76ers

Sixers don't win NBA draft lottery but these 5 players could help at pick 24

Sixers don't win NBA draft lottery but these 5 players could help at pick 24

No, the Sixers didn’t win the draft lottery Tuesday night, but they still have work to do ahead of June 20.

At his end-of-season press conference, GM Elton Brand actually got pretty specific in describing the kind of player he’d like to add at pick No. 24 and beyond.

“Where we are in our trajectory, we need players that can play, players that can add to our team now,” Brand said. “We’re looking for maybe older players. For sure, defensive-minded players and we always place a premium on shooting. But defensive-oriented players that can contribute now, we may look at, I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but that may be something we’re looking at.”

Here are five players that fit that description to an extent and could be there in the first round. 

Matisse Thybulle, G, Washington

Out of all the players that could be available, Thybulle may be the most attractive. He’s 22, he’s athletic and long, he’s defensive-oriented and he’s flashed the ability to shoot. In his four years at Washington, he put up crazy steal (2.4) and block (1.3) block numbers and shot 36 percent from three.

The Huskies’ zone does muddle the evaluation some. Will Thybulle be able to guard 1-on-1? He has the athleticism and quick feet to do so. His three-point shooting also dipped to 31 percent last season. Teams interested will hope that shooting season was an outlier.

Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina

The biggest knock on Johnson is that he’s 23 years old. No worries for Brand. Johnson has intriguing skills as a 3-and-D combo forward. The Pitt transfer shot 46 percent from three last season. He’s also strong shooting off the dribble and in the mid-range because of his 6-foot-9 frame and ability to shoot over the defense.

Other than age, Johnson does have an injury history. He’ll have to put on muscle to be able to hang with bigger and stronger NBA fours. He’s not the most athletic, but he has potential to be a versatile defender because of his length. 

Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue

You want a shooter? If you followed the NCAA Tournament, you know Edwards is one. He had a pair of 42-point performances, including one against Virginia. He shot 36 percent from three, which doesn’t seem that impressive, but he took 10.6(!) treys a game. He can shoot off the dribble, excels moving off the ball, has a lightning quick release and understands spacing.

He’s 6-foot-1. If he was 6-4, he’d likely be a lottery pick. He struggled with turnovers and isn’t a great playmaker, but that might not matter for the Sixers. He can be a microwave scorer off the bench and would be an excellent complement to Ben Simmons on a second unit.

Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

Gafford is a little on the younger side at 20, but he’s a crazy athlete and as active as any player in college basketball. He’s a rim-to-rim big. He’s a decent shot blocker and excels rolling to the basket and finishing off lobs with authority.

His offensive game is incredibly raw. He doesn’t have much in the way of post moves and while he’s worked on his jumper, he still has a long ways to go. For the Sixers, the athleticism and activity is something they sorely lacked out of their backup fives — outside of Jonah Bolden, who is more of a combo big. Gafford is 233 pounds, but has strength and room to add a little more weight to his frame.

KZ Okpala, F, Stanford

Okpala doesn’t really fit Brand’s criteria, but man, he has tools. He’s 6-foot-9 and has a 7-2 wingspan, but displays guard-like skills at times. He’s a great athlete who took a big a step in his sophomore season. He showed an improved handle and his three-point shooting went up by 14 percent.

Tools are great, but he is raw and skinny. Do the Sixers think he could immediately fill a role as a versatile defender capable of hitting the occasional trey? He is crazy intriguing to me, but Brand is likely looking for a more developed player.

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FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives Sixers best chance of any team to win NBA Finals

The Sixers, according to the statistics-centric website FiveThirtyEight, have a 55 percent chance to make the NBA Finals and a 27 percent chance to win it all — both the highest of any NBA team.

FiveThirtyEight's "Way-Too-Early Projections" for the 2019-20 season give the Sixers a greater than 99 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Houston Rockets have the next-best odds to win the title at 24 percent.

It's important to note, of course, that teams' rosters will change between now and the start of the regular season, and we still don't have a schedule.

Its model incorporates heaps of data and does "50,000 simulations of the schedule." A new element this year is the DRAYMOND defensive metric, which gives greater weight to how a defender impacts opponents' shooting percentage.

The fact that Joel Embiid has the second-best DRAYMOND rating since the 2013-14 season might, in part, explain why this year's model is so high on the Sixers. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks (26 percent chance to win the East, 10 percent chance to win the championship) and star-studded Los Angeles Lakers (13 percent odds to win it all) and Clippers (5 percent chance to win it all) have a better shot than FiveThirtyEight gives them.

In case you somehow missed it, a lot has changed for the Sixers this offseason. The team's new starting unit of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Embiid is locked in for the long term, while Mike Scott and James Ennis are again expected to feature off the bench. It's a big, defensively imposing team.

Ennis has said he thinks the Sixers can "walk to the Finals in the East." If you trust FiveThirtyEight's model, his view might not be so outlandish.

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Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Will Kyle Korver return to Sixers? Elton Brand drops an interesting hint

Elton Brand’s busy offseason is not over.

The Sixers’ general manager acknowledged Tuesday morning in an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “Farzetta and Tra in the Morning” show that he’s still working to fill out the Sixers’ roster. The team currently has 13 players on the roster and could add two more. 

When Marc Farzetta asked Brand about adding a player with similar shooting abilities to the departed JJ Redick, Brand dropped an interesting hint.

We’d love to have that. Spacing is key. We’re going to hang our hats on defense, but when it’s crunch time you’re going to need spacing to operate. So we are looking for players that can space the court. We are in talks with a few of them, so we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully the city will have someone that they know and can receive them well. 

He didn’t use his name, but Brand sure seemed to be talking about former Sixer Kyle Korver. Some Sixers fans might be familiar with available free agents like Thabo Sefolosha and Jose Calderon, but Brand has to be aware that fans know all about Korver.

The Sixers are reportedly a frontrunner to land the 38-year-old, who’s an unrestricted free agent after being waived by the Phoenix Suns. Korver is a career 42.9 percent shooter from three-point range and has made the fourth most threes in NBA history. 

Given the Sixers’ salary cap situation, