Philadelphia 76ers

Trade-down scenario: The case for Florida State's Jonathan Isaac to the Sixers

Trade-down scenario: The case for Florida State's Jonathan Isaac to the Sixers

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. 

The following is a trade-down scenario; if the Sixers were to draft Isaac, it would likely be in a scenario where they trade down.

Jonathan Isaac
Position:
SF/PF
School: Florida State
Height: 6-11
Weight: 205
Wing span: 7-1 ¼

A 6-foot-4 guard entering high school, Isaac underwent a huge growth spurt, nearly becoming a 7-footer (he's only 19, so he still might become one). Isaac was a top-10 recruit and lived up to his billing during his lone season at Florida State.

His numbers won't blow you away: 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. But it's important to note that Isaac often deferred to the team's veteran guards in sophomore Dwayne Bacon and junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes. He was efficient, taking just eight shots a contest and shooting over 50 percent.

What makes Isaac intriguing is his guard-like skill set coupled with his size and length. His jumper was inconsistent (35 percent from three), but the 78 percent he shot from the line is encouraging. He's a matchup nightmare on both ends. He's too tall and long for most wings and too quick for bigs. He also uses his length and athleticism on the defensive end by getting his hands in passing lanes and protecting the rim.

*Note: If the Sixers were to draft Isaac, it would likely be in a scenario where they trade down.

The case for Isaac
The first thought for some Sixers fans might be, "Another big?! Really?!" with a little colorful language sprinkled in. But fans that feel that way obviously haven't watched Isaac play. 

Isaac can realistically guard positions one through five in the NBA. He's the epitome of positionless basketball. At the pro level, he'll constantly have to switch out on guards and he should be able to handle it just fine. He also gives you weakside rim protection (2.3 blocks per 40 minutes) and is a deflection machine (1.8 steals per 40). 

Offensively, you can tell he's still learning how to use his lanky frame. Occasionally you'll see him make a play off the dribble or pull up for a jumper and wonder how a guy his size can be that crafty. His shot is inconsistent, but it's far from broken. He was much better in catch-and-shoot opportunities which he should get a lot of with Ben Simmons facilitating and Joel Embiid in the paint.

He's also a team player. He joined a veteran Seminoles team, earned a role, and thrived in it. Early on, he should excel as Brett Brown wants to push the basketball and play with pace and space. 

The case against Isaac
As much as I love the idea of positionless basketball, it does sort of cause a dilemma for Isaac and his fit for the Sixers. He should be quick enough to guard NBA wings from the start, so realistically, Isaac and ROY candidate Dario Saric could coexist in the starting lineup. You'd then feature a starting lineup with four players measuring 6-10 or taller. While that would be so much fun, it may not be feasible against guard-heavy teams.

He's also skinny. Like, really skinny. His biggest issue in the NBA will be how he deals with taking a beating from grown men for 82 games. He also wore down and got into a shooting slump down the stretch.

Analysis
If the Sixers had a legitimate interest in Isaac, it would make sense to trade down. I can't see him getting past the Timberwolves at No. 7, so you'd likely have to stay in front of them. 

First, I want to admit bias. I genuinely loved watching Isaac play this year. He's one of my favorite prospects. With that said, I think starting three players 6-10 or taller isn't that crazy. Especially when you have guys like Simmons and Isaac who are basically guards trapped in a bigs' body. You could also use Isaac or Saric off the bench depending on the matchup.

Isaac definitely needs to get stronger, but if he does, that should also help his three-point shooting as he adjusts to NBA range. There would probably be moans and groans about the Sixers' drafting another big, but this kid is definitely not your typical big.

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.