76ers

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 questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid is questionable for the Sixers' Monday's matchup against the Jazz but the big man expects to play. 

Embiid will be a game-time decision because of left knee soreness. He is experiencing tightness and will go through pregame warmups to see how he reacts. After that, the call will up be up to him. 

"My whole body's a little bit sore, but I think I should be playing tonight," Embiid said. "If I feel good, I'll play. It's not on them (the Sixers). I think it's more on me."

Embiid took three-point shots and free throws after shootaround Monday. He did not attribute the discomfort to one play in particular. He took a tough spill Saturday against the Warriors but said that wasn't the specific cause.

"Maybe just a little bit because I landed on both of my knees," Embiid said. "It wasn't a little bit painful but it's nothing to be worried about." 

Embiid said his questionable status was not because of needing a day to rest. Embiid played 33 minutes Saturday. In fact, he said he was going to be "set free, basically" in terms of his minutes following that game. 

Embiid shot "a little bit" at Sunday's practice and did not go through shootaround Monday, something he has been doing to make keep his body ready for the game itself. 

"There's still a schedule in place," Embiid said. "I'm not cleared for back-to-backs yet. I expect at some point this season to be playing back-to-backs. You've just got to follow the plan and see how my body reacts. But it's been going well so far." 

Embiid has sat out twice this season, the last time being against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Sixers won that game, 104-97. 

The Sixers know what they have to do if Embiid cannot play. Dario Saric scored 25 points and JJ Redick added 20 in the Sixers' victory over the Jazz. Richaun Holmes started that night in place of Embiid, but he also is questionable because of gastroenteritis. Expect Amir Johnson, who did not play against the Warriors, to see more minutes if neither big can play. 

"In that case [without Embiid], we need to share the ball, we need to move a lot, we need to play a little bit faster," Saric said. "Try to attack Utah in the fast break because they are a really good defensive team of the half court." 

Jerryd Bayless is cleared to return after missing the last six games because of a left wrist injury. Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) are out. 

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Markelle Fultz isn't cleared to play just yet.

The Sixers rookie was reevaluated Sunday for right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance and will be reevaluated again in approximately 2-3 weeks, the team announced. 

His return date will be based on how he handles training and practices. An examination by Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, showed Fultz's soreness and muscle balance is improving. Fultz met with Kibler on Oct. 29 and has seen multiple shoulder specialists. 

The rehab plan is for Fultz to continue with physiotherapy treatment.

"Just the fact we expect to get back into full basketball activity soon," Brett Brown said after practice Sunday, "I don't know the exact timeframe of that, but the news is good in relation to the improvement of his shoulder, enough for us to put out a press release saying what I just said and look forward to bringing him into the team and playing basketball again."

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft has appeared in only four games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists off the bench. He has been battling the shoulder discomfort since training camp, and his shot was visibly affected by it.

Fultz has been traveling with the Sixers. He is staying engaged with the team during his own pregame warmups, assisting with rebounding after practices and staying incorporated with teammates off the court. 

Bayless to return
The Sixers anticipate getting one player back from injury Monday.

Brown expects Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) will play against the Jazz. Bayless went through practice Sunday. Brown looks forward to having Bayless' veteran experience, playmaking, and on-ball defense back in the mix. Bayless has missed the last six games and doesn't plan to have any minute restrictions on his return. 

"It's feeling OK," Bayless said of his wrist. "It's feeling like it's ready to go. I'm excited to play and be back out there." 

Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) remain sidelined. As a result of all the injuries, guards T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have seen a bump in minutes.