76ers

2020 NBA draft profiles: Markus Howard is undersized but is a historic shooter/scorer

2020 NBA draft profiles: Markus Howard is undersized but is a historic shooter/scorer

Markus Howard

Position: PG/SG
Height: 5-11
Weight: 180
School: Marquette

From an individual achievement standpoint, you won’t find too many players that had a more decorated college career than Howard. In four years at Marquette, Howard was a two-time consensus All-American, received All-Big East honors three times and won the conference’s player of the year in 2018-19.

He’s also etched his name in the NCAA record books. He’s 21st all-time in points, wedged between former Sixer JJ Redick and Philadelphia native Hank Gathers. He’s tied for seventh in threes made. He also holds the Big East record in both categories. 

Strengths

Howard can flat out shoot it and score it. He averaged 27.8 points a game his senior season after averaging 25 the season prior. He proved to be one of the best shooters in NCAA history. He hit 42.7 percent of his threes in college on a whopping 7.9 attempts a game. His range and ability to get his shot off in any circumstance are also elite.

He did his fair share of damage against a certain local school.

While Howard isn’t the most adept ball handler, he’s more than capable of attacking closeouts and punishing defenses for playing him too closely — something that happens very often. He had experience at Marquette both running the offense and playing off the ball. In both instances, he was a score-first guard.

It also can't be understated that Howard did his damage an increasingly difficult Big East conference. 

Weaknesses

It all comes down to Howard’s size. At 5-foot-11, there are going to be plenty of questions about whether Howard can deal with the size of NBA guards. Will he be able to get his shot off against size? Can he use his shot to his advantage to create space off the dribble? Will he be big enough and strong enough when asked to defend bigger guards?

He’s also not the most athletic guard in the draft. This will also hurt him on both sides of the ball in trying to get by and keep up with NBA guards. Along with his size, that could severely hurt his draft stock.

On top of that, while Howard has a bit of combo guard ability, he’s definitely more of a two than a one. He averaged more turnovers than assists during his senior year. Granted, it was Howard’s job to score — which he did extremely well — but there are valid concerns about his ability to play the point at the next level. 

Fit

The Sixers need shooting and scoring so in that regard Howard would be an ideal fit. Given his size and lack of elite athleticism, he’ll likely slip to the middle of the second round. The Sixers currently own four second-rounders — 34, 36, 49, 59. Given their roster construction — and mainly the fact that they have a 6-foot-10 point guard — the Sixers are uniquely suited to take a flyer on a player like Howard.

Another intriguing thing about him is that he just turned 21 last month even after spending four years in college. He’d likely tear up the G League while in the team’s player development program. Much like Shake Milton and Marial Shayok before him, the Blue Coats would put the ball in Howard's hands and let him learn and grown in their system.

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What Victor Oladipo sitting out of NBA restart means for Sixers

What Victor Oladipo sitting out of NBA restart means for Sixers

Two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo will not play when the NBA season resumes in Orlando, he told The Athletic’s Shams Charania

Oladipo, who suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon in January of 2019, returned to play 13 games this season for Indiana but decided it was best to be done for the year. He will still travel with the team to Disney World, according to Charania. 

I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo told Charania. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me. 

Oladipo’s decision is significant from the Sixers’ perspective. The Pacers and Sixers have identical 39-26 records, with Indiana sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference because they have a 2-1 edge in the regular-season series. The two teams are scheduled to play Aug. 1.

Indiana, Miami and Boston are the Sixers’ likely potential playoff matchups, which we explored in greater depth here

Joel Embiid missed both of the Sixers’ losses this season to the Pacers, first because of left knee soreness on Dec. 31 and then because of a torn ligament in his left ring finger on Jan. 13. Though the Pacers have a large starting frontcourt of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, Embiid has averaged 27.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 10 free throw attempts per game in nine career matchups vs. Indiana. His presence would certainly improve the Sixers’ chances.

While Oladipo was an excellent two-way player at his peak, he’s clearly still working his way back to top form and full health. He posted 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest this season, and the Pacers were 7-6 in those 13 games. 

