2017 NBA draft: Top 10 prospects for the Sixers

2017 NBA draft: Top 10 prospects for the Sixers

The NBA draft lottery is upon us and the Sixers could be in for a fun night.

Everyone is convinced the Sixers absolutely have to draft a guard. I'm not so sure. If they get the No. 1 pick, they have to draft Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Otherwise, they should keep their options open. 

This was meant to be a top 10 prospect list with the Sixers in mind, but with no centers in the top 10, almost everyone should be in play.

Here are my top 10 prospects for the Sixers in the 2017 NBA draft.

1. Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington, 6-4/195
Fultz is a silky smooth guard who's best with the ball in his hands but is a good enough shooter to play off the ball (41 percent from three). He's been considered the best player in the draft for most of the college basketball season.

How he fits the Sixers: Like a glove. Fultz is an outstanding scorer (23.2 points a game) that doesn't need the ball in his hands all the time. He shot 38 percent on his catch-and-shoot opportunities. The pick and rolls with Fultz and big man Joel Embiid would be difficult to defend. I see a little James Harden in his game.

2. Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas, 6-8/203
Jackson is a long, athletic wing who is known for his defense but also has legitimate slashing ability. He struggled with his shot at Kansas. But he came to the Jayhawks with the reputation as a strong shooter and did improve as his freshman year went on.

How he fits the Sixers: While the Sixers desperately need a guard, young swingmen like Jackson are hard to find. Jackson is sort of like former Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins but profiles as a better defender who's not as strong offensively. If he can hit shots consistently, he's a future All-Star.

3. Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA, 6-6/190
If not for his dad, we'd simply be talking about one hell of a basketball player. Ball is explosive and has outstanding court vision (7.6 assists per game). His jumper is unorthodox, but it gets the job done (41 percent from three).

How he fits the Sixers: From a basketball standpoint, he makes more sense than people think. There is a thought that Ball wouldn't be able to coexist with Ben Simmons. I'm of the belief that having two elite passers wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I do worry about Ball's dad LaVar when Lonzo is playing third fiddle to Simmons and Embiid.

4. De'Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky, 6-4/171
Every year there's a prospect that improves so much during the season that his stock explodes. Fox is that player this year. He's lightning quick and physical on defense. There are legitimate concerns about his jump shot (25 percent from three).

How he fits the Sixers: I love Fox's game, but he doesn't fit the Sixers at all unless he can hit jumpers consistently. Fox says his shot is improving. Can he convince the Sixers enough to draft him? If he does, Simmons and Fox leading the break would be a lot of fun.

5. Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky, 6-4/197
Fox's teammate was instant offense for the Wildcats this season. He averaged 19.8 points a game and shot 40 percent from three. He also hit big shots, almost bringing Kentucky back against eventual national champion North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

How he fits the Sixers: Other than Fultz, Monk might fit the Sixers better than any lottery prospect. There's concern about Monk's size defensively to guard NBA twos. The Sixers won't have that issue with Simmons playing the point. If Monk buys into Brett Brown's system, he's quick enough to cover ones at the next level.

6. Jayson Tatum, SF/PF, Duke, 6-8/204
Tatum is an excellent scorer (16.8 points per game) who shows promise defensively. He's a tweener at 6-foot-8, which makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents. His three-point shooting was inconsistent, but he shot 85 percent from the line, so there could be more potential there.

How he fits the Sixers: He'd be an intriguing fit. Is he athletic enough to cover NBA threes? If he is, then he and Dario Saric could make for an interesting forward tandem. It would also give the Sixers even more size and length in their starting lineup. I'd like to see his shot fall a little more consistently.

7. Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida State, 6-11/205
Isaac is really intriguing. He was a 6-5 guard in high school who had a growth spurt. He has guard skills, but he's still growing into his slender frame. He was also an outstanding shot blocker (1.5 blocks a game). His shot has potential but was inconsistent.

How he fits the Sixers: Selfishly, I'd love this pick because Isaac is one of my favorite prospects. I think he's athletic enough to cover wings but he didn't get that opportunity often in college. Once he grows into his body, he could be the kind of player that defines positionless basketball. The Sixers could have a giant starting five of Embiid, Saric, Isaac, Simmons and *insert point guard here.* I will admit, Isaac makes sense to take only if the Sixers land two lottery picks.

8. Dennis Smith, PG, NC State, 6-3/195
Smith doesn't have great size, but he's an explosive athlete. He won ACC Rookie of the Year averaging 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals a game. He was a redshirt freshman this season after tearing his ACL last year.

How he fits the Sixers: Smith would be another excellent fit to play the in the backcourt with Simmons. His shot needs to improve a little but he gets to the basket at will and can score in isolation. Other than Smith's size, there aren't many holes in his game.

