After graduating from St. Joe's, NBA draft prospect Isaiah Miles feels he could help Sixers

After graduating from St. Joe's, NBA draft prospect Isaiah Miles feels he could help Sixers

Isaiah Miles graduated from Saint Joseph’s last week … and went right to work trying to achieve his NBA dreams.

Miles came back to Philadelphia on Friday as part of the Sixers' pre-draft workouts at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (see notebook). He was less than a week removed from sandwiching his commencement in between time at the NBA Draft Combine.

"It feels great," Miles said of graduating. "Getting a degree, at the end of the day, is the most important thing. … I just wanted to do it for my mom. Walking across the stage and seeing the smile on her face was huge.

"I left the combine early to go to graduation. I came back to the combine right after graduation, so I think it will show teams my loyalty and my demeanor when it comes to school."

The Sixers are the third team the Baltimore native has worked out with, joining the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. Miles has at least six more lined up with trips to Houston, Dallas, Utah, San Antonio, Milwaukee and New York in his future. 

On Friday, Miles was teamed for three-on-three work with Columbia's Maodo Lo and Baylor's Taurean Prince, while mostly competing at forward against San Diego State's Winston Shepard. After the scrimmaging, Miles and the other attendees worked on shooting drills, catching and shooting off improvised screens. Miles, for one, thought he shot the ball well at the workout while stretching the floor. 

It is that shooting ability that gives Miles a chance to make an NBA roster this summer. He struggled to find minutes in his first two seasons with the Hawks before taking off, turning into a well-rounded forward averaging 18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds by his senior season. 

His prowess from deep forced mismatches for opposing defenses, but he also began to make himself a presence in the paint as well. His senior year culminated in a game-winning three in the NCAA Tournament to beat Cincinnati and get St. Joe's out of the first round for the first time in 12 years. 

So it has been quite the whirlwind for the 21-year-old. Just ask him if he thought he'd get to this moment on the cusp of becoming a professional basketball player.

"Two years ago, my sophomore year, no, I didn't think I would be here," Miles said. "But to the glory of God and his blessing, he blessed me to give me this opportunity to have an outstanding senior year and be able to try out for these NBA teams. I'm definitely happy to be here to play with the 76ers. 

"I've been here four years and I see Philly as my new home besides Balitmore, so it'd be great to play here. I gave so much time and so many years to Philadelphia. I love it here."

As for his fit in Philadelphia, the 6-foot-8 forward says he could contribute to a team with plenty of bigs already. Once again, it is his shooting that sets him apart.

"I feel like they could use an extra shooter," Miles said, "especially a big shooter that can stretch the floor and could be a mismatch problem for a lot of fours and fives."

Vince Rozman, the Sixers' director of basketball operations/scouting innovation, highlighted that Miles improved as he went through college. Coach Brett Brown mentioned Miles as a "good worker." The big man will need to continue to improve if he wants to make an NBA roster, although Brown talked through some of the alternative paths a prospect like Miles can take to the pros.

"Because we have D-League affiliates with the Sevens right down the road, our scope on how we judge people is very expansive," Brown said. "It's not in a vacuum in the NBA, so as we're making assessments, we also feel that maybe they can come up, as I said before, in a different path to ultimately being on the roster, so we're lucky in having that affiliation down the road."

One thing helping Miles along the NBA draft circuit is the presence of his St. Joe's teammate DeAndre Bembry. Bembry, who went through a workout with the Sixers earlier in the week (see story), assisted on Miles’ game-winning three-pointer in the NCAA Tournament after creating a dynamic duo with the senior all season long. Bembry advised his former teammate to "just have fun" with the session.

"It's huge," Miles said of Bembry's going through the same process. "He's my best friend, he's my brother, and it's good seeing someone who battled with you throughout the season have such success after the season's over as well as you. 

"So it's kind of a huge process and you like to see your brother do well. I'm glad me and him are able to go through the process. We're getting what we deserve from the season after having a hard-fought season."

Sixers-Bulls 5 things: Time to match physicality of playoff-hungry team

Sixers-Bulls 5 things: Time to match physicality of playoff-hungry team

The Sixers (26-45) will hit the middle of their five-game road trip when they face the playoff-hunting Chicago Bulls (34-38) at the United Center on Friday (8 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Licking their wounds
That escalated quickly.

The Sixers were blitzed in their lone visit of the season to Oklahoma City on Wednesday when they suffered a 122-97 loss. Russell Westbrook notched his 35th triple-double of 2016-17 in just three quarters.

