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.

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left but committed a turnover and then fouled George.

The Pacers' winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer's blockbuster trade, didn't go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn't have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists (see full recap).

Wizards top Grizzlies in Wall’s return
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a sore knee to help the Washington Wizards hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Beal scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers. Otto Porter Jr. added 14 points, and Marcin Gortat had 12.

Wall missed nine games, with Washington going 4-5 in his absence.

After the Grizzlies took their first lead of the night, 67-65, on James Ennis III's 3-pointer with 8:53 left to play, Washington responded with a 13-0 run and Memphis got no closer than 83-80 the rest of the way.

Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 20 points, JaMychal Green had 15 points and15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 16 out of 17 (see full recap).

Lillard leads way as Blazers rally past Heat
MIAMI -- Damian Lillard scored seven of his 18 points in the final 3:16, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to break their five-game losing streak, beating the Miami Heat 102-95 on Wednesday night.

Lillard, who came into the game averaging 26.6 points, had only one field goal in the first 31 minutes. But he converted a three-point play put the Trail Blazers ahead to stay, 98-95, and sank two free throws on their next possession for a five-point lead.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers (14-13). They climbed back above .500 and improved to 7-5 on the road. The Heat (13-14) fell below .500 and dropped to 5-7 at home.

Miami reserve Wayne Ellington sank seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 24 points. Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Heat, who were hurt by three missed free throws down the stretch.

Both teams were short-handed. Heat forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with a left knee strain and did not return, and guard Tyler Johnson sat out because of a migraine.

Miami was also without center Hassan Whiteside for a seventh consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his left knee (see full recap).

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

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AP Images

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.

Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers. 

Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."

Shelburne, who wrote a long and interesting feature on Embiid this week, told more of the story Wednesday on Zach Lowe's podcast.

She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."

Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.

"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.

If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?

Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up. 

Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason. 

Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.