76ers

2020 NBA draft profile: Grant Riller could be perfect fit next to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

2020 NBA draft profile: Grant Riller could be perfect fit next to Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

Grant Riller

Position: G
Height: 6-3
Weight: 190
School: College of Charleston

You’re forgiven if the name Grant Riller doesn’t ring a bell. He wasn’t even rated by some outlets as a recruit coming out of high school in Florida. While the College of Charleston guard isn’t a household name, he’s been getting plenty of NBA draft buzz. 

After being forced to redshirt in his first season because of a knee injury, Riller became a four-year starter and two-time All-CAA pick. He shined during his junior and senior years, averaging 21.9 points a game. 

Strengths

Riller is a scorer at all three levels. He has the audacity to pull up from anywhere, is lethal in the midrange and can finish at the basket.

He wasn’t an elite three-point shooter in college (35.6 percent on four attempts a game) and his release is a little funky. But his ability in the midrange and at the free throw line (81.8 percent the last two seasons) suggest that he could do better with more space at the next level. He also hit 41 percent on catch-and-shoot threes, per Synergy Sports. His step-back shot is pretty much unguarable.

His knack for getting to the basket is aided by a strong handle and changing speeds effectively. He can finish with either hand and does well using his body to shield the ball from defenders. He has a variety of ways to finish, including a wicked Euro step. He shows decent burst and changes gears to catch defenders napping or punish bigs that have switched out on him.

His ability in the pick-and-roll is excellent because of his handle and his capability as a shooter. He routinely split defenders and found his way to the basket. Though his assist numbers weren't elite, that's more the result of him being asked to score. He has the necessary vision and touch as a passer to run an offense.

He has physical abilities that make you think he could be a passable NBA defender. He averaged 1.6 steals a game his senior year.

Weaknesses

The biggest knock on Riller will be the level of competition he faced. He shot a combined 10 of 27 against the likes of Oklahoma State and Wake Forest last season. In his defense, he was surely the one player both teams had at the top of their scouting reports. 

He played an off-ball role in college and that’s likely what he’s best suited for, despite flashes as a primary ball handler. He doesn’t have the greatest height and length to do so at the NBA level. Bigger point guards could give him some problems.

There are big questions about his defense. As mentioned, he has traits that make you think he can defend, but he rarely showed them in college. It seemed like he took possessions off on that end of the floor.

Another issue will be Riller’s age. He’s already 23, only a few months younger than Ben Simmons.

Fit

Riller will likely be there for the Sixers at pick 34 or 36 but probably won’t last until 49. He ticks a few boxes for the Sixers as a shot creator and maker. His age likely won't be seen as a detriment to GM Elton Brand, who came away with experienced college players Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok in the 2019 draft.

He may fit next to Simmons better than any guard in the second round. Riller and Simmons could make for a deadly pick-and-roll combo. You could also see him as a candidate to run a two-man game with Joel Embiid, à la JJ Redick. His high clip on catch-and-shoot opportunities could help space the floor for both stars.

With four years of college experience, Riller could challenge Shake Milton for playing time as a rookie. If not, he could take a similar path to Milton and Shayok — learning the team's system and dominating in the G League while awaiting an opportunity.

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Ron Brooks, virtual fans and what to expect for Sixers' 'home' games

Ron Brooks, virtual fans and what to expect for Sixers' 'home' games

The Sixers have yet to lose a home game this calendar year.

Monday night, they’ll look to maintain their home excellence, just not at Wells Fargo Center. They lost their seeding game opener at Disney World, a designated road matchup against the Pacers, and "host" the Spurs tonight.

The team has worked to replicate the environment in which the Sixers went 29-2 this season as closely as possible.

“We want to keep that going,” Sixers Chief Marketing Office Katie O'Reilly told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Paul Hudrick in an interview Monday. “Our fans are incredible. Our season ticket members are incredible, they’re loyal, they’re passionate. They really create that environment.”

For Monday's game against San Antonio, you’ll see on screens courtside “virtual fans," which will include, according to O’Reilly, “season ticket members, our marketing partners, our community partners, as well as friends and family of the players.” Those virtual fans have been given packs that have T-shirts, hats and noisemakers.

