The case for South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell 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 ups/downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Sindarius Thornwell
Position: SG
School: South Carolina
Height: 6-5
Weight: 214
Wingspan: 6-10

It was a March (and April) to remember for Thornwell. After South Carolina's perfect 8-0 start came to an end in mid-December, Thornwell spent much of his senior season in relative obscurity — playing in a weak Southeastern Conference, the Gamecocks faced top-25 opposition just three times between December and the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Off the radar, however, Thornwell set career highs in nearly every category. He averaged 21.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.1 steals and shot 44.4 percent from the field en route to SEC Player of the Year honors, and when March Madness came around, the South Carolina star was a big reason why the Gamecocks made their first trip in program history to the Final Four.

With consistent offense and the skill set of a tenacious defender — he was named to the conference's all-defensive team each of his last two seasons — Thornwell could fill a pair of roles the Sixers desperately need. But will they take him with one of their four second-round selections?

The case for Thornwell
Although the offensive numbers are certainly gaudy, the first thing you notice when watching Thornwell is his incredible ferocity on the defensive end. The guy might not be the fastest on the floor — Thornwell ranked fifth-to-last in the three-quarter spring and in the middle of the pack in the shuttle run among guards at the NBA Scouting Combine, respectively — but he can stick with pretty much any guard in the country.

I watched him absolutely smother Duke guard Luke Kennard as South Carolina's zone forced 18 turnovers in the second-round upset of the Blue Devils. And for the season, Thornwell led the Gamecocks in steals and finished second in blocks, despite his smaller stature. Last season, the Sixers had just two players among the NBA's top 145 in defensive win shares.

All the while, Thornwell scored and scored and then scored some more. He improved as a shooter in each of his four seasons, both from the field and at the charity stripe, and set a career high with 44 points in a four-overtime thriller vs. Alabama in February. Excluding Jerryd Bayless, the Sixers didn't have a single guard last season average double-figure points and your team leader? Nik Stauskas, with a meager 9.5 points per night.

And although most second-rounders are still developmental prospects, Thornwell is experienced. He was a four-year starter at South Carolina and at 22 years old and seven months, the Lancaster, South Carolina, native is one of the oldest players in this year's draft class. For teams looking to fill the end of their bench with a battle-tested player, Thornwell could be a strong choice.

The case against Thornwell
Despite what we've seen from him defensively, it's fair to question whether Thornwell's defensive skills will translate to the NBA. He wasn't all that quick in college and at the pro level, opponents are going to only get bigger, faster and stronger. And that same lack of speed could impact him on the offensive end — Thornwell loves to drive right at the rim.

His game also doesn't totally align with the NBA style. Thornwell does well in transition (especially when he steals the ball right out of your hands) but struggles going one-on-one from beyond the three-point arc. Although he could very well excel as a defensive stopper, the Sixers really need to find consistent offense from the guard spot.

To that point, his ball-handling skills still need improvement and with an awkward shot that features a lot of side spin, defenders will have a bit of advantage on Thornwell. Certainly, these can all be improved but there are also plenty of second-round options that would provide Brett Brown's team with a higher upside.

The Sixers will have plenty of options at pick No. 3 and ultimately, that could impact the direction in which they go when they go back on the clock, starting at 36. If it's Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum in the first round, expect them to choose at least two true backcourt players in the second round. If it's De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk or Lonzo Ball, it could be fewer.

Either way, Bryan Colangelo needs to give his coach some new weapons at the guard spot. Thornwell could clearly fill at least two roles — one offensive, the other defensive — but with plenty of versatile guards available in the second round, the Sixers could look in the direction of someone younger such as Duke's Frank Jackson or Thornwell's former Gamecock teammate P.J. Dozier, as projected in DraftExpress' most recent mock draft. 

It's possible we've seen Thornwell at his peak, but there also might be more to see here.

Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

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Bradley Beal helps Wizards pull even with Pacers

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal scored 19 points, Marcin Gortat had 18 and the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night in a possible playoff preview.

Washington (40-30) earned its second straight win to move into a tie with Indiana for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards also claimed the first tiebreaker by taking two of three in the season series.

Gortat was 6 for 8 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. He scored a total of 17 points in his previous four games.

Washington went 10 for 20 from 3-point range and shot 54.8 percent from the field overall. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had 16 points for the Wizards, and Markieff Morris added 15 (see full recap).

Giannis' double-double helps Bucks hold on to beat Hawks
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks held on for a 122-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks finished off the Eastern Conference's worst team with a game-ending 11-5 run, pushing the pace after the Hawks lost ball-handler Dennis Schroder. The guard fouled out with 2:46 left, and was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline.

Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot, allowing the Bucks to brush past them.

Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. Taurean Prince scored 38 points, while Schroder finished with 18 (see full recap).

LeBron gets 33 points in triple-double as Cavs beat Bulls
CHICAGO — LeBron James scored 33 points as part of a triple-double, Jordan Clarkson had a tiebreaking four-point play with 1:27 left and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Chicago Bulls 114-109 on Saturday night.

James had 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his 15th triple-double of the season, and Jeff Green added 21 points. Clarkson finished with 19 points to help the Cavaliers salvage a six-game split on their season-high six-game trip.

Denzel Valentine led Chicago with a career-high 34 points, hitting 8 of 11 from long range. The Bulls wiped out a 17-point halftime deficit even though they held out banged-up core players Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, only to come up short in the closing minutes.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue spent the second half in the locker room with an illness, another hit for an already short-handed team (see full recap).

Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

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Justin Anderson has his number called — and delivers

One responsibility of professional athletes is being ready when your number is called.

Seems like a simple concept. However, not everyone can handle the duties of coming into a game cold and making an impact.

The Sixers' Justin Anderson prides himself on being able to thrive in just that type of situation. That's why when Brett Brown told him to be on alert prior to Friday's 120-116 win over the Nets, he was good to go.

"He came up to me before the game, maybe like 20 minutes before the game, and said he was going to go to me tonight," Anderson said. "I told him I was going to be ready. He went to me and we all played well."

Oh, Anderson was definitely ready. The third-year swingman entered at the 6:55 mark of the first quarter and made a trio of three-pointers to keep the sluggish Sixers afloat early on.

“I had hit the first one, and they were talking a little trash. They didn’t respect it, so they continued to go under [screens],” Anderson said. “I was always taught if they go under, raise up and shoot it. That’s what you practice for. I just wanted to make sure I took good shots, played hard, brung energy and I think we did a good of doing that.”

Wait, so guys on the 21-48 Nets squad had the nerve to talk a little smack? While a bit laughable, it didn’t help in knocking Anderson off his game.

“It just showed me that they weren’t disciplined in their scouting report and I tried to take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m shooting 20s [percent] from the three. It was what it was and I just wanted to take advantage of my opportunity.”

Anderson finished with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range along with two rebounds in 14 minutes. Even with that offensive production, it was his defensive prowess in the final minute that made the biggest impact on the night.

“We had the confidence to both give Richaun (Holmes) some minutes and Justin when it mattered and had a big stop,” Brown said. “I think it was against (Spencer) Dinwiddie. You know, moved his feet, guarded the yard as we call it.

That’s major trust in a player who missed 23 games earlier in the season with shin splints and eight more recently with an ankle sprain. But with the playoffs right around the corner, Brown knows he may need to go to Anderson again in an even more crucial moment.

“Good for him. He’s a wonderful teammate, he’s good people and he’s had sort of an erratic year with injury,” Brown said. “I thought tonight he confirmed what we all think in relation to him being able to help us.”