Carter-Williams relishes challenge of Oladipo

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Carter-Williams relishes challenge of Oladipo

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With his team down one, Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick in the NBA draft, knocked down a step-back jumper just inside the three-point line to put Orlando up, 90-89, over the Sixers with 4.4 seconds remaining.

Oladipo did so with a hand in his face. That hand belonged to the 11th overall pick Michael Carter-Williams.

Khalif Wyatt could not connect on a baseline jumper on the final possession as the Sixers fell to 0-4 this week at the Orlando Pro Summer League with the 90-89 loss.

Carter-Williams looked unhappy walking off in defeat, but he liked the challenge of guarding such a talent as Oladipo.

“When I wasn’t covering him throughout the game I kept asking coach if I could cover him,” Carter-Williams said. “He is a great player and just the competitiveness -- we are cool off the court and we are good friends, so to be competitive on the court is just a fun thing.”

Travis Leslie and Justin Holiday took turns in the early going guarding the Indiana Hoosier product.

Oladipo, in addition to making the game-winning jumper, had 24 points, six assists, three rebounds and five turnovers.

His counterpart, Carter-Williams, finished with 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds and eight turnovers.

“I think with both those guys, the turnovers are higher than they will be,” Sixers assistant coach Michael Curry said. “But it is tough coming in as a rookie point guard and trying to learn everything and still trying to make plays and do everything for your teammates. So far, both those guys have been playing very well despite their shooting numbers and despite their turnovers.”

Carter-Williams and Oladipo met in the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA tournament. Carter-Williams got the better of Oladipo that night, scoring 24 points, grabbing five rebounds and tallying four steals.

Syracuse upset Indiana, 61-50, to advance to the Elite Eight.

Oladipo, in his final collegiate game, scored 16 points, had three rebounds and three steals.

Thursday, their rivalry was renewed.

“It felt like a little déjà vu,” Carter-Williams said. “He got the better of me this time with that last shot but we will have our time again.”

In the summer of 2010, John Wall went No. 1 in the draft and Evan Turner No. 2. The two players have been compared to one another in terms of progress ever since the 2010 draft night -- a meeting between the Sixers and Wizards does not happen without a Wall-Turner storyline.

As time marches on for the 2013 draft class, it is likely that Oladipo and Carter-Williams will experience the same as Wall and Turner. For now, they are two rookies learning the ropes, and in Oladipo’s case, transitioning from two-guard to point guard.

“I think we can compete against the guys that are already [in the NBA],” Carter-Williams said. “The point guard is a tough position in the league, probably one of the toughest positions. [Oladipo] is going to keep working and so will I. Right now we are at the bottom of the pedestal. We are chasing guys like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook -- we’re just trying to get at their level.”

Carter-Williams made some brilliant passes. One in particular was a left-handed dump-off pass to Arsalan Kazemi cutting to the basket as Carter-Williams penetrated the lane. Carter-Williams continues to struggle with his shot -- he was shooting 25 percent coming into the game and finished 3 for 10 against the Magic.

Curry has found the other aspects of Carter-Williams’ game to be very strong.

“I like his focus and the way that he competes every day,” Curry said. “Every practice he brings it. Every practice he asks questions. There is not one thing we go over that he doesn’t ask questions about. He is aware of everything. Sometimes players who have a chance to be great in this league, when they are young and a team starts to struggle, they try to take over and that’s because they want to try to put the team in a position to win. You see he has that in him.”

Notes
Arnett Moultrie had his best game of the week, scoring a team-high 23 points and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds. … The Sixers will wrap up their week in Orlando with a 4 p.m. Friday game against Brooklyn. … Monte Shubik, former assistant coach/video coordinator to Doug Collins, was named director of player services for Rutgers men’s basketball. Shubik is reunited with Eddie Jordan, who he worked with when Jordan coached the 76ers.

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

This week, I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses. If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don’t see it on here, don't worry, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

The Sixers should explore all possibilities: trade up, trade down, trade the pick, draft third. The draft is a little funky this year in that there is not a clear-cut choice between picks three through five, and perhaps beyond that. If the Sixers like either player, there is the possibility they could simply select that player No. 3.

I’ve said before, I could see Fox going third. The speedy point guard met with the Sixers at the draft combine and outlined how he would fit playing off the ball with Ben Simmons and finding opportunities with Joel Embiid. Is three a stretch for him? I don’t think so (more on why here).

Monk has not been projected as high as Fox, so the option of trading down for him is viable. If the Sixers draft for need, however, his skill set is a fit at three. Monk is their best option for a shooter, and they are lacking shooters. It's not uncommon for a prospect to jump in the draft order based on what the team at that selection is looking for. Of course, if the Sixers trade down, they could pick up another piece (future pick, etc.) in addition to Monk in the deal, which always is worth considering.

