76ers

NBA draft profile: Alabama G Collin Sexton

NBA draft profile: Alabama G Collin Sexton

Collin Sexton

Position: Guard

Height: 6-3

Weight: 190

School: Alabama

After a scuffle broke out in the second half of Alabama-Minnesota last November, every player on the Crimson Tide’s bench came onto the court, resulting in ejections for all and leaving Bama with just five players to finish the game. Minutes later, an Alabama player fouled out. Less than a minute after that, another left with an injury. Trailing by 13, Alabama would have to play the final 10-plus minutes 3-on-5.

And Collin Sexton nearly willed them to victory.

Sexton scored 17 of his 40 points while playing at a two-man disadvantage and got Alabama within three points late in an eventual 89-84 loss.

That heroic performance in a loss was a microcosm of Sexton’s lone season in Tuscaloosa. There weren’t those notable glorious achievements of making an All-American team, winning a conference championship or earning a Sweet 16 bid, but the pursuit of those goals with the Crimson Tide on Sexton’s back was thrilling to watch.

Sporting a top-20 usage rate in the country, Sexton was a one-man band at ‘Bama. The electrifying point guard averaged 19.9 points and 3.6 assists en route to being named SEC Co-Freshman of the Year. Sexton also put on a show in the SEC Tournament, carrying No. 9 Alabama to the semifinals with a game-winning buzzer beater and a 31-point effort in an upset over No. 1 Auburn. Those performances helped Bama lock down its first NCAA tournament trip since 2011-12.

Strengths 
The first thing that jumps off the screen while watching Sexton is the intensity he plays with. He’s Russell Westbrook-like in how passionate he is and it carries into his offensive game. Sexton is a downhill guard that relentlessly attacks the rim on fast breaks and in the half-court, as evidenced by his 7.6 free throw attempts per game. He possesses the handles and quickness to break down defenders and create separation for either a drive or a pull-up. He can use either hand in getting to the rim and finishing there.

Despite the offensive burden he shouldered, Sexton still managed to be efficient, shooting 44.5 percent from the field. And while he was clearly the most gifted offensive player on Alabama he was far from unselfish, as he only took 13.3 shots per game. Sexton's not an elite passer, but he's a willing one. In pick-and-rolls, he won't just put his head down and recklessly attack, but rather scan the entire floor and keep his dribble alive until making a decision.

On defense, he competes on-ball and has the frame (6-7 wingspan) and quickness to be a strong defender that can handle both guard positions.

Weaknesses 
There were some encouraging starting points for Sexton's shot at Alabama; he shot 77.8 percent on 252 free throw attempts and 33.6 percent on 131 threes. But there are questions as to how much he can develop and improve as a shooter. It's difficult to be an effective NBA guard without the threat of a shot, so how reliable Sexton's three-point shot and pull-up jumper are will have a large impact on his career trajectory.

He also needs to tighten his shot selection. He takes some ill-advised jumpers and tends to over-drive on attacks, leading to some tough contested shots at the rim. He'll have to work in a floater or short pull-up to combat that.

NBA comparison
From his on-court mentality to his athleticism and style of play, Sexton does resemble Westbrook. But Sexton has a ton of developing to do with his game and body to reach Westbrook’s level. With that in mind, Kemba Walker and Eric Bledsoe are much more reasonable comps.

How he would fit with the Sixers
This all comes down to Sexton’s shot. If the Sixers are optimistic about it, then he theoretically fits with Ben Simmons. There can never have enough ball handlers and creators on the court at the same time as long as the spacing works. Also, if Markelle Fultz doesn’t turn into the high-caliber player the Sixers hope he can, Sexton would provide some insurance as a secondary creator behind Simmons. And the Sixers, who had the lowest pick-and-roll frequency this season, could add a different look to their offense.

Draft projection 
Sexton seems to be a consensus mid-to-late lottery pick at this point. While Orlando would make sense at No. 6, his range will likely start with Cleveland two picks later. He shouldn’t make it past the Clippers at Nos. 12 and 13.

