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.

Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

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USA Today Images

Russell Westbrook hits dagger at the buzzer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Russell Westbrook made a 3-pointer as time expired, lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

The Thunder blew a 23-point lead and trailed 105-102 with 4 minutes remaining before closing the game on an 8-2 run.

Westbrook, who notched his 18th triple-double of the season, made three free throws sandwiched around a bucket in the paint by Steven Adams to put Oklahoma City up 107-105.

Justin Jackson's 6-foot jumper off an offensive rebound tied the game. After a timeout, the Thunder got the ball in front of Sacramento's bench and Carmelo Anthony found Westbrook atop the 3-point line for the winner.

Westbrook lifted the Thunder from what would have been a devastating loss after a fast start in their first game since the All-Star break. They set a season high with 44 points in the first quarter and made 12 3-pointers but still had to rally in the final minutes to win.

Anthony matched his season high of seven 3-pointers and Paul George had three from beyond the arc, ending his five-game streak with five or more 3s. It was the second-longest streak in NBA history behind George McCloud's six-game streak in 1996 (see full recap).

Curry scores 44 as Warriors hold off Clippers
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry swished a beautiful buzzer-beater from way back early and hit another timely 3-pointer late on the way to scoring 44, and the Golden State Warriors returned from the All-Star break and had to hold off the Los Angeles Clippers 134-127 on Thursday night.

Kevin Durant had 21 points and eight assists, Klay Thompson added 19 points, and Draymond Green contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Curry shot 14 for 19, including 8 of 11 from deep, in his third 40-point game of the season.

Coach Steve Kerr challenged the defending champions to begin games better on the defensive end, which they did. Then the Clippers nearly came back with a surge down the stretch in what became an entertaining back-and-forth in the closing minutes (see full recap).

Wizards spoil home debut for new-look Cavs
CLEVELAND -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 and tried to untie the sneakers of one of Cleveland's new players, and the Washington Wizards withstood a late assault by LeBron James to beat the new-look Cavaliers 110-103 on Thursday night.

The Wizards nearly blew a late 11-point lead as James scored 14 straight points to pull the Cavs within 106-103. But Beal hit a driving layup and James missed a free throw and committed a lane violation while intentionally missing the second one and the Wizards held on.

Washington is 8-2 since star guard John Wall went down with a knee injury. Tomas Satoransky, who has been starting in Wall's spot, added 17 points and eight assists.

James, back from winning MVP honors at the All-Star Game, scored 32 -- 14 in the fourth -- for the Cavs, who dropped to 2-1 since acquiring four new players before the trade deadline. J.R. Smith added 15 for Cleveland.

The Wizards spoiled the home debuts for Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, four new faces the Cavs are hoping can get them back to the NBA Finals (see full recap).

Sixers close in on 'something special' with great escape

Sixers close in on 'something special' with great escape

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — If the Sixers end their playoff drought this season, it’ll be because of the franchise’s big two.

All-Star Joel Embiid and rookie Ben Simmons showed just how much fun that could be Thursday night.

Embiid forced a turnover in the final seconds, Simmons scooped up the ball and made a pair of free throws with 5.6 seconds to play and the Sixers scratched out their sixth straight victory, 116-115 over the Bulls (see observations).

The win halted a four-game road skid but, more important to the Sixers’ fortunes, had Embiid and Simmons’ fingerprints all over it.

Simmons finished with a career-high 32 points and had 11 assists and seven rebounds to come close to his second straight triple-double while Embiid added his ninth straight double-double — 30 and 13 rebounds with four blocks — to pace the Sixers on a night when they didn’t get much else.

“Joel and Ben carried us,” coach Brett Brown said after his team won on the road for the first time since Jan. 26. “I thought everyone else really had subpar performances. You felt like we came out of a break.”

The tanking Bulls — starting center Robin Lopez was a healthy scratch as Chicago joins the dash for better NBA draft odds — made 18 three-pointers in both teams’ return from the All-Star break and appeared to have the Sixers on the ropes after Zach LaVine’s triple with 1:02 to play made it 115-110.

That was the last time Chicago scored.

Simmons followed his miss with a layup and JJ Redick made a pair of free throws with 8.0 seconds left to set up the final defensive sequence that put Simmons at the line.

“First of all, we needed a steal and I saw Joel get it and he kind of lobbed it to me and I said, ‘S---, I better get it,’” Simmons said. “Stepping up to the line, I knew I was going to knock ‘em down. You have to have that mentality. I was put to the line and I can’t be thinking I’m going to miss ‘em.” 

With 26 games to play, the Sixers can move into the upper half of the Eastern Conference with a late surge, but will need solid play — and the workloads that come with it — from Embiid and Simmons. If their contributions Thursday (both players were on the court for at least 30 minutes) are any indication, Sixers fans might have more postseason success to celebrate in the spring.

“We stole that win. Sometimes you need those and that’s what we did tonight,” Embiid said. “It’s fun when you win games like that.”

It’ll be even more fun when games like that happen in the postseason … which looks much more plausible every game lately thanks to the big two.

“They feel something special is close. They feel something special that we’ve worked hard for for four years is just around the corner and no one is taking that for granted,” Brown said.

“There’s no entitlement. We just fight for everything we can get.”