Several unique features of a typical Wells Fargo Center game night aren’t going anywhere. PA announcer Matt Cord has some pre-recorded segments, and, per O’Reilly, the beloved Ron Brooks — “the world’s first double amputee to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout,” as Cord always introduces him — will still be belting out the national anthem. 

“Even in-arena for our home games, we’ll have Ron Brooks, our guy, singing the national anthem,” O’Reilly said. “We’ll have our traditional bell ringing, we’ll have our player intros, we’ll have our open video. So that sort of entire pregame ritual that we have will run really exactly the same, just virtually on video.”

And the Wendy’s Frosty Freeze-out? 

“If someone misses two (straight) free throws, you will still be able to redeem for your free Frosty,” O’Reilly said. 

The roar of the crowd obviously won’t be nearly as loud or intense after a big play, but many of the “sounds of the game” should be familiar for players. O’Reilly didn’t mention the boos that both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid hope to hear if the Sixers aren’t playing well, but player input factored into the new home gameday experience. 

“Our players are constantly collaborating with our marketing and game operations department on the look and feel,” O’Reilly said, “and they really feed off that home energy, so it was important for us to maintain as much of it as we could down in Orlando, and we’re excited to see it come to life tonight.

“Our players’ voices are always heard. We’re always receiving feedback from everybody, whether it’s front office, season ticket members, the players, the coaches, and we really take pride in delivering on that. … Every player has a song that they get to pick to play in-arena when they make a big play or a big shot. So it is really important to us that we sort of curate the experience based on everyone who is there, and we’re collaborating all the time.”

Given how invincible the Sixers appeared at home before the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to pause, the idea to essentially duplicate a normal home atmosphere that players feel comfortable in seems intuitive. We'll learn soon just how effective it is.  

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Sixers vs. Spurs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Spurs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 1:48 p.m. 

The Sixers (39-27) and Spurs (29-36) will meet Monday over eight months after their first matchup this season, a 115-104 Sixers win on Nov. 22. It’s technically a home game for the Sixers, the team’s first since March 11. They were 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center. 

Mike Scott (right knee soreness) is out and Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer) is doubtful. Kyle O'Quinn missed his coronavirus test on Sunday and is not eligible to play, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 
Where: Visa Athletic Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

An outlier opener? 

In several ways, Saturday’s defeat to the Pacers wasn’t like most for the Sixers this season.

The team outscored Indiana by a point in nine Joel Embiid-Al Horford minutes but saw their 10-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate when Horford stepped in at center, the opposite of the trend this year. The starting backcourt combined for four points on five field goal attempts. Turnover problems that had characterized seasons past resurfaced as the Sixers gave it away 14 times in the first half and 21 times in the game. They’d been 10th in turnovers (14.2 per game) before the hiatus. Ben Simmons’ defense was not anywhere close to as great as it’s been for much of the season. 

A loss is a loss, but perhaps the Sixers on Monday will look more like the team we saw in their first 65 games. 

Another size disparity 

Jakob Poeltl is the only traditional frontcourt player in San Antonio’s starting lineup, which means the Sixers will again have plenty of size advantages. With LaMarcus Aldridge out for the season after right shoulder surgery, DeMar DeRozan is the Spurs’ second-tallest starter at 6-foot-6. Shake Milton and Josh Richardson are the Sixers’ shortest starters at 6-5. 

The Spurs have opened well at Disney World, winning their first two games and moving into ninth in the Western Conference, but the Sixers will present a unique challenge. 

'Walking that line'

Brett Brown doesn’t generally have an endless level of patience with younger players. He’s sometimes quick to pull the plug when they make mistakes or have trouble adjusting to a new situation.

Following Milton’s poor first game in the new starting lineup (no points, three assists, three turnovers, five fouls), it will be interesting to see Brown’s approach if Milton struggles again early. 

“The tolerance level … whether it’s trying to persevere and grow Shake, whether it’s the distribution of how you actually use Ben Simmons, all of those things are always on my mind,” he said Sunday. “It’s the launching pad that we have now where you’ve got some games before you enter the playoffs. And life moves quickly where you get stuck in this current where you’re going to blink and the playoffs are going to be right at your doorstep. 

“Walking that line of persevering and patience vs. gut feel — you like it or you don’t — that ecosystem is my job.”

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