Philadelphia 76ers

A Philly kid, Duke's Amile Jefferson ready to take the next step

A Philly kid, Duke's Amile Jefferson ready to take the next step

CAMDEN, N.J. — Leadership, toughness, and a Philly kid.

Those were the words used by Sixers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley to describe Duke's Amile Jefferson — one of six prospects the team brought to its training facility Monday morning for possibly the last of its group workouts prior to Thursday's draft.

Although Jefferson's name has flown well under the radar — especially compared to fellow Blue Devils Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles — the 6-foot-9 forward's booming voice echoed throughout the gym during 3-on-3 scrimmages, and his presence was certainly felt by those in attendance.

DraftExpress, along with pretty much every other mock draft, has yet to put Jefferson among those selected. In fact, the Friends' Central alum isn't even on their top 100 prospects list.

But the 2015 national champion and four-time All-ACC academic team honoree certainly has the pedigree to develop further and ultimately make it as a professional.

"It's amazing ... just to be here and see that Sixers shirt and have that feeling after growing up watching Allen Iverson and Aaron McKie," Jefferson said. "Just being able to come back and have this opportunity for the team that I loved growing up was nothing short of amazing."

The Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year in both his junior and senior seasons at the Wynnewood, Pa., private school, Jefferson made a name for himself on the Philly basketball scene. ESPN had him ranked as the No. 25 high school prospect when he graduated in 2012 and headed to Durham to join Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's perennial powerhouse. 

And despite playing alongside a number of NBA-level guys like Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor, it wasn't until his senior season that Jefferson began to fully emerge as the player many thought he could be. Yes, Jefferson was always a leader, but in the first nine games of the 2015-16 season, he averaged a double-double (11.4 points and 10.3 boards per game) until a right foot fracture forced him to redshirt the remainder of the season.

Jefferson, a guy many would describe as the consummate team player, returned to Duke for a fifth year and picked right back up where he left off. He led Duke in both rebounds and blocks and helped the Blue Devils put together four wins in four days for a title at the 2017 ACC Tournament.

His numbers have never been flashy, but neither is Jefferson.

"In the NBA, I'm a guy that can really rebound," he said. "I can play a lot of positions — especially guard a lot of different positions. I bring a grit, leadership, being vocal. I'm a worker and I'm a player. I think I can do a lot of things, both offensively and defensively."

"The league is getting smaller and being able to guard two through five, those are ways I think I can really get in and help a team."

At times, it's hard to see where Jefferson fits into the NBA game. He's definitely a tweener with his 6-9, 225-pound frame, and although his rebounding skills match up with almost any player in this year's class, his shooting touch does not fit that of a four in the modern pro game. Jefferson never attempted a three-pointer in his college career and is just a 57.5 percent shooter from the charity stripe.

On the other hand, though, he's a leader. The only three-time captain in Duke history, Jefferson seemingly garnered praise from his Blue Devil teammates every time out. And when he was forced to the bench for much of the 2015-16 season, you could always hear Jefferson's deep tenor from the Duke bench.

For all of the Blue Devils who have gone at the top of the draft in recent years, there have also been the journeymen like Seth Curry and Quinn Cook who have had to play their way through the D-League onto an NBA roster. So whether or not Jefferson's name is called Thursday in Brooklyn, don't expect him to fade away anytime soon.

"[My best asset is] just being a player, using all the tools you've learned over my career to help you and guide you through this process," Jefferson said. "It's been an amazing one and I appreciate everyone who's given me the opportunity."

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.