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.

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart heard his name called, while Villanova teammate Kris Jenkins did not.

Hart snuck into the first round of Thursday night's NBA draft, going 30th overall to the Utah Jazz. However, the Wildcat is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, via a trade.

While Jenkins went undrafted, it looks like he'll have a shot with an NBA team. Jenkins will join the Washington Wizards this offseason to compete for a roster spot, according to a report by NBA.com's David Aldridge.

After winning the national title as a junior with Villanova, Hart collected plenty of accolades in a standout senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing was named a consensus first-team All-American, Big East Player of the Year and took home the Julius Erving award as the top small forward in the country.

For the 32-4 Wildcats, Hart, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range.

"I'm my biggest critic," he said last week after a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. "I drive myself as much as I can. I demand perfection from myself."

As Hart travels west, Jenkins, on the other hand, will head home for his NBA opportunity. The 6-foot-6 forward, beloved for his buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Villanova its 2016 national championship, is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He worked out for the Wizards in early June. He also worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday.

"It's a blessing," he said after his session with the Wizards, via the Washington Post. "You always root for the hometown team, you always want them to do well. Honestly it's humbling to be in this position, to grow up in this area, to have some games here and play college ball here and then come back and work out for the Wizards."

After flirting with the NBA draft process following their title-winning season, both Hart and Jenkins decided to return to school for their senior campaigns.

They both took to Twitter on Thursday night following the draft — Hart in excitement, Jenkins more in a humorous manner.

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

CAMDEN, N.J. — You don't have to do much research on Markelle Fultz to find his perceived shortcomings.

Washington finished 9-22 his only season there. Draft experts also questioned his effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

None of that concerned the Sixers when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night (see story).

"One of the weaknesses was, 'Does he bring it every night defensively? Did he have that killer instinct?'" Sixers head coach Brett Brown said following the pick. "I think if you take a high character person and you take an athlete, you have the foundation to coach him to be an elite defender."

There isn't much question about Fultz's offensive game. The 19-year-old guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in his only season with the Huskies. He also shot an impressive 41.3 percent from three-point range.

His skill set as a shooter and scorer seems to complement the skills of franchise centerpieces Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With his selection, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is hoping the Sixers can start to build a winning culture.

But does Fultz's nine-win season at Washington concern him at all?

"You look at every aspect of evaluating a prospect," Colangelo said. "We've dug very deep on this and we feel that regardless of whatever the performance of the University of Washington Huskies was last year, it's not relevant to who Markelle represents, what he represents as a player, and how he is going to fit in and help us turn this program around."

Fultz took an interesting path to being the No. 1 pick. He didn't make the varsity team at famed DeMatha High School in Maryland as a sophomore (see story). A growth spurt helped bring more attention to his game.

He chose Washington because of the relationship he had developed with its coaching staff. He also thought he'd have the opportunity to play with sophomores Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Instead, both players were surprise one-and-dones and Fultz was forced to carry the team on his shoulders.

"He wasn't always considered the best prospect, but he emerged and earned the right to be the best prospect," Colangelo said. "You're talking about a young man who goes to the University of Washington, didn't have great team success. Unfortunately, part of that may be personnel driven, part of that may be circumstantial.

"To do what he did at the level of the Pac-12 and to be able to average 23 points a game, six rebounds and six assists. You're talking, again, about great performance on the floor, a player that does so many different things and we believe someone that's going to help make his teammates better. "

Colangelo mentioned that Fultz "has the tools" to become an excellent defender. Fultz stands at 6-foot-4 with an impressive 6-foot-10 span. He also has plenty of athleticism and strength to compete defensively against NBA ones and twos.

Brown acknowledged that defense could be the biggest hole in Fultz's game, but feels like he could get the most out of Fultz on the defensive end.

"I think that down deep he understands the knock against him and I believe that when we get him with our program, he understands how we see the world here," Brown said. "It's gonna be an evolution, no doubt. But it's a willing defensive player and it's a willing athlete, a gifted athlete under a roof of a quality person. I think having those types of qualities lets you have a far better chance to mold him into the type of defensive player we need here."