9. Frank Ntilikina, PG, International, 6-5/170
Ntilikina is worth the hype as a lottery prospect. He doesn't get much of a chance to show his skills for his professional club in France, but he shined in the U-18 European Championships. He was named the MVP of the tournament, putting up 31 points in France's championship game win.

How he fits with the Sixers: Sixers fans likely wouldn't be thrilled with this selection, but Ntilikina would actually fit really with Simmons. He has tremendous defensive potential and can shoot the basketball. He needs to tighten his handle, and his limited professional experience might hurt him.

10. Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
Markkanen is the best pure stretch-four in the draft (42 percent from three). He's also a strong rebounder (7.2 per game) and played a big role for Arizona.

How he fits the Sixers: Another seven-footer?! If the Sixers can get their hands on any of the aforementioned guards, Markkanen would be a bad pick. If they're somehow left choosing between Tatum, Isaac and Markkanen, you could make an argument for Markkanen being the best fit because of his ability as a knockdown shooter.

Sixers rearrange schedule because of Eagles fever

Sixers rearrange schedule because of Eagles fever

The Sixers coordinated their flight to Memphis with an important schedule in mind: get there in time Sunday to watch the Eagles' NFC Championship Game.

Once there, they have arranged a room with food to catch the 6:40 p.m. showdown as a team the night before they face the Grizzlies.

“We’re going to enjoy this with the city of Philadelphia,” Brett Brown said. “Stuff like this doesn’t come around very often. So on behalf of our team, we say, like the rest of the city: Go Eagles.”

The Sixers and Eagles have been showing their support for each other all season by attending games. Joel Embiid, in particular, has been a familiar face at Lincoln Financial Field, including this memorable reaction to Jake Elliott’s field goal in September.

Embiid noted the momentum of both the Eagles and Sixers this season and what it means for Philadelphia.

“Every time I go to an Eagles game, they always win,” Embiid said. “I’m going to be pulling for them. I want to say good luck. It would be good for the city … Hopefully, they win and on to the Super Bowl.”

Justin Anderson’s support of the Eagles goes beyond playing in the same city. His friendships with Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod and Chris Long began before the NBA (see story).

“I talked to them and they were really excited,” Anderson said. “They think they’ve got a really good chance. It’d be huge for the city. Going to the Super Bowl, it’d be good. I’m excited, I’m excited. I hope they pull this one out.”

The Sixers will watch the Eagles fight through the postseason as they hope to be doing in April too. They ultimately have the same goal and have an appreciation for how far the Eagles have come already.

“I hope they win it all,” Ben Simmons said. “I’m an Eagles fan now.” 

Rockets beat Warriors in battle of West's best

USA Today Images

Rockets beat Warriors in battle of West's best

HOUSTON — Chris Paul scored 33 points and 11 rebounds, James Harden had 22 points and the Houston Rockets held off the Golden State Warriors 116-108 on Saturday night to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

Harden stepped back from Stephen Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left. Harden then blocked Curry's 3-point attempt after a timeout, and Paul made two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts.

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half (see full recap).

Olynyk's free throw gives Heat win over Hornets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kelly Olynyk scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a free throw with 0.2 seconds left, to help the Miami Heat erase a five-point deficit in the final 34 seconds and stun the Charlotte Hornets 106-105 on Saturday night.

Wayne Ellington had 26 points on six 3-pointers, Joe Johnson had 22 points and Olynyk was brilliant down the stretch.

Nic Batum scored a season-high 26 points and Kemba Walker had 22 for Charlotte, which had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Charlotte led 105-100 when Johnson got free for a dunk. The Hornets inbounded the ball to Batum, but Josh Richardson ripped it from his hands and passed to Johnson, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to tie (see full recap).

Thunder score 148 points, keep Lebron short of 30,000 for career
CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points.

Oklahoma City nearly got there, too.

Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 on Saturday by the Thunder, who not only rolled to their fourth straight win but kept James shy of a historic milestone.

George scored 36 points, Westbrook had 23 and 20 assists and Anthony dropped a season-high 29 points as the Thunder tied the record for the most points given up by a Cleveland team in a regulation game. Philadelphia scored 148 on the Cavs back in 1972.

"I've never in my basketball life gave up 148 points, not even probably playing video games," James said. "They got everything that they wanted. Inside, outside, they had it moving." (see full recap).

Pelicans' stars all contribute in win over Grizzlies
NEW ORLEANS — Jrue Holiday scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Memphis Grizzlies 111-104 on Saturday night.

Anthony Davis had 21 points and 12 rebounds but did not score his first points of the second half until he dunked with 1:15 to go in the game, giving the Pelicans a 108-102 lead.

Darius Miller added 12 points in a reserve role for New Orleans, which never trailed but very nearly blew a 21-point lead.

Trailing by 15 at halftime, Memphis scored the first 13 points of the third quarter, part of a 16-2 run to open the half that trimmed New Orleans' lead to a single point with most of the third quarter remaining (see full recap).