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Potential 2nd-round targets for Sixers in NBA draft: Centers/power forwards

Potential 2nd-round targets for Sixers in NBA draft: Centers/power forwards

The Sixers appear to have zeroed in on Markelle Fultz now that they’ve traded up to No. 1 in the NBA draft. But what about all of those second-round picks?

With four second-rounders, the Sixers could go in just about any direction.

Will they select the best player available, a player that fits a need or a draft-and-stash candidate from overseas?

Here’s a look at 10 players the Sixers could have their eyes on in the second round of the 2017 NBA draft.

Jordan Bell: Power forward, 6-9/227, Oregon
This is looking more and more like a pipe dream by the day. Bell’s buzz continues to grow as the draft nears and some mocks now have him sneaking into the end of the first round. 

However, if he is there early in the second, the Sixers would be wise to pounce.

Bell was the defensive anchor (Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year) and a rebounding machine for Oregon. He averaged 8.8 rebounds a night last season and really made his name in the NCAA Tournament when he grabbed double-digit boards in every game during the Ducks’ run to the Final Four.

With a high motor and ability to play above the rim on both ends, Bell is definitely a guy the Sixers should keep their eye on. After all, you don’t come across "a Dennis Rodman-like player” that often in the draft (see story).

Johnathan Motley: Power forward/center, 6-9/230, Baylor
If Bell is off the board, the Sixers could opt for the similarly-skilled Motley.

The lanky big man covers a lot of ground with a 7-4 wingspan. Motley combined that length with supreme agility to be a terror for opponents at Baylor.

He averaged 17.3 points on 52.2 percent shooting and 9.9 rebounds last season as a junior with the Bears as he received the Karl Malone award as the nation’s top power forward.

While Motley doesn’t provide much versatility and is coming off surgery in April for a torn meniscus suffered during the NCAA Tournament, he is well worth a second-round selection for the Sixers.

Thomas Bryant: Center, 6-10/241, Indiana
Bryant brings the similar length (7-6 wingspan) and physicality to the court as the first two players mentioned. He’s a bruiser down low and loves to finish with authority at the rim.

That powerful demeanor resulted in 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season for the Hoosiers.

However, what makes Bryant intriguing is his improved three-point shooting. The 19-year-old big made 5 of 15 attempts (33.3 percent) from long range as a freshman before connecting on 23 of 60 tries (38.3 percent) as a sophomore (see story).

With the emphasis being placed on shot making from all positions in today’s NBA, that could be just the skill that gets Bryant’s name called.

Alec Peters: Power forward, 6-9/225, Valparaiso
If it’s shot making the Sixers want, Peters is their guy.

Peters is a dead-eye shooter from just about anywhere on the floor and in any situation. He can pull up off the dribble, find space off the pick-and-roll or simply spot up for a jumper. 

Even after shooting a career-low 36.3 percent from three-point range as a senior, he still finished with a 41.6 mark from long range during his four years at Valpo.

Peters averaged 23.0 points (eighth in the nation) and 10.1 rebounds last season to be named Horizon League Player of the Year.

The NBA certainly offers a higher caliber of players than the Horizon League and Peters will have to do all he can to survive defensively, but his level of shooting ability will make that easy to overlook.

Jonah Bolden: Power forward, 6-10/227, Serbia
There are few international prospects projected to go in the second round that are worth getting excited about (French center Mathias Lessort and Slovenian small forward Vlatko Cancar could be the only ones), so let’s go with a player that has a bit of history in United States.

Bolden was born in Australia, but he moved to the U.S. with his family at 17 years old and played his final season of high school ball in the states. He followed that up by attending UCLA, where he redshirted a year and then averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 boards in 21.7 minutes a game.

Bolden felt his skill set as a ball-handler and perimeter shooter weren’t being used correctly with the Bruins, so he bolted for the professional ranks in Serbia. It’s worked out so far as he put up 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three in his first season with KK FMP Beograd. That was enough to earn him the Adriatic League Top Prospect award, which has become pretty prestigious after NBA draft picks such as Dario Saric and Nikola Jokic won it in recent years.

There have previously been some issues to dig through with Bolden both on and off the court. But with NBA-ready skills of his own and his father to pass down nearly two decades of professional basketball knowledge (mainly in Australia’s NBL), that is more than enough to take a risk in the second round.

Others to keep an eye on: Lessort, Purdue PF/C Caleb Swanigan, Utah PF Kyle Kuzma.

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

BOX SCORE

Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

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Best of NBA: Kyrie Irving helps Celtics rally for 16th straight win

DALLAS  -- Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team's first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters (see full recap).

Cavs rout Pistons for 5th straight win
DETROIT -- LeBron James scored 16 of his 18 points in the first quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers made 11 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a 116-88 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Cleveland led 73-46 at halftime thanks to an overwhelming shooting performance, an indication that Detroit's stay atop the Central Division might not last much longer. The Pistons still lead the Cavs by a game, but Cleveland has won five straight and scored at least 110 points in eight of its last nine.

The Cavaliers led 27-22 when James went to the bench late in the first quarter. By the time he came back in, it was 50-30. Cleveland's reserves ended up outscoring Detroit's 26-8 in the first half.

The Cavs shot 62 percent from the field in the first two quarters and 11 of 17 from 3-point range. They finished the game 16 of 33 from beyond the arc. Cleveland led 101-62 after three, and the top players for both teams had plenty of time to rest in the final period (see full recap).

Knicks push Clippers' skid to 9 straight
NEW YORK -- Kristaps Porzingis scored 25 points and the New York Knicks extended the Los Angeles Clippers' losing streak to nine games with a 107-85 victory Monday night.

Porzingis outplayed a frustrated Blake Griffin and helped the Knicks snap a 10-game skid in the series with their first victory over the Clippers in five years.

Doug McDermott added 16 points for the Knicks, including a 3-pointer that swung the momentum for good midway through the third quarter.

Griffin scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17, picked up a technical foul and fouled out with 4:46 remaining. The Clippers (5-11) still haven't won since Nov. 1 at Dallas, when they improved to 5-2.

Patrick Beverley returned after missing five games with a sore right knee and had nine points and six rebounds. But the Clippers are still without fellow guard Milos Teodosic and the rest of their backcourt play was mostly dismal (see full recap).

Oladipo's 29 leads Pacers over Magic for 4th straight win
ORLANDO, Fla.  -- Victor Oladipo had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven steals to lead the Indiana Pacers to their fourth straight win, 105-97 over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

Oladipo, who played his first three NBA seasons in Orlando, and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for 40 points in the second half, 14 of them during a 16-3 third-quarter run that put the Pacers in command.

Bogdanovic scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half.

Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who lost their fifth straight. Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Magic finished with 22 turnovers and shot 33 percent in the second half to fall below .500 for the first time this season (see full recap).