76ers

2020 NBA mock draft roundup 1.0: Kira Lewis Jr. is a popular pick for Sixers

2020 NBA mock draft roundup 1.0: Kira Lewis Jr. is a popular pick for Sixers

The NBA’s pre-draft process this year won’t be normal. The league is on hiatus because of the coronavirus, March Madness was canceled and the meaningful dates and routines we’ve grown accustomed to don’t apply.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, teams will be allowed to hold virtual meetings with prospects, but in-person workouts will be prohibited. 

Still, we presume there will be a draft (it’s currently scheduled for June 25). Let’s look at a few mock drafts to see who the Sixers might select with the 22nd pick in the first round: 

Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report 

Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona

Wasserman: “After shooting just 37.0 percent from the floor in 2020, Mannion could slide due to questions about how effective he can be without plus tools or explosion. He'd enter value-pick territory in the 20s, where the Sixers could look at Mannion as a backup behind Ben Simmons to play-make and knock down jumpers for the second unit.”

Though the emergence of Shake Milton this season might change things slightly, it makes sense that the Sixers would have interest in prospects who can both back up Simmons and play with him. Mannion is adept in the pick-and-roll, with a strong feel for the game and a variety of passes and floaters. As Wasserman writes, Mannion’s dip in efficiency hurt his stock a bit. Mannion shot 32.7 percent from three-point range overall in his single season at Arizona, but he did hit 79.7 percent of his free throws and has good form on his jumper. 

James Ham, NBC Sports Bay Area 

Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland 

Ham: “Points, rebounds, blocks and … 3-pointers? Smith is learning to stretch the floor and it may earn him a first-round selection. At 6-foot-10, Smith shot nearly 36.8 percent from deep to go with 2.4 blocks per game. If that can translate to the NBA, someone is going to find a keeper.”

Smith’s jump in production as a sophomore is impressive, and his improvement as a shooter is especially intriguing. At the moment, though, the Sixers need a perimeter shooter and/or shot creator more than they need another big man. 

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated 

Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech 

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic 

Jahmi’us Ramsey, SG, Texas Tech 

Woo: “Ramsey settles for a lot of jumpers, and gets to the rim less than you think an athletic guard with his type of frame would. Defensively, he has solid instincts, which points to 3-and-D type potential. But he’s a little bit of a mixed bag, with enough upside to go in this range, but also with some question marks. The Sixers may need to re-up on wings this summer, and Ramsey could be a fit with his ability to play on or off the ball.”

Vecenie: “Part of me wonders if he does enough other stuff outside of scoring on jumpers. … Now, there’s a lot of value in shooting off the catch, but is it enough for a kid who is 6-foot-4? For the 76ers, I think you can make the case that it is. They need someone like Ramsey who can knock down shots and attack closeouts.”

Woo and Vecenie lay out Ramsey’s strengths and weaknesses well. He hit 42.6 percent of his threes this season but only converted 64.1 percent of his free throws. Like Zhaire Smith, who the Sixers acquired on a draft-night trade in 2018 after his freshman season at Texas Tech, Ramsey will be entering the professional ranks at a young age — he turns 19 in June. 

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation 

Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama 

Chris Stone, Sporting News 

Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama 

Mark Schanowski, NBC Sports Chicago 

Kira Lewis Jr., PG, Alabama 

O’Donnell: “The 6’3 guard is one of the fastest players in this class with the ball in his hands. He excels at putting pressure on the rim, even if he still struggles to finish over length. While not a natural playmaker, Lewis showed improved playmaking chops with the Tide this season. He’d be a nice value pick at this point for Philadelphia.” 

Lewis had a very productive sophomore year, averaging 18.5 points, 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds for the Crimson Tide. His 1.8 steals per game were third in the SEC, too. The 19-year-old (his birthday was actually Monday) has decent shooting numbers — 36.6 percent from three, 80.2 percent at the line — though his release is a touch low. 

There are a few areas of concern with Lewis, including his size. To excel in the NBA at 165 pounds, a player needs to be exceptionally talented — think Ja Morant, a virtuoso playmaker who’s actually listed at 174. While Lewis is incredibly quick and a shifty ball handler, whether he can hold his own on defense and finish through contact and against length in the NBA are logical questions to have.  

In evaluating prospects, NBA teams are typically attracted to players with an elite quality. Lewis has that in his speed, and it’s a tool he knows how to harness well.

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

getty_kenny_thomas_elton_brand_matt_geiger_sixers.jpg
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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

NBA GMs sometimes feel the temptation to pay average or good players as if they are great.

That description applies to a few of the players listed below in our ranking of the five worst Sixers free-agent signings. For the purposes of this list, we’re reserving judgement on well-paid current Sixers. 

5. Scott Williams 
Then-Sixers GM and head coach John Lucas liked that Williams knew “how to win.” The big man had immediately won three championships after entering the NBA, but the fact that he was on Michael Jordan’s Bulls probably had something to do with that early success. 

Signed to a seven-year contract, Williams only managed to play 212 games with the Sixers, none of which were in the postseason. He posted 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game before being traded to the Bucks and eventually facing the Sixers in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, he was suspended for Game 7 because of a hard hit to Allen Iverson’s throat in Game 6. 

4. Brian Skinner 
Skinner’s first stint as a Sixers was solid. Though he wasn’t used much during the 2003 playoffs, he chipped in 17.9 minutes per game during the regular season. After spending a year with the Bucks, Skinner then decided to return to the Sixers, who offered a five-year, $25 million contract.

Besides starting regularly for the first time in his career the season prior, it’s unclear what Skinner had done to merit such a lucrative deal. With Marc Jackson, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson all preferred in the frontcourt by head coach Jim O’Brien, Skinner had a minimal impact, averaging 2.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 games. The Sixers ultimately used his contract in February to help facilitate their ill-fated trade for Chris Webber. 

3. Kenny Thomas 
Seven years and approximately $50 million was far too large a commitment for Thomas, who the Sixers acquired in a 2002 trade with the Rockets and then signed as a restricted free agent.

Thomas wasn’t a bad player — he even averaged a double-double in the 2003-04 season — and he would’ve been viewed in a much kinder light if GM Billy King had given him a shorter and/or less expensive contract. He joined Skinner and Williamson in that deal for Webber, wrapping up his NBA career in Sacramento. 

2. Elton Brand 
Brand was far from a bust as a player with the Sixers after signing his “Philly max” contract. He wasn’t a 20 points, 10 rebounds per game guy anymore, but he was decent when healthy enough to play and praised frequently for his leadership and professionalism. 

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending torn labrum in his first year with the team. While he was a regular presence in the three years after that, he was diminished physically compared to his prime in Los Angeles. The Sixers released him with one season left on his five-year, $82 million deal under the league’s amnesty clause. 

1. Matt Geiger 
First, it’s important to note that Geiger’s refusal to waive his trade kicker prevented Iverson from being traded to the Pistons ahead of the 2000-01 season. It’s very unlikely the Sixers would’ve won the Eastern Conference without him.

"I looked at Detroit and didn't think Allen and I would've been better off there,” he told reporters in 2001. "So the decision was easy."

Geiger’s contract, however, was excessive — six years and approximately $48 million. He had some bright moments in Philadelphia, including a career-best 13.5 points per game in the 1998-99 season and a 5-for-7 shooting performance in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals (although he fouled out in under 14 minutes), but none of that was enough to make the contract worth it. He retired after four games in the 2001-02 season because of persistent, painful knee problems. 

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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