76ers

Kane's NBA mock draft 1.0: What do Sixers do at No. 3?

Kane's NBA mock draft 1.0: What do Sixers do at No. 3?

The 76ers secured a top-three pick for the fourth straight year in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery. They will pick third overall for the third time during that four-year span courtesy of the pick swap that former GM Sam Hinkie engineered in a 2015 trade with the Kings. 

The downside of picking third is that top tier guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will almost certainly come off the board with the first two picks. However, there will be plenty of All-Star level prospects remaining for the Sixers to choose from. 

With the top two picks all but locked in, you could argue that the draft actually starts when the 76ers go on the clock.

1. Boston Celtics - Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Not a bad couple of days for Danny Ainge and the Celtics, who won the draft lottery Tuesday and will host the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday. Boston shouldn't overthink this one — Fultz is easily the top prospect in this year's draft thanks to an offensive skill set that is tailor-made for today's NBA. The Celtics will pair him with Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt and compete for championships for the foreseeable future.   

2. Los Angeles Lakers - Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
The Lakers lucked out by keeping their top-3 protected pick and the reward will be Ball, a playmaking point guard who is poised to be the next in a long line of Laker superstars. Ball has terrific size and is the best passer in the draft — his skills are comparable to Jason Kidd's and the man who will draft him, Magic Johnson. The only potential drawbacks are a funky jump shot and his meddlesome father, LaVar. 

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas (6-8/210)
Bryan Colangelo and the 76ers' brass will ultimately decide between three players here: Jackson, Duke's Jayson Tatum and Kentucky's Malik Monk.

I would take Tatum — I think he'll end up being the best player of the three. Monk's elite shooting makes him the best fit to play alongside Ben Simmons. But in the end, the Sixers will be swayed by Jackson's athleticism, defensive ability and overall potential. He comes with his share of question marks (including a few off the court) but there is no denying he has superstar potential. Jackson reminds me of Tracy McGrady, and pairing that type of talent with Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric is too enticing to pass up. 

4. Phoenix Suns - Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/205)
Tatum represents tremendous value for the Suns with the fourth pick. I've been a big fan of his since his days as a high school standout in St. Louis and he made significant strides during his one season at Duke, particularly with his jump shot. Tatum will team up with Devin Booker to give the Suns an explosive 1-2 punch.   

5. Sacramento Kings - De'Aaron Fox, guard, Kentucky (6-3/170) 
Fox is a blur, hands down the fastest player in this draft. His stock soared during the NCAA Tournament after he outplayed Ball in Kentucky's win over UCLA in the Sweet 16. Fox gets to the basket whenever he wants but needs to improve his inconsistent outside jumper. If he does, he has the potential to eventually become one of the top five point guards in the NBA. 

6. Orlando Magic - Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-3/200)
An exciting few minutes for John Calipari mugging for the cameras in the green room as Kentucky prospects go back-to-back. The Magic will be very fortunate to grab Monk with the sixth pick; he could go as high as third to the Sixers. He's the best shooter in the draft and will provide instant offense to a Magic team that could certainly use it. 

7. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida State (6-10/215)
I'm not as high on Isaac as others but he's worth the gamble here for Minnesota. Isaac's big selling point is his defensive versatility — he's able to guard multiple positions on the perimeter and in the post. His offensive consistency concerns me but it shouldn't concern Minnesota too much with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins already on the roster.

8. New York Knicks - Dennis Smith, guard, NC State (6-3/195)
Smith is in the mold of Russell Westbrook — an aggressive, explosive guard who won't back down to anyone. He gives Knicks fans something to get excited about and head coach Jeff Hornacek an enticing perimeter piece to pair with budding superstar forward Kristaps Porzingis.

9. Dallas Mavericks - Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/230)
With Dirk Nowitzki entering his 20th season, the Mavericks select a player in Markkanen who shares a lot of the traits Nowitzki had when he entered the league. Markkanen is an elite shooter for a 7-footer but is inexperienced and has plenty to learn. Who better to teach him than a Hall of Famer who just scored his 30,000th point last season?

10. Sacramento Kings - Zach Collins, forward, Gonzaga (6-11/230)
The Kings address the frontcourt with their second pick in the Top 10. Collins helped himself tremendously during Gonzaga's run to the National Championship Game. He's very skilled offensively and competes on the defensive end. 

