a title-contending roster. Joel Embiid can dominate inside. Ben Simmons, playing the point or not, should be a high-caliber starter. Dario Saric is a valuable asset with his size and stroke. But Nik Stauskas is not the long term answer at shooting guard. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot had some nice moments at the end of his rookie season, although he hasn’t sold anyone yet that he's a clear-cut starter. Free-agent additions, whether that’s Kyle Lowry, J.J. Redick or someone else, will help, but the need for a knock-down, assassin-type shooter is apparent. Monk could fill that void.

Monk hit at least three threes in a game 18 games during his lone college season. And while the range is key for any effective shooting guard at the next level, it doesn’t do much good if the shooter can’t get himself open. According to DraftExpress’ scouting report on Monk, half of his attempts came off the dribble. His ability to create his own shot and use his athleticism to elevate for good looks is where he really makes himself a “scoring machine” — as Dickie V labels him in the clip below:

Things didn’t change when it mattered most, either. Monk would join a Sixers team that could use a go-to guard for end-of-game situations, and his 47-point effort against UNC at a neutral site in December deems him qualified. He went 18 for 28 from the field and 8 of 12 from deep, including a go-ahead three from the wing in the final seconds. There was also the time when he drained a triple while falling out of bounds to send the game to OT and save Kentucky from losing at home to an inferior Georgia team:

Monk’s offensive skills don’t stop with his jumper. His ball-handling skills need polishing, especially against the enhanced defenders he’ll see in the league, but he’s athletic enough that he’ll be able to create chances around the rim. Kind of like this:

The case against Monk
He is slightly undersized. At 6-foot-3 and just under 200 pounds, he’ll be going against bigger defenders. Plus, size only helps at the other end of the court. Despite Monk’s explosiveness, the Sixers could elect to go with someone like Josh Jackson, whose size and athleticism are guaranteed and whose shooting ability will hopefully come with time. You can teach shooting. You can’t teach size.

Additionally, Monk will need to expand his game. A killer jumper is nice, but it’s obviously easier to defend if there’s no other option. With the small sample size of just one college season, the risk is that Monk won’t become the complete player the Sixers need. And with such a stacked draft class, other prospects might have more of a well-rounded package of skills to offer.

A lot of things will happen before the Sixers are on the clock with the No. 3 pick. Monk and the rest of his peers will work out for plenty of teams. Front offices will begin to form a more concrete opinion of which direction they want to go in. The Celtics and Lakers will make their selections. Heck, a trade could even lead the entire process down a path no one saw coming. 

But there are some constants, one being that the Sixers need better shooting. If they decide that is the need they want to fill with their first-round pick, Monk is the man they should want. If that means taking him with the third overall selection, then do it. If they are confident he will slide to them a few spots back, then, by all means, take the additional benefits of that trade and move back.

This is a shooter’s league. Guys like Steph Curry and James Harden can win games solely because of their seemingly unending range. That’s not to say Monk is the next Curry, but he can contribute to an area where the Sixers’ roster currently lacks. Hindsight will always be 20/20 when looking at this draft class down the line, but the choice is clear now if the Sixers' vision includes adding a shooter.

Draft Malik Monk.

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.