76ers

The case for UCLA's Lonzo Ball to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for UCLA's Lonzo Ball to the Sixers at No. 3

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.

Lonzo Ball
Position:
PG
School: UCLA
Height: 6-6
Weight: 190
Wingspan: 6-9

Even with all of the noise surrounding him, Lonzo Ball's game did most of the talking during his lone season at UCLA.

The freshman sensation unleashed his unique skill set as he averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists (best in the nation), 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.

With Ball drawing comparisons to some of the game's all-time greats such as Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson (and his father somewhere likely saying he's already better than both of them), the 19-year-old point guard is entering the league with supreme expectations.

The case for Ball
We all know the Sixers' carousel-like rotation at the PG slot during Brett Brown's tenure. Ball would solve those issues in a flash.

He provides supreme size and excellent decision making at the position. Plus, Ball's explosion once he gets a head of steam in the open court is something Brown would love since the coach wants his team to push the pace at all times.

Most importantly, Ball would give the Sixers a much-needed shot maker. He connected on 55.1 percent of his attempts from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range last season on his way to being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and first-team All-American.

The case against Ball
It's not often that a prospect's biggest weakness has nothing to do with him, but that is exactly the case for Ball.

Ball's outspoken father, LaVar, has rubbed some people the wrong way during the pre-draft process. There was the hilarious claim from LaVar that he would beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, the boast that Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry, billion-dollar asking prices for sneaker deals and much more.

As for Lonzo Ball's actual on-court weaknesses, there are a few.

The guard has a slender frame and lacks physicality, which can be exploited on defense (see De'Aaron Fox's 39-point masterpiece against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament). Ball also has a strange shooting motion that may be easy to block for taller NBA players.

Lastly, Ball has been known to display some of his California cool on the court at times with a nonchalant attitude and body language, which would certainly rub passionate fans like the Sixers' faithful the wrong way.

Analysis
From an overall standpoint, you're not going to find players like Ball often in the draft.

The size, high basketball IQ, unselfishness and knock-down shooting are key components not typically found in a player at such a young age.

However, the baggage his father brings — primarily in the form of wanting his son to only play for their home-state Los Angeles Lakers — could push teams away.

If the Lakers pass on Ball at No. 2 — which they are reportedly leaning toward doing (see story) — the Sixers will have to seriously consider selecting the PG with the following pick. The basketball fit says yes, but the family fit could make it a no.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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AP Images

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”