Philadelphia 76ers

The case for NC State's Dennis Smith Jr. to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for NC State's Dennis Smith Jr. to the Sixers at No. 3

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.

Dennis Smith Jr.
Position: PG
School: North Carolina State
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195
Wingspan: 6-3

Some players are timid when returning to the court after suffering a serious injury. Don't count Dennis Smith Jr. among of them.

Smith burst onto the scene at North Carolina State just over a year after tearing the ACL in his left knee. The electric point guard averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game en route to being named ACC Freshman of the Year over a crop that included fellow first-round prospects Jayson Tatum and Jonathan Isaac.

Smith's NBA-ready build, speed and elite athleticism are elements that teams would love to have from their floor general.

The case for Smith
The Sixers have been lacking an explosive guard that can finish at the rim for years now. And they likely have never had a player with this level of liftoff at the point guard position. Just take a look.

Outside of the flash, Smith still possesses all of the tools of a quintessential point guard. The 19-year-old recorded triple-doubles against Virginia Tech and Syracuse last season to become the first player ever to perform the feat multiple times in ACC play.

With the Sixers' planning to have Ben Simmons take over a majority of the ball-handling duties, it would be a major plus for them to add a PG that can still impact the game in a variety of ways.

The case against Smith
Much like Simmons, Smith has some stigma attached to him for failing to lift his team up during his lone collegiate season. How much of a leader — particularly at the point guard slot — is he if his NC State team finished with only a 15-17 (4-14 in ACC play) record and missed the NCAA Tournament?

From a numbers standpoint, Smith's shooting isn't overly impressive. He shot 45.5 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from three-point range and 71.5 percent from the free throw line. Plus, he averaged a hefty 3.4 turnovers per game.

Defensively, Smith did appear lazy at times and was part of a Wolfpack squad that ranked dead last defensively in the ACC. That type of effort certainly wouldn't sit well with Brett Brown.

Analysis
While other top point guard prospects Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox rightfully are being considered ahead of Smith, he possesses one of basketball's greatest equalizers: supreme athleticism.

Smith has a certain spring to his game and his high-end speed will help make him a challenge to guard even at the NBA level, especially in the open court.

He does have the body to defend in the league, but it remains to be seen if he has the desire.

The Sixers are surely doing their homework on Smith and could absolutely use a player with his offensive skill set, but with other top-tier options available, they likely go in a different direction at No. 3. However, he won't be on the board long after.

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.