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.

Bazemore game-winner nets Hawks rare consecutive victories

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Bazemore game-winner nets Hawks rare consecutive victories

ATLANTA -- Kent Bazemore hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and the Hawks rallied from 19 points down to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 94-93 Wednesday before a sparse crowd on an icy night in Atlanta.

With the score tied at 92, DeMarcus Cousins drew a blocking foul on John Collins with 13.7 seconds remaining, earning a trip to the foul line. Cousins made only one, giving the Hawks a chance to pull out the victory.

Bazemore knocked down the winning shot with Anthony Davis in his face. New Orleans had one last chance, inbounding the ball to Cousins near the hoop. He came up short on a quick shot, pleading with the officials for a foul call while the Hawks celebrated.

Bazemore led the Hawks with 20 points, while rookie John Collins added 18. Jrue Holiday paced the Pelicans with 22 points, while Cousins had 19 points and 14 rebounds. But Davis was held to just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Coming off a victory over San Antonio, the Hawks won back-to-back games for only the second time this season and snapped the Pelicans' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Warriors fend off Bulls for 14th straight road win
CHICAGO -- Klay Thompson scored 38 points, Stephen Curry added 30 and the Golden State Warriors beat the Chicago Bulls 119-112 on Wednesday night for their franchise record-tying 14th straight road win.

Kevin Durant had 19 points as Golden State moved into a tie for the third-longest road winning streak in a season in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers hold the record with 16 straight road wins during the 1971-72 season.

Next up for the NBA-leading Warriors is a trip to Houston for a showdown with the Rockets on Saturday night.

Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points for Chicago, which dropped to 14-8 since its 3-20 start. Robin Lopez scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, and Kris Dunn also had 16.

The Warriors played without Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala due to injuries, and Jordan Bell sprained his left ankle when he challenged Lopez's dunk on the Bulls' first possession. Bell stayed down for a while and then was helped to his feet. He tried to put pressure on his leg and grimaced before he opted for a wheelchair ride off the court.

The 23-year-old Bell was selected by the Bulls in the second round of the June draft and then dealt to the Warriors for financial considerations. X-rays were negative, but he will have an MRI on Thursday (see full recap).

Hornets ride record-setting 1st half to victory
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 points, Dwight Howard had another double-double and the Charlotte Hornets used a record-setting first half to beat the Washington Wizards 133-109 on Wednesday night in coach Steve Clifford's return.

The Hornets made 12 of their first 13 shots and scored a franchise-record 77 points in the first half to build a 16-point lead. They extended that to 28 in the second half in a game that was never close.

Kemba Walker had 19 points, Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Jeremy Lamb had 16 points for the Hornets, who won for the fifth time in their last seven games.

Clifford returned after missing 21 games because of headaches caused by sleep deprivation. The Hornets were 9-21 in Clifford's absence and had fallen eight games under .500.

Bradley Beal had 26 points for the Wizards, whose five-game road trip got off to a rocky start (see full recap).

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

CAMDEN, N.J. — After Sixers’ practice Wednesday, a reporter asked coach Brett Brown, “Are you concerned about the shooting without [JJ Redick] in there?”

Brown responded, “What do you think?”

Clearly, JJ Redick’s left knee injury is a blow for the Sixers (see story). With Redick sidelined, a combination of Jerryd Bayless, Justin Anderson, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and possibly the recently acquired James Young will have to fill a huge shooting void. Brown said Bayless will start in Redick’s place.

Brown noted the Sixers' offense won’t change radically, but that the other guards will need to focus on off-ball movement without Redick in the lineup.

“JJ is amongst the league’s elite movers,” Brown said. “We need to move Jerryd more. [Robert Covington] is a little bit ground-bound at times. You’ve all sort of seen our structure enough to know almost what we’re hoping to do. And it’s movement. We don’t have to change anything, we just have to do what we do.

"Historically, [Bayless’] role has been stuck in a corner and spotting up, or loop him up to the top and put him in a rub. We’re trying to do more than that, and I think he can shine in that environment.”

Outside of his shooting, the threat of Redick’s jumper draws defenders away from the lane. His absence may make getting to the basket harder work for Ben Simmons.

“I think everybody just has to step up and fill that role,” Simmons said. “We need scoring. He helps us get a lot of shots by being a great shooter, so we need to work on getting our own shots.”

Redick has made more three-point shots (98) than Bayless, Anderson, and Luwawu-Cabarrot combined (95) this season in 34 fewer attempts. Bayless has shot better as a starter (40.4 percent from three-point range) than when he comes off the bench (35.3 percent).

According to Brown, Bayless’ most productive recent game, on Dec. 30 at Denver, may be a blueprint the team uses moving forward. Bayless scored 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting (2 of 3 from three-point territory) in a 107-102 Sixers’ win. Brown said he made a concerted effort to call plays for Bayless, and that the veteran guard responded by making big shots.

It also seems likely that, without Redick’s 17.3 points per game in the lineup, the Sixers will have to lean more heavily on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for scoring. But while those two are always front and center, Redick’s injury means Bayless will shift into the spotlight.