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2020 NBA mock draft: Sixers take a pure shooter

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2020 NBA mock draft: Sixers take a pure shooter

Since the NBA’s draft lottery is indefinitely postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, we simulated the lottery on Tankathon for this first-round mock draft. 

While the lottery won’t impact the Sixers in the draft this year, whether or not the NBA plays any further regular-season games might. The team owns the Thunder’s top-20 protected pick, which would currently be No. 22.

With the logistics out of the way, here’s our mock draft: 

1. Minnesota Timberwolves 
LaMelo Ball — PG — Illawarra Hawks (Australia) 

There isn’t a no-brainer No. 1 pick this year, but we figure Minnesota would be attracted by Ball’s passing gifts, basketball instincts and potential for growth. The 18-year-old averaged 17.0 points and 6.8 assists in 12 NBL games this past season. His effort and attention to detail are issues defensively and his shot selection and form are concerns, but one can see why the Timberwolves would like the idea of building around a young core of Ball, Jarrett Culver, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. 

2. Washington Wizards 
Anthony Edwards — SG — Georgia 

While the fit with Washington might not be ideal because the team already has an All-Star-level shooting guard in Bradley Beal, the Wizards aren’t in a position to be picky. The 6-foot-5 Edwards, who posted 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in his one season at Georgia, is strong, explosive and skilled. 

3. Golden State Warriors 
James Wiseman — C — Memphis 

Despite the NBA continuing to shift away from traditional centers, elite big men still have value. Wiseman is definitely not a perfect prospect and the fact that his college career lasted just three games leaves plenty of lingering questions, but the athletic 7-footer is an intuitive pick for Golden State at this spot. 

4. Chicago Bulls
Obi Toppin — PF — Dayton 

We have Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley and the Bulls’ revamped front office selecting the Naismith College Player of the Year. The high-flying Toppin recorded 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest this season and has a well-rounded offensive game. If the Bulls find themselves at No. 4 and want to bolster their defense, Isaac Okoro could be an alternative to Toppin. Defense isn’t the 22-year-old’s strong suit. 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers 
Deni Avdija — F — Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) 

ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla compares Avdija to a more athletic, more “offensive-minded” Dario Saric. The 19-year-old is a versatile forward who exudes confidence. Though there’s nothing terribly wrong with his shot mechanics, his poor foul shooting suggests he might never become a decent three-point shooter. 

6. Atlanta Hawks
Onyeka Okongwu —  PF/C — USC 

Okongwu rolls hard to the hoop and can leap well above it. He’d join Clint Capela and John Collins as above-the-rim threats and pick-and-roll partners for Trae Young. His production as a freshman at USC was impressive — 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game — and the Hawks need all the defensive help they can get.

7. Detroit Pistons 
Killian Hayes — PG — ratiopharm Ulm (Germany) 

There’s a ton to like about Hayes, who’s been playing professional basketball since he was 16 years old. His passing and pick-and-roll playmaking especially stand out. The Pistons could immediately give him the ball and the freedom to run a rebuilding team. 

8. New York Knicks 
Tyrese Haliburton — PG — Iowa State 

The Knicks should be pleased if Haliburton is available for them at No. 8. He’s a long, instinctive defender who’s creative in the open floor and averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds as a sophomore. 

9. Charlotte Hornets 
Isaac Okoro — SF — Auburn 

While Okoro’s stats don’t wow you — 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game — he’s a heck of a defender. His lateral quickness and strength should allow him to defend four positions in the NBA.

10. Phoenix Suns 
Devin Vassell — SG/SF — Florida State 

Vassell could benefit from gaining some muscle, but he’s a Robert Covington-esque 3-and-D prospect with eye-catching defensive tools both on and off the ball. The Suns would be adding another excellent college three-point shooter (41.7 percent on 168 attempts) after drafting Cameron Johnson with the 11th pick last year. 

11. San Antonio Spurs 
Cole Anthony — PG — North Carolina 

The best player on the worst UNC team of Roy Williams’ tenure, Anthony had low efficiency and high turnover numbers. NBA teams will need to parse how much those issues are attributable to his circumstances (see draft profile). He’s talented offensively, a shifty ball handler with good burst once he gets downhill. 

12. Sacramento Kings 
Aaron Nesmith — SG — Vanderbilt 

Before a foot injury ended his season, Nesmith averaged 23 points and shot 52.2 percent from three-point range on 8.2 attempts per game. Whether or not Buddy Hield sticks around, there’d certainly be nothing wrong with Sacramento bringing in another elite shooter. 

13. New Orleans Pelicans 
Precious Achiuwa — F — Memphis 

The 6-foot-9 Achiuwa is a high-energy, versatile player. It’s unclear what offensive role he’ll be best at in the NBA and whether he’s a good enough shooter to be productive on the wing if a team chooses to give him minutes there. NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes compares Achiuwa to Montrezl Harrell, which would obviously be a great outcome. Achiuwa can guard multiple positions well, is a strong offensive rebounder and could have a lot of fun in transition with Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson. 

14. Portland Trail Blazers 
Tyrese Maxey — G — Kentucky 

The Trail Blazers could use a big man. The problem is, at least in this mock draft, that grabbing one at this spot would be a reach. Instead, we have Portland taking Maxey, a 6-foot-3 guard who might have the ability to handle some difficult defensive assignments and take a little responsibility off Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s plate on that end. 