Ersan Ilyasova was a great veteran presence for the Sixers this season before they traded him to the Hawks at the deadline. He boosted their offense and, more importantly, helped in Dario Saric’s development.

The Sixers and Ilyasova had different plans for the future, though, and understandably so. Ilyasova, who turned 30 this month, was going to be looking for a longer-term contract this offseason than the Sixers were interested in offering. Ilyasova wanted commitment and security at this point in his career; the Sixers wanted flexibility with their options in the frontcourt.

Ilyasova has put together a résumé that will attract teams in free agency this summer.

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

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.

De'Aaron Fox
Position: PG
School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3
Weight: 170 pounds
Wingspan: 6-6½

The case for Fox
With maybe the deepest point guard class in recent draft history, Fox has been flying up draft boards in the past month while still staying relatively under the radar when compared with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball — the expected top two picks in some order. He is electric on offense, and the Wildcats' guard posted double-figure points in all but four games during his lone collegiate season.

Against UCLA in the Sweet 16, Fox scored a career-high 39 and added four dimes. But perhaps more impressively, he shut down Ball, holding his 6-foot-6 counterpart to just 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting and one trey. And it wasn't just a one-time thing — two nights later, Fox held North Carolina guard Joel Berry II to just 11 points.

Although the Sixers have repeatedly said Ben Simmons will be their starting point guard at the beginning of next season (assuming the young star has no other setbacks), they will need someone to defend against opponents' quicker guards. With T.J. McConnell as the only true ballhandler currently on the roster, Fox certainly would be able to help spell Simmons at the point as well.

When experts began putting together their mock draft boards at the end of the college basketball season, Fox was frequently listed as a back-end lottery selection. Now, many have him as a potential top-five pick, and it's hard to see Fox slipping much past the Kings at No. 5 as Sacramento is a rebuilding team still in search of a point guard of their own.

The case against Fox
The biggest knock on Fox is his size. On Kentucky's website, he is listed at 187 pounds. But at the NBA draft combine, he measured in 17 pounds lighter. For scouts already concerned with his thin frame, this did little to reassure them that Fox will be able to hang with bigger guards at the next level — but maybe he fits as a complement to the 6-foot-11 Simmons.

Another worry is his three-point shooting. For the season, Fox shot just 24.9 percent from beyond the arc, attempting just fewer than two three-pointers per game. As a team in 2016-17, the Sixers took the seventh-most triples but ranked 25th out of 30 NBA teams from distance at 34 percent. With the Sixers in desperate need of consistent outside shooting, Fox would need to significantly improve that area of his game at the next level to help Brett Brown's team take the next step.

And, of course, as with most young ballhandlers (Fox is just 19), he has rough spots when leading the offense. Yes, Fox helped Kentucky to its fair share of highlight-reel alley-oops, yet he still struggled to command the Wildcats' offense at times and would occasionally get lost in pick-and-roll defense. Although his 5.8 assists per 40 minutes are a sign that he can eventually grow into the point guard that the Sixers need him to be, they could also use Fox to be an immediate impact player for a team that is finally trying to put all the pieces together.

Analysis
If the Sixers do in fact miss out on Fultz and Ball, Fox would certainly be a good consolation prize. He is incredibly quick with the ball in his hands and has the potential to improve defensively. In fact, our Amy Fadool lauded him as one of the most improved players in all of college basketball last season — he shot almost 48 percent from the field in Kentucky's final 14 games of the season.

There is no one on the Sixers' roster, as it stands, with a skill set comparable to Fox's, but it's still fair to question how he will handle some of the bigger and stronger point guards in the Eastern Conference, such as Kyrie Irving and John Wall, on both ends of the floor. With plenty of young budding talent in the fold, though, if Fox can immediately step in as a plus defender and a steady reserve ballhandler, he could definitely help the Sixers' core of Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric become even more lethal offensively.

A couple of weeks ago, I definitely viewed Fox as a stretch at No. 3. The more I think about it, however, he would not be an unreasonable selection for the Sixers. Yes, they also would likely have the option of Kansas' Josh Jackson or Duke's Jayson Tatum, as well as Fox's former teammate, Malik Monk, when they go on the clock, but Fox could fill a critical need. 

If the Sixers were somehow able to get the Kings to trade up to No. 3, Fox would be a great pick at No. 5 overall. And if Fultz or Ball were somehow available at No. 3, the Sixers would be hard-pressed to pass on either. Still, with so many talented point guards in this year's class, Fox is very much a worthy first-round candidate.