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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.

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.