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

NBA draft profile: Villanova G Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Position: Guard

Height: 6-2

Weight: 198

School: Villanova

As Mikal Bridges cements his status as a consensus lottery pick and Donte DiVincenzo’s name becomes hot enough to reportedly receive an invite to the green room of the draft, their Villanova teammate who was the consensus national player of the year has seen his stock remain static.

Jalen Brunson was the leading scorer on Villanova’s national title team last season, pouring in 18.9 points per game while dishing out 4.6 assists. Bunson, a three-year starter and two-time national champ, was also highly-efficient, shooting 52.1 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from deep and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. And as a result of his remarkable junior season, the Villanova point guard took home a ton of hardware in sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

But, Brunson isn’t considered a surefire first-round pick.

Two of the main reasons for this? His position and age. The point guard position has the greatest depth in the NBA so lead guards don’t tend be high draft picks unless they have All-Star upside. If Bridges was five inches shorter, he wouldn’t have the same kind of value. Teams are starving for rotation three-and-D wings and not so much for high-floor/low-ceiling point guards. 

With Brunson set to turn 22 years old in August, he doesn’t possess the tantalizing upside of the top point guards in this draft like Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even so, there's still a place for Brunson in the NBA.

Strengths
As a three-level scorer, Brunson can fill it up in a variety of ways. He has a smooth jumper that extends beyond the three-point line. In the mid-range area, he makes up for his lack of quickness with crafty moves to create separation for pull-ups. On drives, Brunson can initiate contact to draw fouls, contort his body to avoid contests and has good touch around the rim. And believe it or not, the 6-2 guard utilizes his craftiness to be an effective post player as well. 

When Brunson has the ball in his hands, he carries a calming force with him. He plays at his own pace and just always seems in control, rarely committing egregious turnovers or taking bad shots. He's also a willing, talented passer who will make the unselfish extra pass and can also fit the ball into a tight window to a cutter/roller.

Weaknesses
Brunson’s weaknesses have less to do with his skills and more with his physical traits and tools. He’s not an explosive athlete with crazy bounce and doesn’t possess game-changing speed or quickness. So will he be able to create enough space against more athletic wing defenders to penetrate to the rim or get off his pull-up jumper? 

Defensively, Brunson works hard and isn't way undersized as a point guard. But he doesn't have the size to switch across multiple positions and the one position he will defend is deep with high-level talent. He can survive against backups, but how will he fare against quality starters and stars?

NBA comparison
Lefties tend to get compared to other lefties, but I'm passing on the Derek Fisher comp and going with fellow Big 5 alum Jameer Nelson. The St. Joe’s product is shorter and had a little more quickness during his prime, but was a solid starter capable of scoring at all three levels despite some physical limitations. Brunson projects more as a backup but has the ceiling of a player like Nelson.

How’d he fit with the Sixers
Let’s look at the Sixers’ current guards beyond Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz is an unknown. T.J. McConnell is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And the only others under contract are Jerryd Bayless, Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot and Furkan Korkmaz.

This team needs guard depth, specifically ball handlers and shot creators/makers. While it may not come at an elite level, Brunson could fill both of those needs. And because of his shooting ability, he could also play off the ball as a spot-up shooter and secondary creator alongside Simmons and Fultz.

Draft projection 
A fringe first-rounder, Brunson's range will start right around the Sixers’ second pick at No. 26. If they pass on him there, they shouldn’t count on him still being on the board at their next pick at 38.

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Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

We’re counting down the hours now until the 2018 NBA draft, which means all of the chatter surrounding teams is heading into overdrive.

That includes the Sixers, who are reportedly still attempting to move up the draft board.

Per a report Tuesday by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, the Sixers are continuing to make calls about moving into the top five. However, “they have offered packages of picks, but have thus far rebuked including oft-mentioned Robert Covington and Dario Saric,” according to the report.

There has still been no mention of exactly which prospect the Sixers are interested in trading up for since former Cavaliers GM David Griffin made the claim during a radio interview last week (see story).

With six total selections in Thursday’s draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round, it makes sense that the Sixers would offer draft picks first in any potential trade.

However you feel about the streaky Covington, the team was high enough on the All-NBA defender last season to lock him into a long-term deal while Saric has proven to be a rock-solid contributor that keeps improving every day.

We’ll see if the Sixers ease off those demands as we get even closer to the draft.

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