11. Charlotte Hornets - Justin Patton, forward, Creighton (6-11/230)
Patton is a lottery pick based on raw athletic ability and upside. He might not contribute immediately but has the potential to be a game-changing big man on both ends of the floor. Patton only scratched the surface during his one season at Creighton.

12. Detroit Pistons - Frank Ntilikina, guard, France (6-5/190)
The Pistons could use a long-term answer at the point guard position and they find it here in Ntilikina, a rangy prospect with the ability to become a lockdown defender. His offensive skills need polishing.

13. Denver Nuggets - Harry Giles, forward, Duke (6-10/230)
Two years ago, Giles was a frontrunner to be the first pick in this draft. But a knee injury cost him his senior season of high school and he struggled to return to top form at Duke. But the skills that once made him an elite prospect remain. Giles just needs to get (and stay) healthy.  

14. Miami Heat - John Collins, forward, Wake Forest (6-9/225)
Collins was one of the most reliable and productive players in all of college basketball last season. He is a natural scorer in the low post and should help fill the void left by Chris Bosh on the Miami frontline. 

15. Portland Trail Blazers - Jarrett Allen, center, Texas (6-10/235)
Allen fits the bill in terms of what NBA teams look for in a big man — he scores in a variety of ways and protects the rim defensively. He put up solid numbers as a freshman at Texas and down the road he will provide balance for a Portland team that relies primarily on its backcourt. 

16. Chicago Bulls - Bam Adebayo, forward, Kentucky (6-10/245)
Adebayo made strides last season at Kentucky but he still as a long way to go before he can be counted on as a consistent offensive performer. But his size, defensive presence and rebounding ability make him a good fit for the Bulls. 

17. Milwaukee Bucks - Donovan Mitchell, guard, Louisville (6-2/210)
Mitchell is an elite athlete who was one of the best perimeter players in the country as a sophomore at Louisville. He was more of a combo guard in college but will be asked to play point guard in the NBA. That transition will take some time.  

18. Indiana Pacers - OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-7/230)
Like a lot of players in this draft, Anunoby is billed as a defense-first prospect. So much so that a few Kawhi Leonard comparisons have already surfaced. I'm not ready to go there, but Anunoby certainly has the potential to develop into an elite defender.

19. Atlanta Hawks - T.J. Leaf, forward, UCLA (6-10/225)
Leaf has outstanding scoring skills for a big man and he displayed that offensive versatility last season at UCLA. He has a high basketball IQ, which helps compensate for his lack of elite athleticism. Leaf will fit in well with how the Hawks like to play under head coach Mike Budenholzer.

20. Portland Trail Blazers - Justin Jackson, forward, North Carolina (6-8/200)
Jackson capped his college career with a NCAA championship and ACC Player of the Year award at North Carolina. His versatility should serve him well at the pro level — he shoots consistently from the perimeter and drives to the basket effectively. 

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Luke Kennard, guard, Duke (6-6/195)
Kennard had a breakthrough season at Duke that significantly elevated his status as a NBA prospect. He is an elite shooter with range well beyond the three-point arc. His spot-up shooting would be a great asset for a Thunder team built around Russell Westbrook.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Terrance Ferguson, guard, Australia (6-7/190)
Ferguson enters the draft by way of Australia, where he played professionally last year as an 18-year-old. He remains very raw but should have plenty of time to develop during the Nets' rebuilding period. 

23. Toronto Raptors - Ivan Rabb, forward, California (6-10/220)
Rabb arrived at California two years ago billed as a future NBA star but didn't do a whole lot to enhance his draft status during his college career. He'll need to improve a great deal on both ends of the floor but is worth a flier here for the Raptors, who need help inside.

24. Utah Jazz - Tyler Lydon, forward, Syracuse (6-9/215)
Lydon was very impressive at Syracuse. He's an intelligent player with a very dependable jump shot. His athleticism and defensive ability are question marks. He's far from a lock to be selected in the first round but could thrive in the right situation. 

25. Orlando Magic - Caleb Swanigan, forward, Purdue (6-9/250)
I'm higher on Swanigan's NBA potential than most. He was one of the best players in college basketball last season and has a very well-rounded offensive game. All the concerns center around his defensive ability. I view him as a winning player capable of helping Orlando immediately.

