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.

Banged-up Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.