76ers

The case for SMU's Semi Ojeleye as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for SMU's Semi Ojeleye as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

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.

Semi Ojeleye
Position: SF/PF
School: SMU
Height: 6-7
Weight: 195
Wingspan: 6-10

Many of the prospects we've made the case for and against have been household names, at least among those following the draft. Others aren't quite on the tip of your tongue, but you saw them play if you took a peak at the top programs this season. An example of the latter would be Frank Jackson, who came off the bench at Duke.

Semi Ojeleye came off the bench at Duke ... two years ago. In Durham, he played a combined total of 143 minutes (and scored just 46 points) at Duke during his freshman and sophomore seasons before transferring. He sat out a season and played his junior year at SMU in 2016-17, blossoming into an NBA prospect. 

The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 19 points per game with 6.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.4 blocks in 34.1 minutes a game for the Mustangs. He made his hay by becoming a sound offensive player, particularly from beyond the arc. He hit 42.4 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game and could be a potential three-and-D forward at the next level.

Here's the case for and against Ojeleye, along with his potential fit in Philadelphia.

The case for Ojeleye
Every team needs a wing player who can shoot threes and hold their own on defense. By the time the second round comes, the players that easily fit this bill are off the board, but there are still diamonds in the rough. Ojeleye has that potential.

When you begin to make the case for drafting him, it starts with his jumpshot, which he developed significantly by his junior season in 2016-17. He was able to live behind the three-point line and bring opposing forwards out to the perimeter with him. He has stretch three or stretch four written all over him. He was lethal in catch-and-shoot shoot situations and can be effective on midrange jumpshots as well. As the screener in the pick-and-roll, he was a threat to pop off the screen and hit shots, helping his teammates.

Ojeleye has some power in the post, showing he could back down smaller defenders and finish near the rim in college. That power came in handy when he guarded taller defenders at SMU. He was able to hold post position and not give the players an easy route to the hoop.

Arguably his best game this year came in Philly. Ojeleye put away a 66-50 win over Temple with a 30-point, 10-rebound evening. 

He's known for his muscular frame and size, but he's pretty quick, too. Particularly laterally. That'll aid him in trying to stay with opposing threes and fours. Which of those he defends consistently is the question...

The case against Ojeleye
So, who will Ojeleye be guarding at the next level? Playing a lot of four at SMU, he doesn't have experience against NBA caliber wings. His size and vertical reach make him small for a four at the next level. He'll need to be able to stay on the court against threes. His lateral quickness helps, but quicker guards were able to get by him. The fear is quick NBA wings could do the same.

His size also makes him a liability on the glass. Sure, it seems like Tristan Thompson is the only one under seven feet still boxing out these days. but Ojeleye is still at a disadvantage against fours in the post, particularly against the many NBA wings with large wingspans. He had some issues rebounding against taller bigs in college.

Assuming he can extend his range to the NBA three-point line, the question is how he'll attack closeouts. He goes to his right almost always on drives and he'll need to diversify his attack since the league will certainly be in tune with his desire to use his dominant hand.

Finally, he is 22 years old and will be 23 in December. Age is less of an issue with second-round prospects, but he won't be quite the spring chicken that others who left eligibility on the table are. 

Analysis
Ojeleye is the type of player everyone wants if he can hit his ceiling or close to it. You'll hear a lot of Jae Crowder comparisons and that type of outcome would be intriguing. Imagine getting a three-and-D forward who can drain off the catch from Ben Simmons' many passes. And on the cheap, too. At his best, he fits the mold of the modern NBA.

He certainly has flaws, but there's enough to like in order for him to be a strong second-round selection. He's even crept up into the late first round on some boards and may not be around at 36 when the Sixers select. He's the type of athlete you take a chance on in the second round and would be a strong fit in Philly if he falls to the Sixers.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”