If report is true, who could Sixers target in top 5 of 2018 NBA draft?

If report is true, who could Sixers target in top 5 of 2018 NBA draft?

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.

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Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

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Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

For those sharing the conspiracy theory that Ben Simmons should be shooting with his right hand, prepare to be disappointed.

The Rookie of the Year appeared to shoot down the notion on Twitter, commenting on a story suggesting the Sixers’ point guard is shooting with the wrong hand.

This story stemmed from a piece by The New York Times basketball writer Marc Stein, but questions of the 22-year-old’s handedness were first posted by Kevin O’Connor — formerly of SB Nation, now with The Ringer. O’Connor has been charting Simmons’ shots since LSU. In a feature for SB Nation back in 2016, O’Connor noted that Simmons used his right hand on 81.5 percent of his shots. That’s pretty much reverse for any lefty currently in the NBA.

Since O’Connor first presented this theory, it’s picked up some steam.

Below is a video of Simmons taking free throws right-handed during warm-ups last season.

You have to admit, it looks pretty smooth. It’s a tough angle, but his elbow looks more tucked in than when he shoots with his left. His wrist action and follow through look smoother as well. 

Let’s also not forget when Simmons was given the chance to throw the first pitch at a Phillies game earlier this season.

That’s a pretty nice right-handed strike.

His free throw shooting was an issue last season. As dominant as Simmons was at times, he shot just 56 percent from the line. In a game against the Wizards on Nov. 11, the Sixers held a big lead. Sensing the game was slipping away, Washington head coach Scott Brooks went to the hack-a-Ben strategy. Simmons took 29 free throws, hitting just 15. It allowed the Wizards to make the game a little too close for comfort.

With all that said, there have been instances where Simmons has showed promise with his left-handed shot. In the playoffs, Simmons shot 70 percent from the line.

He’s also flashed the ability to shoot in practice …

… and in games …

Would Simmons be better if he shot with his right hand? If Simmons’ reaction to that notion is any indication, we may never know.

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

These are truly the dog days of summer when it comes to the NBA.

Players are likely either putting in work with daily workouts or enjoying some vacation time before things get cranked back up in the fall.

However, those aren’t the only activities that are presented with that extra free time. There is also more opportunity for guys to do some boasting about what is to come. After all, they’re probably feeling good about the progress made during the offseason and the recent 2018-19 schedule release has put a jolt in their system.

Unless you’re a Sixer. They’ve remained relatively silent as members of one team after another have stated their case for the Eastern Conference crown now that LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood.

Boston swingman Jaylen Brown openly laid claim to the East during an appearance last week on Portland guard C.J. McCollum’s Pull Up podcast.

“Oh, we're getting to the Finals. No question about it,” Brown said.

And Brown made it clear that he didn’t feel that way about his Celtics just because James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he said the C’s were going win next season regardless of whether James stayed in the Eastern Conference or not.

“I hate how everybody is like, ‘Oh, LeBron's gone in the East,’” Brown said. “I know he did have a strong hold on the East for the last seven years, but he barely got us out of there this year. And our mindset was like, ‘Man, he’s not beating us again.’”

That’s pretty bold, but the Celtics have a right to feel good about themselves. They were on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals a year ago and are getting All-Star reinforcements back in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

New Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez was a bit more diplomatic with his expectations for next season. Still, he presented the case for his squad to become the new big dogs in the East.

“We definitely think the East is wide open,” Lopez said to Hoopshype a week ago. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive. There are a lot of teams that can do [big] things, from Toronto to Boston to Philly — you just go down the list and it’s clear that the East is as exciting as it’s been in a long time. I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”

Even Washington Wizards guard John Wall explained why his group could be the one to rise to the top of the conference.

“I feel like we’re all equal,” Wall told Yahoo! Sports. “None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar (DeRozan), they still get Kawhi (Leonard). Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”

Throughout all of the chest-puffing discussions, the Sixers haven’t made a peep. Not even the 7-foot-2 All-Star known for trash-talking anyone in sight. Embiid barely gave a response to No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton when the rookie recently decided to draw himself dunking on the Sixers’ center.

It’s a stark departure from Embiid’s normal back-and-forth nature, but it’s safe to assume that the big man and his team will wait until they step on the court to let their game do the talking.

With a healthy offseason under his belt for the first time as a professional, you can bet that Embiid — and in turn the Sixers — will have plenty to say at that time.

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