76ers

Virginia's London Perrantes ready to follow in the mold of Justin Anderson

Virginia's London Perrantes ready to follow in the mold of Justin Anderson

CAMDEN, N.J. — In the last four seasons under Tony Bennett, it's been much of the same for Virginia basketball — 23 or more wins, a top-five NCAA Tournament seed and a postseason exit, all without making a trip to the Final Four.

But for what the Cavaliers have lacked in success, they've made up for with NBA talent. After producing just five draft picks since Ralph Sampson went No. 1 overall in 1983, Virginia has churned out a trio in the last three drafts, including current Sixer Justin Anderson and a potential NBA Rookie of the Year in Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon.

Now the mantle falls to London Perrantes, who got the chance to show off for the Sixers Friday morning with just six days until the 2017 NBA draft in Brooklyn. Although Perrantes isn't a fixture on many mock draft boards, he's made his mark as a defensive specialist in Charlottesville the last four years, and will very likely still be on the board when the Sixers have their last couple of picks at Nos. 46 and 50.

"Just coming into college, I was a guy that tried to get everyone involved," Perrantes said. "I just want to get out and help any team win. Whatever the team needs, I think I'll be able to do that, so whether that's a couple of minutes or just going hard in practice, I feel like I can go anywhere and be ready when my number's called."

With Virginia, the Los Angeles native was primarily a defensive specialist. He set a career high with 12.7 points per game as a senior, shooting just 41.4 percent from the field. However, he was also was the Cavaliers' best defender on a team that ranked second in the nation in adjusted defensive, according to basketball stathead Ken Pomeroy.

His numbers, however, compare somewhat to his most recent predecessors in Charlottesville. Brogdon was a slightly better scorer coming out of college, translating to a stellar 2016-17 campaign with the Bucks, whereas Anderson is bigger than Perrantes and maybe even a better defender.

But given his mixture of abilities on both ends of the floor, Perrantes could be a hybrid of the two, and projects as a fringe role player that still has room to grow as a professional.

"Once you get to the next level, you're not like Virginia where it's a slow pace," he said. "Just being able to defend and knock down open shots is what we do a lot of at Virginia, so just being able to translate that and then working on your game. You're just playing basketball — there's no more school, so you get to get better and do what you love to do."

With an interesting group of second-round prospects in Friday morning, including former ACC mates Davon Reed and Jamel Artis, Perrantes had plenty of opportunities to get the ball in hands and show the Sixers' brass why he's the next Virginia product who can make a splash in the association.

"A lot of it is the Virginia system. They're very defensive-focused and a slower-paced team, so offensively, it's easy to get hidden," Sixers senior director of basketball operations Vince Rozman said. "He's actually a really, really creative guy. He can make shots. ... He's interesting."

Outside of the smaller T.J. McConnell, who was in the gym for Friday's pre-draft workout along with Joel Embiid, the Sixers don't have much depth at the point guard position. Although Ben Simmons is likely to be the team's primary ballhandler next season, the Sixers could very much use a guy like Perrantes to take on the task of defending some of the Eastern Conference's best guards.

Given that head coach Brett Brown's team will still be seeing plenty of guys like Boston's Isaiah Thomas, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving and Washington's John Wall next season, a gritty, defensive-minded guard could have a huge impact — even in limited minutes.

After talking with Anderson and getting a chance to hit the floor in the City of Brotherly Love, Perrantes feels like the Sixers could be the right match.

"I've been [at Virginia] for four years and defense is my heart. That's what I do," Perrantes said. "To be able to make it at this next level, you have to be able to play defense as well as be a good offensive player, so that's just engrained in me. It's not going anywhere."

Wizards 120, Sixers 115: Studs, duds, turning point and more

Wizards 120, Sixers 115: Studs, duds, turning point and more

The Sixers put on quite a show in the season opener before ultimately falling to the Wizards, 120-115, Wednesday night (see observations).

The biggest story, of course, was Joel Embiid playing 27 minutes after head coach Brett Brown said the 23-year-old big man would play "in the teens." Both Embiid and Ben Simmons shined but it wasn't enough.

After struggling in the first half, All-Star point guard John Wall took over in the second in leading Washington to the win. Wall finished with 28 points, but it took 28 shots to get there.

Despite the loss, there was plenty to like about the Sixers' performance. They'll start the season 0-1 but have plenty to build off of going into Friday night's home opener.

Turning point
With the Sixers battling back and down just two after a Simmons layup, Bradley Beal missed a three from the corner. If the Sixers could've corralled the rebound, they would've been looking at an opportunity to tie the game. Instead, Kelly Oubre Jr. timed it perfectly for a put-back slam to make it 106-102 with 5:50 left.

After getting a stop, the Wizards came right back down in transition and Beal threw a pretty alley-oop to Wall. It pushed the lead to six and got the crowd on its feet. 

The Sixers had three different opportunities to tie the game with less than a minute left, but two killer turnovers and a missed three from JJ Redick ended the comeback attempt.

