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 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Nik Stauskas

Position: Shooting Guard

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $3,807,147

Stauskas in 2016-17
In his second season with the Sixers and third in the NBA, Nik Stauskas saw himself generally improve across the board, albeit by a small amount. The Sixers as a whole had a plethora of injuries that kept nearly every player off the court for extended periods, yet Stauskas remained healthy enough to play 80 games, start 27 and play 27.4 minutes a contest. Health is certainly a skill and Stauskas has it.

As for his play on the court, Stauskas got better in essentially every category. His field goal percentage rose from 38.5 to 39.6 percent, he shot a career-high 36.8 percent from three and he improved his scoring to 9.5 points per game while also sporting career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks with only a 2.6 minute increase in minutes per game.

His consistency was pretty notable. He played at least 23 minutes in every game after Jan. 20 and was a constant in an ever-changing Sixers rotation. He had eight straight games with double figures to end February. While he began the year as the backup two-guard, Stauskas started at shooting guard by the end of the year with Gerald Henderson nursing an injury. Coach Brett Brown even had Stauskas play point guard down the stretch with injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez creating an opening. In that way, Stauskas diversified his skill set

Signature game
Stauskas' season-high 21 points came against Phoenix in mid-November, a win against a team even worse than the Sixers. Stauskas had 20 points on back-to-back games in Orlando and Oklahoma City in late March, hitting eight threes over the two games.

But what is a signature game for Stauskas without a little measure of revenge? On Jan. 30, Stauskas made four threes and scored 16 points against the Kings, providing some key baskets in a 122-119 win over his former mates.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Next season for Stauskas will be a critical one. It'll be the final season of his four-year rookie contract. While he's improved year to year, he's not quite the product one may expect out of the former eighth overall pick. At this point, a few years removed from that 2014 draft, it is unfair to continually compare him to that draft and instead focus on what he is.

Well, what is Stauskas? He's a shooting guard who can play a little bit of the point in a pinch and can hit a decent, albeit not elite, clip of threes. There's value there for sure. However, with a bevy of potential draft picks coming the Sixers' way, the guard known as Sauce Castillo could see his role downsized in 2017-18 with a rookie taking his minutes.

Even players getting healthy could take minutes away from Stauskas. He's already competing with veteran Gerald Henderson, also a free agent after 2017-18, for minutes and Bayless may be squeezed into more of a two-guard role with Ben Simmons at the point. Simmons, Bayless and T.J. McConnell likely take away the few opportunities Stauskas would have to play point guard, but he only took that on because of injury anyway.

Still, even in a roster squeeze, Stauskas brings a fair amount to the table. Brown's system needs shooters and despite a few slumps, Stauskas can drain jumpers. He's developed chemistry in the locker room and has earned enough trust and stayed healthy enough to play 27 minutes a game in the NBA. 

On Stauskas
"We're seeing a skill package that everybody talked about when he came out of college. You're seeing a lottery pick play. I'm personally happy for him because he cares sometimes too much and he's so self-conscious at times and extremely prideful and he's being rewarded for the work he has put in."

- Sixers coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

ATLANTA -- John Wall had that look in his eye at morning shootaround.

Bradley Beal knew it was going to be a big night for Washington's star point guard.

Wall scored 42 points -- a career playoff high, with 19 coming in the fourth quarter to single-handedly hold off a furious Atlanta comeback -- and the Wizards eliminated the Hawks with a 115-99 victory Friday, capturing the opening-round playoff series 4-2.

"You could just tell he was locked in," Beal said. "He was ready to go. We just feed off that."

Beal wasn't too shabby either, scoring 31 points (see full recap).

Celtics complete series comeback, eliminate Bulls
CHICAGO -- The Boston Celtics kept reminding each other not to let up as they closed in on a lopsided victory and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No need to worry about that.

Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls 105-83 to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.

The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Boston regrouped after dropping the first two games at home and will meet Washington in the Eastern semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz on road to force Game 7
SALT LAKE CITY -- Chris Paul scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers forced a Game 7 in their first-round series with a 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

The Clippers will host the only do-or-die game of the first round Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the Golden State Warriors.

Los Angeles began to edge away in the third quarter and appeared to be in control when Austin Rivers capped a 9-2 run with a step-back 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 91-77 with 3:58 remaining.

He hit another with 1:29 left to make it 96-86, but Gordon Hayward scored seven straight to bring the Jazz within three before Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds (see full recap).