The overriding theme from the game was the Thunder were far more physical than the Sixers. OKC shot 54.5 percent from the field, scored 76 points in the paint and outrebounded the Sixers by 34.

"It's a fantastic example for our young guys on the physicality of playoff-type teams," Brett Brown said (see story). "That side of it stood out to me more than it has in a long time. You look at (Steven) Adams and you look at (Enes) Kanter and you look at Taj Gibson and you look at the discrepancy on the boards, the rebounding differential, and it felt that. It's just a reminder, if you want to play late in April and May, maybe June one day, that's the physicality the playoffs bring."

2. Bully Bulls
The Bulls are hoping to still be playing during that timeframe Brown laid out. They are currently one game behind the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Chicago is in that position mainly thanks to its own physicality, particularly in the rebounding department. The Bulls are third in the NBA in rebounding behind Oklahoma City and Denver with 45.9 boards per game. They are No. 1 in offensive rebounding with 12.3 a night, which is also a big reason the Bulls lead the league in second-chance points with 15.4 a game.

The Bulls don't have a specific player that carries the load on the glass. Seven different guys average at least four rebounds for the team.

Moral of the story: the Bulls will fight you down low. Literally.

Starting center Robin Lopez will return to the lineup against the Sixers after serving a one-game suspension for his run-in with Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka.

3. Butler is a baller
Jimmy Butler is one of those eight players who averages at least four boards for the Bulls. He also happens to do a bit more for Chicago.

Butler continues to be an all-around threat. He is averaging 23.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game this season.

The three-time All-Star has been just as sharp against the Sixers this season. Butler has put up 27.0 points, 6.0 boards and 5.0 assists per game in the two previous matchups this season.

The Sixers will need a big effort from rugged defender Robert Covington and anyone else who guards Butler to contain him.

4. Injuries
Tiago Splitter (calf), Joel Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Cristiano Felicio (back) is a game-time decision. Dwyane Wade (elbow) is out for the Bulls.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 straight to the Bulls.

• The Sixers have committed 32 turnovers in two games against the Bulls.

• Ex-Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams has averaged 18.3 points, 7.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in three games against his former team.

• Jahlil Okafor has recorded 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in four games against his hometown Bulls.

Best of NBA: DeMar DeRozan goes for 40 points again in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeMar DeRozan goes for 40 points again in Raptors' win

MIAMI -- DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points, marking the first time he's had that many in consecutive games, and the Toronto Raptors pulled off their 19th double-digit comeback of the season to beat the Miami Heat 101-84 on Thursday night.

DeRozan shot 14 for 25 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line. He needed 38 shots to score 42 against Chicago on Tuesday.

Norman Powell scored 14 and Delon Wright added 13 for Toronto, which never led until midway through the third quarter. The Raptors allowed 33 points in the first quarter, then held Miami to 35 points over the next 27 minutes.

Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand, Hassan Whiteside scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami. Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic each had 13 points for the Heat, with Dragic shooting just 5 for 18 (see full recap).

Nets crush Suns for first two-game win streak
NEW YORK -- Brook Lopez scored 19 points, K.J. McDaniels had a season-high 16 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Phoenix Suns 126-98 on Thursday night to give them consecutive victories for the first time this season.

Trevor Booker added 14 points for the league-worst Nets, who beat Detroit on Tuesday.

Devin Booker scored 28 points and Marquese Chriss had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Alex Len had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Brooklyn took a commanding 84-65 lead into the fourth quarter as Lopez scored 12 points in the third quarter. Brooklyn held Phoenix to 15 points, the fewest points the Nets have allowed in the third quarter this season.

Phoenix opened the game with a 17-4 run and led 32-22 after the first quarter. However, Brooklyn turned the tide in the second quarter and took a 52-50 lead into the halftime (see full recap).

Spurs top Grizzlies in possible playoff preview
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points, Kawhi Leonard added 19 and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 97-90 on Thursday night in a possible first-round playoff preview.

San Antonio opened a four-game homestand by moving two games behind idle Golden State for the league's best record. The Spurs (55-16) close the homestand against the Warriors (57-14) next Wednesday.

Memphis (40-32) is seventh in the Western Conference, which would result in a first-round matchup with San Antonio if the standings remain.

Mike Conley had 22 points and six assists for Memphis, which lost its third straight to fall 1 games behind Oklahoma City for sixth place.

Marc Gasol, who had 13 points, was the only other Grizzlies player in double figures (see full recap).