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.

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

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Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid received a text message from across the NBA following the Sixers’ 27-point win over the Heat in Game 1. 

It was from Draymond Green, sending his championship-winning insight. 

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.” 

Green was right. Each contest has been a match of adjustments, including Embiid’s return from a 10-game layoff. Wearing a required mask with goggles, Embiid played in the Sixers’ Game 3 and Game 4 victories. 

Now he’s poised to make his postseason home debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where he’s been eager to compete in a playoff game his entire career. 

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.” 

Embiid’s offensive game has been impacted since coming back from a concussion and left orbital fracture suffered on March 28. He scored 23 points (5 for 11 FG) with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in Game 3. The following game, he posted 14 points (2 for 11 FG, 0 for 4 from three), 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. Embiid is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line in the series. 

“The main thing, especially when it (the offense) doesn’t go my way, is just be a beast defensively,” he said. 

Embiid cannot play without the protective mask, though, which he has described as “annoying” and “weird.” Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried on the goggles after practice Monday to get a glimpse into his line of vision. 

“They kind of saw my pain when I have to wear them,” Embiid said. “But that can’t be an excuse. I have to get used to it.” 

Embiid’s mindset going into Game 5 is to close out the Heat series and get some extra time before the second round (see story). The Celtics and Bucks series is tied 2-2. He sees the first round as just the starting point for the Sixers’ postseason. 

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far. 

"So it’s just about us taking care of the little things, like not turning the ball over, just playing together, like we've been doing, sharing the ball, not be selfish, and everything is going to take care of itself." 

Embiid will take the court for his first postseason game in Philadelphia when the Sixers tip off against the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSP.

"The playoffs, that’s kind of like you play in front of the whole world," Embiid said. "I feel like I thrive in that type of situation because I feel like I was made for this." 

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination and now they are hunkering down for yet another battle in this hard-fought first-round matchup. 

The Sixers do not anticipate closing out the series Tuesday night at home to be any easier than the first four grind-it-out games. 

“You don’t have to be a wise man to know what is about to happen, what style of play they’re going to try to play,” Brett Brown said before practice Monday. “Especially when they’re going to go home if they’re not able to find a win. We understand that.”

The Sixers are returning to the Wells Fargo Center up 3-1 after completing the challenging task of taking two straight games on the road. As they prepare for what could be a deciding game, they are focused on fixing their mistakes from the previous ones. The Sixers overcame giving up 30 points on 27 turnovers, shooting 7 for 31 from three, and trailing by 12 in Game 4. 

“I said it after the game and I’ll say it again now: we were very fortunate to win that game,” Brown said. “The discipline that we did not show offensively and defensively in the first three periods, especially as I go back and watch it, can’t happen.” 

Regardless of the final score, the Heat have proven to be a feisty squad each night. The tussle between Robert Covington, James Johnson and Ben Simmons exemplified the spirit of the series. The teams were whistled for a combined 10 technical fouls in Games 3 and 4. 

Goran Dragic said the Heat are not going to show up at the Wells Fargo Center to surrender. The Sixers don’t anticipate them to, either. 

“A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters, they have warriors on their team,” JJ Redick said. “Every game in this series has been tough. There’s no expectations that Game 5 will be any different.”

The Sixers have not advanced out of the first round since 2012, the last time they were in the playoffs. With a 3-1 lead, their objective Tuesday is clear. 

“Our mindset is to close it out,” Joel Embiid said.