An interesting report from an even more interesting source surfaced Friday.
The Sixers are reportedly “very much looking to move up to get somebody they think will go in the top five” in next week’s NBA draft. With that in mind, the question becomes: Which player are they targeting?
The top of the draft is loaded with centers, but it’s pretty safe to assume they won’t be looking for one with All-Star Joel Embiid signed long term. That means you can likely cross DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. off the list.
Here’s a look at three players that would make sense for the Sixers that will likely go in the top five.
Luka Doncic, G/F, Real Madrid (6-8/228)
Doncic would make a ton of sense for the Sixers. The Slovenian wing is known for his elite playmaking ability. He’s an excellent ball handler and has an incredible offensive feel for a player his age. He also played in the second-best league in the world and excelled, taking home MVP of the EuroLeague at just 19 years old.
The biggest concerns will be his lack of elite athleticism and a somewhat inconsistent jumper. His lack of athleticism shows on drives to the basket and when he’s asked to guard smaller, quicker players. That could be an issue with the Sixers, who switch on everything. The jumper is there (80 percent free throw shooter as a pro), he just needs to show more consistency with it.
It’d be interesting to see what Doncic can do with a big man like Embiid and a point guard with Simmons’ vision. Doncic’s ability in the pick-and-roll could be lethal when paired with a player like Embiid. His overall offensive feel should help take some pressure off Simmons as a ball handler. If Markelle Fultz develops into the player the Sixers hoped, there’s no reason to think Doncic can’t play alongside the 2017 No. 1 overall pick.
It’s also worth noting Doncic’s draft stock has slipped every-so-slightly recently — he was projected to go No. 1 or 2 when the process started — over fears of his ability to adjust to NBA athletes. The Sixers could be gauging to see where he slips and pounce. If I were a betting man — I’m not — my money would be on Doncic as the player they’re targeting.
Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri, (6-10/211)
Like Doncic, Porter Jr. is a bit of an enigma but for a different reason. Porter Jr., considered by many to be the top recruit coming out of high school, suffered a back injury that required a microdiscectomy on his L3-L4 spinal discs. He was only able to play in three games at Missouri and clearly lacked explosiveness.
Porter Jr. may be a better fit than Doncic from a basketball standpoint. Porter Jr. has a smooth shooting stroke, which is his most translatable NBA skill. He’s good both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot opportunities. He’s also a good cutter and is better at playing off the ball. With his length, quickness and athleticism, he’d fit with what the Sixers do defensively with the ability to guard multiple positions.
While his shot should be there at the next level, he still has work to do on the rest of his offensive game. He doesn’t have great vision or feel and his handle will need to tighten up. Defensively, he lacks grit and physicality. He’s a poor rebounder for his size as well. There have also been questions about his maturity and whether he’s a good teammate.
With news that Porter Jr. had to cancel a pre-draft workout because of hip spasms, the injury history is a little scary. With that said, reports say his medical records are fairly clean. Given the Sixers’ recent history with injured draft picks, they’re kind of uniquely qualified to handle the situation. On the court, he should provide spacing for Embiid and Simmons with potential to grow on both ends of the floor.
Marvin Bagley, F/C, Duke (6-11/234)
Bagley is sort of the dark horse here. Before the college season began, it was either Porter Jr. or Bagley that most considered to be the best player out of high school. Bagley is probably the safest bet of these three players after finishing an outstanding freshman season at Duke, winning ACC Player of the Year with a clean bill of health. He may also be the oddest fit for the Sixers.
Bagley is an outstanding athlete with great basketball instincts. He has the potential to have a strong jumper, shooting well from three (40 percent), but with a small sample size (58 attempts). He’s an outstanding rebounder (11.1) and plays hard and aggressively on defense. He excels in the pick and roll. He has a quick first step and has the potential to be a strong driver and finisher at the next level.
Bagley’s biggest issue is that he’s kind of a tweener. He lacks the length and girth to play the five and may not be a strong enough shooter to be a modern NBA four. He’s a little too left-hand dependent with his drives and finishes. He’s more a strong team defender than an on-the-ball one.
The Sixers are already set at center and arguably at the four with Dario Saric coming off a strong sophomore campaign and Jonah Bolden possibly coming from overseas. But Bagley could help in a few different scenarios. If the roster stays as is, Bagley could fight Bolden for minutes as a backup four and five. Saric is also a very attractive trade piece. If he’s moved in any type of deal, Bagley could be his replacement. Although it’s worth noting that if Saric is moved for a veteran piece, the Sixers will likely include the No. 10 pick in that deal and not move up. Bagley seems like the most unrealistic player to move up for, but you never know.