15. Orlando Magic 
Patrick Williams — F — Florida State 

The ACC Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman, Williams is a standout athlete who showed promise in a few areas, including shooting (83.8 percent from the foul line) and defensive anticipation. As a rookie, he could help a Magic defense that’s been among the 10 best in the NBA the last two years.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Brooklyn) 
Josh Green — SG — Arizona 

This seems like the kind of player Ball would love to play alongside, a speedy, springy wing. Green has 3-and-D potential, with defense being his superior area for the time being. There are a few small quirks with his shot that may need to be addressed. 

17. Boston Celtics (via Memphis) 
Kira Lewis Jr. — PG — Alabama 

Lewis was a popular mock draft pick for the Sixers in April, but, according to The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, his stock has been rising. Listed at a slim 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, Lewis is extremely fast and was highly productive across the board in his sophomore season, with averages of 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

18. Dallas Mavericks 
Saddiq Bey — SF — Villanova 

We have Bey joining another Villanova product, Jalen Brunson, in Dallas. A flexible defender and 45.1 percent shooter from three-point range as a sophomore, Bey would fit perfectly with Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs. 

19. Milwaukee Bucks (via Indiana) 
RJ Hampton — PG — New Zealand Breakers (New Zealand/Australia)

The Bucks are equipped to invest in Hampton’s development. A top high school recruit, Hampton decided to play in Australia’s NBL instead of going to college. His experience there indicated he needs to improve in several areas before becoming a rotational NBA player, among them strength, outside shooting and on-ball defense (see draft profile)

20. Brooklyn Nets (via Sixers) 
Jahmi’us Ramsey — SG — Texas Tech 

Brooklyn has made just 34 percent of its three-pointers this season, 26th in the NBA. It’s possible that Ramsey, a 42.6 percent shooter from long distance in his one year at Texas Tech, could help in that department, though he didn’t shoot well from the foul line (64.1 percent) or off the dribble.

21. Denver Nuggets (via Houston) 
Theo Maledon — PG — ASVEL (France) 

The 18-year-old Maledon is a steady point guard who’s been mentored by Tony Parker. His high-level international experience is encouraging (7.4 points and 3.1 assists in 17.7 minutes per game this season in the EuroLeague) and should ease his adjustment to the NBA. 

22. Sixers (via Oklahoma City) 
Tyrell Terry — G — Stanford 

The 6-foot-2, 160-pound Terry would have been the lightest player in the NBA this year. However, he appears to have the attitude, intelligence and game to work around that. Terry shot 40.8 percent from three-point range as a freshman, 89.1 percent from the foul line, and might have the purest shooting stroke in this draft class. He’s not one-dimensional, with good feel as a passer and craftiness around the rim to make up for his diminutive stature. Since the Sixers own five picks in the draft and could target more experienced players early in the second round, it likely wouldn’t be a massive issue if it turns out Terry’s lack of muscle and youth are problematic early in his career. Terry is a special shooter, a savvy mover off the ball and a player who should appeal to the Sixers if he stays in the draft.

23. Miami Heat 
Tre Jones — PG — Duke 

While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are skilled playmakers, the Heat should be targeting a point guard. Jones is a strong on-ball defender and comes across as the kind of selfless, hard-working person who would embrace “Heat Culture.” 

24. Utah Jazz 
Jalen Smith — PF — Maryland 

What’s most attractive about Smith is his obvious potential as a stretch four/stretch five in the NBA. He averaged a double-double as a sophomore (15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds), blocked 2.4 shots per game and hit 36.8 percent of his three-pointers. 

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Denver) 
Jaden McDaniels — F — Washington 

McDaniels’ freshman season at Washington was disappointing, but he’s a rangy, raw talent. Oklahoma City has targeted similar players in recent years in Terrance Ferguson and Darius Bazley. 

26. Boston Celtics 
Daniel Oturu — C — Minnesota 

Though 2018 first-round pick Robert Williams has shown positive flashes and is still only 22 years old, Boston should look to add depth at center. Oturu posted 20.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this season, and he’s expanding his shooting range. 

27. New York Knicks (via Clippers) 
Isaiah Stewart — PF/C — Washington 

Let’s continue with this stretch of big men by sending the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Stewart to New York. The main issue with Stewart is he’s on the shorter side for a center and doesn’t currently have the perimeter skill of most NBA power forwards on either end of the floor. Still, he was very productive in his one college season and there’s no question he’s ready for NBA physicality. 

28. Toronto Raptors 
Xavier Tillman — PF — Michigan State 

Tillman was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year this season, finishing in the conference’s top 10 in both steals and blocks. He’s not a great offensive player, but, if he remains in the draft, could be a solid piece for a winning team like Toronto. 

29. Los Angeles Lakers 
Nico Mannion — PG — Arizona 

The Lakers need to find affordable role players to complement LeBron James over the next few years, and Mannion is an interesting option. He didn’t meet expectations in his freshman season at Arizona after drawing a lot of hype in high school, but his passing ability and knack for playing fast could work well in Los Angeles, or at least allow him to become part of the Lakers’ rotation at some point. 

30. Boston Celtics (via Milwaukee) 
Aleksej Pokusevski — F — Olympiacos B (Greece) 

If the Celtics keep all three of their first-round picks, a draft-and-stash player would be a sensible final selection. Pokusevski is an underweight 7-footer who shoots, moves and handles the ball much better than most young players his size.

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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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