Philadelphia 76ers

Haughton's 2017 Sixers Mock Draft: Markelle Fultz solidifies most important position

Haughton's 2017 Sixers Mock Draft: Markelle Fultz solidifies most important position

With the NBA draft Thursday, our pundits will provide their latest Sixers mock drafts. Here’s Matt Haughton’s final version:

First round (first overall via trade with Boston): Markelle Fultz, PG, 6-4/195, Washington
What’s better than having the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft? Having it twice in a row.

The Sixers are poised to pull off the rare feat of selecting at the top of the draft in consecutive years when their reported trade with the Celtics becomes finalized. 

Fultz is the Sixers’ target and with good reason. He has ideal size from the point guard perspective and has the all-around game to match.

The Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game during his lone season at Washington. Fultz shot 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from long range as a freshman.

Sure, the numbers some like to focus on are the 22 losses compared to just nine wins Fultz helped put together as leader of the Huskies. However, that can’t all be pinned on the 19-year-old, who more than held his own against stiff competition in the Pac-12.

Fultz is explosive with the ball in his hands as a playmaker or a scorer and has shown the ability to consistently knock down shots when playing off the ball. That will come in handy when Ben Simmons is facilitating the offense.

When you’re the Sixers and you’ve had 11 different players start at PG in Brett Brown’s four seasons as head coach (Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell, Isaiah Canaan, Kendall Marshall, Ish Smith, Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams, Larry Drew II, JaKarr Sampson and Tim Frazier), you make a move to finally solidify the game’s most important position. 

Fultz should do that and much more for the franchise.

Second round (36th overall): Thomas Bryant, C, 6-10/241, Indiana
Did you think the Sixers would go very long without drafting a big man?

Even with all of the bigs the team has selected in recent years, the Sixers can still use some depth in the frontcourt. 

Bryant can provide that in a very big way. He is already large at 6-10 but covers even more ground when you consider his massive 7-6 wingspan.

Bryant puts that impressive size to use on the court. The former Hoosier combines a powerful presence with a high motor, as he averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season at Indiana.

What makes Bryant a bit unique for a collegiate big man is his improving three-point shot. He connected on 33.3 percent of his attempts from long range as a freshman before bumping that number up to 38.3 percent as a sophomore, something the Sixers discussed when the center worked out for them earlier this month (see story).

That amount of improvement is certainly something to be pleased with when you consider Bryant is just 19 years old and still has plenty of room for growth. He could be just what the Sixers desire to kick off their four second-round picks.

Second round 39th overall: Dillon Brooks, SF, 6-7/215, Oregon
Philadelphia loves a player with a fiery attitude, especially one that can score the ball.

Brooks is aggressive on the offensive end and improved each season at Oregon. He averaged 16.1 points while shooting career highs from the field (48.8 percent) and three-point land (40.1 percent) as a junior during the Ducks’ run to the Final Four.

Brooks has proven he can score at all three levels and has made a habit of connecting on big shots in the clutch. Plus, he does it all with an in-your-face demeanor that Sixers fans would absolutely eat up.

There are questions about Brooks’ commitment on defense and lateral quickness, but not enough to outweigh his other capabilities on the court.

With Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson all potentially coming off the books for the Sixers after the 2017-18 season, the team is in desperate need of wing players. Brooks would be a good place to start adding to that position in the second round.

Second round (46th overall): Jonah Bolden, PF, 6-10/227, Serbia
The Sixers have selected at least one draft-and-stash candidate each year with Brown at the helm. And with the coach’s history in Australia, he just might convince Bryan Colangelo and the rest of the Sixers’ brass to snatch up Melbourne native Bolden.

Bolden has a wing's skill set in a big man’s frame. Even at his size, he is very fluid with his movements, has solid ball-handling ability and can shoot from range when on his game.

Bolden bolted UCLA for the professional ranks in Serbia after his sophomore season when he felt his talent wasn’t being utilized properly (Bruins head coach Steve Alford reportedly wanted him to strictly play PF and stick to the low block).

The decision appears to have paid off for the 21-year-old. Bolden averaged 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.9 percent from beyond the arc for KK FMP Beograd as he was given the freedom to play more on the perimeter. Those numbers were good enough for Bolden to win the Adriatic League Top Prospect award, an honor that has gone to NBA draft picks Dario Saric, Nikola Jokic and Ante Zizic the past three years.

Despite a checkered past with some on- and off-court issues, Bolden is worth taking a flier on in the second round.

Second round (50th overall): Jaron Blossomgame, SF/PF, 6-7/214, Clemson
The Sixers have possibly been waiting an entire year to make this pick, but they finally get Blossomgame at No. 50.

The Clemson forward worked out for the team prior to last year’s draft before opting to go back to school for his senior season. 

The return to college didn’t necessarily help Blossomgame’s cause. His offensive numbers dipped pretty much across the board (18.7 points per game to 17.7 points, 51.4 percent shooting from the field to 49.9 percent and 44.6 percent from three to 25.5).

However, teams already understand what they’re getting from him: energy. The versatile forward hustles at all times and is active all over the court, particularly on the defensive end.

“He's a competitor,” Sixers senior director of basketball operations Vince Rozman said after Blossomgame worked out for the team again earlier this month (see story). “It's pretty straightforward for him.”

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.