26. Portland Trail Blazers - Hamidou Diallo, guard, Kentucky (6-5/200)
Diallo enrolled at Kentucky early and may leave the school without ever playing a game. He has the elite athleticism that NBA talent evaluators covet but his offensive skills, particularly his jump shot, are a long way from being pro-ready. He's worth the risk for Portland and would be able to learn from two of the best guards in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

27. Brooklyn Nets - Ike Anigbogu, center, UCLA (6-10/250)
I view Anigbogu as a major project, but he's the type of player who could pay major dividends down the road for a Nets team that isn't in a hurry to contend. He didn't produce much offensively at UCLA but his defensive potential is his biggest asset.

28. Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Bell, forward, Oregon (6-9/225)
Bell is a lot like Jonathan Isaac in that his biggest contribution will be the ability to guard multiple positions at the pro level. He always plays hard and has NBA-caliber athleticism. Bell could end up being a steal for the Lakers this low in the first round. 

29. San Antonio Spurs - Josh Hart, guard, Villanova (6-6/215)
Hart isn't showing up in the first round in most mock drafts but I'm convinced he's first-round worthy after watching every game he played during his four years at Villanova. He is a winning player who can guard multiple positions on the perimeter. He scores in a number of ways and has an effective, if not natural looking, jump shot. The best-case scenario is a winning team like the Spurs drafting him and molding him into their program. He's exactly the type of overlooked prospect that San Antonio banks on finding late in the first round. 

30. Utah Jazz - Rodionis Kurucs, forward, Latvia (6-8/200)
What would the first round be without one draft-and-stash prospect? Kurcus is an offensively gifted wing who appears to be a good fit in Utah's preferred style of offense.

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”

Sixers' 2nd-half dominance emblematic of team's growth

Sixers' 2nd-half dominance emblematic of team's growth

Remember when the Sixers regularly stuttered out of the gates in second halves, coughing up leads?

That feels like a long, long time ago.

The ridiculously rapid growth of this team is hard to fathom. It's turning previous weaknesses into strengths, and its second-half performances are a perfect example.

The third quarter was pivotal in the Sixers’ 104-91 win Tuesday night (see observations), as they outscored the Heat 34-20 to take control of the game. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons provided the bulk of the Sixers’ offense in the first half, but that changed in the third quarter. Dario Saric scored eight points in the period, while Robert Covington made a pair of momentum-swinging three-pointers.

In total, out of 10 second-half quarters in the series, the Sixers lost just one — the fourth quarter Tuesday. 

That second-half dominance is turning into a big part of this team’s identity.

“It’s just the way we play — we play hard and we never let up,” Simmons said. “At the start of the season, we had a few letups where we just weren’t used to it, a few guys playing their first season, a new team. I think we’ve grown a lot.”

Erik Spoelstra experienced an unpleasant feeling of déjà vu during the second half of Game 5.

“In the second half, it felt like the majority of our fourth quarters vs. Philadelphia,” Spoelstra said. “Each of the games — except for Game 2 — they’ve stepped up their defense in the fourth quarter and it was tough to generate good, clean offense or at least getting the ball where we wanted it to go and executing with some level of coherency. You have to credit them.”

While the Sixers are developing at warp speed, this particular trend didn’t just start in the playoffs. As JJ Redick pointed out, the Sixers started taking over in the second half late in the regular season.

“I don’t think this is something we just started doing this series,” Redick said. “If you look at our winning streak, there were a lot of games that were close at halftime and the third and fourth quarters, especially defensively, were just terrific, and that’s what allowed us to have that winning streak.

“So this is something we’ve been doing now for a while. I know earlier in the year we certainly had blown a few double-digits leads in the second half. It’s something we were coached on and worked through as a group, so a lot of credit goes to Brett (Brown) and his staff for that.”

During the Sixers’ current stretch of 20 wins in 21 games, they’ve outscored their opponents in the third quarter by nine or more points 10 times. It’s a staggering reversal of their early-season issues coming out of halftime.

While we’re talking about the Sixers’ growth, we could delve into their newfound ability to take care of the ball (with the glaring exception of Game 4), or the massive improvements in their bench play, or Simmons hitting free throws under pressure.

However, the second-half dominance speaks volumes about the ways this precocious team has grown, and how it continues to develop.

“I think we’ve stayed on to something and we haven’t pivoted out of it,” Brown said. “This is how we want to play offense, this how we want to play defense, this is how we substitute, these are our crunch-time plays. This is just what we do. 

“We’ve been able to just incrementally get better as the season has unfolded. That’s always the thing that makes coaches most proud: the fact that your teams get better. And this team really is getting better. The pieces within the team are getting better and so it all adds up.”