Key stat
We all knew the Sixers' three-point shooting would be improved this season with the addition of Redick (4 of 8) and a healthy Jerryd Bayless (3 of 7), but my goodness. The Sixers shot 15 of 35 as a team. And that's after starting the game 2 for 9.

Offensive stud
Speaking of threes, Robert Covington was lethal from beyond. After getting off to a horrendous shooting start last season, Covington was on fire Wednesday. He led all scorers with 29 points on 9 of 15 shooting, including 7 of 11 from three.  

Embiid and Simmons also get an honorable mention here. Embiid dominated early and late, going for 18 points, 13 boards and dishing out three assists (see highlights). Simmons looked in control as the team's point guard, finishing with 18 points (7 of 15), 10 rebounds and five assists in his NBA debut. Most importantly, Simmons had just one turnover.

Offensive dud
For the most part, the team performed really well offensively. Amir Johnson had a forgettable stretch offensively with a couple of ill-advised post-ups in the third quarter. The Sixers' newest big man finished 2 of 7 and fouled out in the third quarter.

Defensive stud
T.J. McConnell did an excellent job leading the second unit on both ends of the floor. Including pestering Wall. Before Wall got into a rhythm in the second half, McConnell held him to just 3 for 13 in the first. When McConnell was in the game, nothing was easy for Wall.

Defensive dud
Redick and Bayless certainly struggled with the combination of All-Star guard Wall and Beal. Then again, there are many across the NBA that have had the same struggles. And in reality, Redick and Bayless aren't here for their defense. They're here to make shots, which they did plenty of.

Injuries
Exhale, Sixers fans. The team got out of this game healthy.

Up next
The Sixers play their home opener against Kyrie Irving and the Gordon Hayward-less Celtics on Friday night at 7 p.m. on NBCSP.

Sixers-Wizards observations: Plenty of fight but no victory in season opener

Sixers-Wizards observations: Plenty of fight but no victory in season opener

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — The Sixers opened the season with a 120-115 loss to the Wizards on Wednesday night at the Capital One Arena. They were within two points with 20.5 seconds to play, but the Wizards played feisty down the stretch and JJ Redick missed a key three.

With 1:18 remaining, Robert Covington drilled his seventh three-pointer to cut the deficit to two. The Sixers had chances to tie or go ahead but committed two of their 17 turnovers on consecutive possessions. After Bradley Beal tacked on a free throw, the Sixers had one final shot. However, Redick couldn’t connect on a contested three with 15 seconds remaining.

In spite of the final score, the revamped Sixers strongly competed against the well-familiarized Wizards (see studs, duds, more). This game exemplified two obstacles they will face early on: overcoming the newness of their roster and juggling Joel Embiid’s playing time. Which leads to … 

• Embiid played 26:57 minutes, exceeding his (frustrated) expectation of 16. Brett Brown hadn’t set a hard number on Embiid’s playing time at shootaround Wednesday morning. He planned to be more flexible within Embiid’s restriction than last season. 

Embiid posted a double-double in his first 21:38 minutes through three quarters and seemed uncertain to return at that point. He re-entered the game, though, with 5:19 to play as the Sixers chased a win. Embiid recorded an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double with three assists.

• Ben Simmons attempted all of his shots in the paint and scored the majority at the basket. He also reached a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He logged nearly 35 minutes in his debut (see highlights).

• The Markelle Fultz shoulder saga continued. Fultz took a pair of free throws with an awkward form that prompted a social media frenzy. His shot didn’t look comfortable nor natural as he deals with right shoulder soreness. Fultz made up for it with a monster block on Kelly Oubre Jr. and aggressive drives to the basket. He scored 10 points off 5 for 9 shooting from the field in 18 minutes (see highlights).

• Amir Johnson got the majority of the minutes at backup center. Brown went small with Dario Saric in the fourth. (See his train of thought here.)
 
Jahlil Okafor did not play. Okafor’s minutes may come when Embiid sits out an entire game, hypothetically, in a back-to-back. The Sixers will have to address that situation on Saturday.

• A night of firsts: Embiid’s first two points were free throws less than 45 seconds into the game. (He’s making a point of that.)
 
Simmons then scored his first NBA bucket with a driving reverse layup on a fastbreak. Fultz came in off the bench to score his first points on a fastbreak layup. Redick’s first basket as a member of the Sixers was (appropriately) a three-pointer in the second quarter. 

• Covington got into a three-point shooting rhythm. He hit 7 of 11 treys for a game-high 29 points.

• The Sixers had 17 turnovers in the game compared to the Wizards' nine.

• Fultz and Simmons made their NBA debuts, but they weren’t the only players getting into game rhythm. Take a look at how long it has been since these starters played in a regular-season contest: Bayless: Nov. 25, 2016 (wrist); Embiid: Jan. 27, 2017 (knee), Covington: Mar. 28, 2017 (knee). 

• Sixers fans chanted “Trust the Process” a minute into the game. The visiting team often is well-represented in Washington, D.C.

• The Sixers will be back in action on Friday night when they host the Boston Celtics in their home opener (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app).