A Summary of the Sixers' Likely Draft Prospects

A Summary of the Sixers' Likely Draft Prospects

For a number of reasons—the excellent post-season that just finished, the looming threat of a lockout, the relatively weak pool of talent to choose from—the 2011 NBA draft has been the least-buzzed-about draft the sport has seen in recent memory. Though there's some intrigue due to the inevitable surge of trade rumors around this time of the year (none the least of which involving our own Andre Iguodala), the lack of any real marquee names and the involvement of a whole lot of unknown quantities in this draft has taken a lot of the sizzle out of it—and that's for the teams drafting at the top. For our beloved Philadelphia 76ers, selecting this year with the 16th and 50th pick, things are even more muddled and less exciting.

All this is sort of my long way of saying "Sorry about not writing about the draft more this year, but I didn't really care all that much and neither should you probably." I will be going to the Prudential Center in Secaucus, New Jersey (the Prude, as I like to call it) tomorrow to attend said draft, but barring some sort of home-run trade-up—which is fairly rare in the NBA, especially for the Sixers—I don't expect the outcome of the evening to have a terribly large impact on the Sixers' future. Like my father has taken to saying recently, "Having the 16th pick in the draft gets you Marreese Speights." In other words, whoever the Sixers draft—especially from a historically weak class like this—is far more likely to be a role player that flashes in and out of the rotation than a legitimate building block.

Of course, every so often, the 16th pick can also get you Jrue Holiday, so it's still worth talking a look at the likely candidates for selection, and contemplating which might be the best fit for the Sixers. Here's a look at five of the players most likely to be called by David Stern with the 76ers' logo in the background tomorrow night.

Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas (pictured above):

Right now, Hamilton looks like the clear favorite to be the Sixers' golden boy on draft night. Ken Berger of CBS Sports wrote today about him going to the Sixers like it was already a done deal, and Chad Ford has had the Sixers taking him pretty much since he started doing this year's mock-drafting. The main asset Hamilton has to offer the Sixers is shooting—39% from deep in his sophomore year at Texas—which at his height (somewhere between 6'7" and 6'9") and position could be a real boon to the team if Andre Iguodala is traded and Evan Turner still needs some work on his jumper next season. Drafting Hamilton wouldn't solve the team's primary need (size/interior presence) and might make for a glut at the wing if Thaddeus Young is resigned and 'Dre sticks around, but otherwise, he's an interesting fit.

Markieff Morris, PF/C, Kansas:

Kansas prospects always seem like the hardest to gauge in terms of pro potential, because their teams are always so loaded with talent and they end up playing such a system brand of basketball. That said, many are high on Markieff Morris, who averaged 14 and 8 for Kansas last year on 58% shooting as the team's primary interior presence, along with brother Marcus, who is seen as slightly more talented and projected to go in the lottery. Markieff is known for being a good defender, something the Sixers desperately need down low, but might be a little lacking on the offensive end (though he does have a steadily improving jumper). He's also slightly undersized for a center, making it unlikely that he's the long-term solution in the middle. Kate Fagan refers to Markieff as "the safe selection," saying he "quiets those fans chanting for a rebounder," but qualifying that he "possesses, perhaps, the least amount of upside at the No. 16 spot." Probably true, but as Fagan also points out, this might not be the draft to reach for a home-run guy when "a solid single would do."

Nikola Vucevic, C, USC:

An enticing prospect for the Sixers namely due to his height—at about seven feet with a nine-and-a-half-foot wingspan, Vucevic probably the longest player in an undersized draft, and of course, the Sixers need big guys more than just about anything else. Vucevic is a solid player on both ends of the court, showing a nice touch around the basket and averaging a block-and-a-half per game in his Junior season at USC. The main drawback with him, though, is his athleticism—his vertical leap has been measured as being worse than a good deal of guards in the draft class, and his lateral foot-speed has been questioned, two qualities which set off red flags for the guy being a potential stiff. He might still be worth a dice-roll for a team that occasionally played Thaddeus Young at center last year, but the lack of athleticism hardly makes him a natural fit for a team whose identity is centered largely around young legs.

Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas:

Another Longhorn forward linked to the Sixers has been the solid Tristan Thompson, a player with good athleticism, good measurements, a good knack for rebounding and defense and a good game around the basket. Of course, you might be able to deduce from the overuse of the word "good" in that sentence that the main problem with Thompson is that he doesn't appear to be great at any one particular thing—and the last time we drafted a guy like that, at a pick much higher than #16, it turned out more interestingly than we would have liked. Still, people love Thompson's motor, and it seems fairly likely that he'd be a good bench contributor for the Sixers, maybe like a slightly less-explosive version of the Bulls' Taj Gibson, or perhaps even our old friend Reggie Evans.

Justin Harper, PF, Richmond:

Harper is getting some buzz as the sleeper pick for the Sixers, as he apparently wowed the team with his attitude in workouts, and he has a nice shooting stroke, hitting 44% of his threes last year at Richmond. He seems a little bit like the reverse Thaddeus Young—like Thad, he's a long, athletic stretch four, but whereas Thad has no faith in his jumper and spends most of his time looking for ways to the basket, Harper is all about the jumper, and occasionally forgets to attack the rim. The best-case scenario for Harper, as cited by Fagan, is that he turns into a Rashard Lewis-type, but with his Lewis-like flaws—weak defender, poor body strength, no interior game—Liberty Ballers says that in all likelihood, Harper is "not a consideration unless the Sixers get a second draft pick."

Also Garnering C
onsideration:

Donatas Matiejunas, PF, Lithuania
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
Tyler Honeycutt, SG/SF, UCLA

Would Be Cool if They Somehow Fell to Us:

Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo
Klay Thompson, PG, Washington State
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson 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.

Josh Jackson

Position: SF
School: Kansas
Height: 6-8
Weight: 203
Wingspan: 6-9¾

Jackson enjoyed an excellent season in his one year with the Jayhawks. Regarded as one of the top high school recruits in the country, Jackson didn't disappoint. The super athletic swingman averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Jackson is without a doubt the best two-way player in this draft. He can guard positions one through four. He averaged an impressive 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes, using his length and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes. He's also strong and physical, with the ability to body up ball handlers and cutters, and redirect them.

He's a bit underrated offensively. He struggled with his shot early on, but improved as the season went on. In his last 17 games, he shot 48 percent from three on over three attempts per game. As his three assists a night indicates, he's a good and willing passer. He's also a better ball handler than he gets credit for, with the ability to get to the rim using his left or his right. Oh, and he can finish.

The case for Jackson
He fits the Sixers as an elite wing defender who plays well off the ball. If his shot continues to improve, he could be a great complement to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

No, he's not an obvious fit, but he's way too talented at a position they really don't have. And talented wings aren't easy to find. Robert Covington has been a find for the Sixers and should definitely be given a contract extension, but Jackson simply brings more to the table on both ends of the court. The shot is a concern, but we've seen almost every player improve their shot with head coach Brett Brown and the Sixers' staff.

The case against Jackson
You can't just overlook the fact that he shot an abysmal 57 percent from the free throw line. That simply won't get it done. Free throw shooting can also be an indicator of whether a player can improve his stroke from the field. If the Sixers take Jackson, you have to hope that 57 percent is an aberration. 

Jackson also had some trouble off the court. There were two separate incidents. Both cases were recently resolved, but they both show a lack of maturity and, quite frankly, stupidity. 

One case involved Jackson backing up his car into another and then leaving the scene. He was given probation and forced to pay a $250 fine. In a more troubling incident, Jackson kicked the driver's side door and kicked out a tail light of a member of Kansas' women's basketball team after an argument. He reached a diversion agreement that requires him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year.

The Sixers will have to vet Jackson long and hard to determine if these incidents were out of a character or part of a troubling pattern.

Analysis
Washington guard Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 player on the board and will likely be picked by the Celtics. The consensus seems to be that the Lakers will take UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. With those two players off the board, Jackson is the clear-cut pick at No. 3.

At worst, you have an elite wing defender that can help slow down the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference. He's also going to be a nightmare in the open court running the floor with Simmons. I'd bank on him having at least a modest improvement on his shot.

The off-the-court stuff is definitely a concern, but it's possible they're just dumb decisions by a young kid. He's so talented, you better be certain that there's an issue if you decide to pass on him at No. 3. If he stays out of trouble, he's absolutely worthy of the No. 3 pick.