The Pacers are still a strong team without him, even if they’re not exceptional in any one category. Sabonis made his first All-Star Game this season, while Malcolm Brogdon has been a nice fit despite a drastic downturn in his three-point shooting. Indiana has good depth in brothers Justin Holiday and Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell. 

Brogdon on June 24 said he tested positive for the coronavirus, which is of course a bigger story than any on-court matters. He said that he’s doing well and plans to join the Pacers at Disney World.

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No excuses, but Al Horford makes a notable admission about his health this season

No excuses, but Al Horford makes a notable admission about his health this season

Way back on Nov. 12, well before the coronavirus was impacting all facets of life, Al Horford took a night off.

It did not appear a massive development at the time, though Horford said “there was definitely some pushback” on his end about the concept of load management.

He rested again on Nov. 29 against the Knicks. Horford also missed games on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 because of left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness, and sat out Jan. 30 in Atlanta with left knee soreness. 

While playing 60 of 65 games looks fine on paper, Horford on Friday admitted he was not at his best physically this season. 

I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be,” he said. “I’m not going to make excuses but right now I’m in a much better place. The time off for me was beneficial. And getting to work now, the biggest challenge for us with the season coming back is doing everything at game-intensity level. 

“Going from not being able to get in the gym to start working out individually, and when we get to Orlando, we’ll start doing it together and then a quick transition to games — it’s really a process. So for me it’s really making sure that I continue to make strides and that I’m at my best, more specifically when the playoffs are ready to go.

For Horford, a veteran who tends to prefer keeping things close to the vest, it was a notable comment. While much of the disappointment about his first season with the Sixers so far stems from Horford’s well-documented struggle to be effective alongside Joel Embiid, his health is another factor to consider. 

Horford dealt with patellar tendinitis in his left knee last season with the Celtics. He’s 34 years old. At times this year, he appeared to have limited remaining supplies of explosiveness and agility. None of those realities are excuses, as Horford himself said, but they’re all relevant in thinking about Horford’s future with the team. 

In the short term, Horford again faces questions about what his role will be for the Sixers when the season resumes in Orlando and whether he’ll come off the bench. He was diplomatic on that subject, as usual. 

“For me, I just want us to be playing well and playing at a high level,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work … I do know that for us to be successful I have to play with Joel sometimes, I have to play with different people. It really doesn’t matter. I just think that this time off is going to benefit all of us, especially for Ben (Simmons), being able to be healthy now and being able to come in and have an impact. I really don’t think that’s going to matter that much, in my opinion.

“The way I’m going to look at it is I’m going to make the most of my situation, stay prepared, stay ready. Coach will have to decide how and when to play me, how much to play me, and I just have to be ready.”

A recurring line for the Sixers before the coronavirus hit the United States was that the team was “built for the playoffs.” Brett Brown used it again Wednesday, and Horford is still fond of it, too. 

I think it’s a great opportunity for our team,” Horford said. “The way the season was going, before it stopped, we had some positives. We got it going there toward the end, we felt, especially that last game we played. Ben’s future was uncertain, and now he’s going to be good to go. We have our full team and our full roster. I believe that our group is built for the playoffs. The regular season is always tough. We have new guys and everybody trying to mesh, but I believe this is a second chance for us and a great opportunity.

The Sixers do indeed have a healthy team, with the exception of Zhaire Smith, who will miss the rest of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee.

There are also, of course, gray areas during a season when players are able to play but below optimal health. It seems Horford fell into that category at times, and he’s surely not the only NBA player who will be fresher and feel better physically as a result of the hiatus.

We shouldn’t forget that he was playing well before the season was shut down, with the major caveat that he thrived when Embiid was out for five games because of a left shoulder sprain. Horford averaged 15.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists in the Sixers’ last six contests. 

He has not deviated, however, from believing that those distant regular-season performances matter much less than the postseason. 

“I do believe that there’s another level in the playoffs as far as the quality of the basketball goes,” he said. “My mindset is to make sure that I’m at my best on Aug. 17, when the playoffs start.”

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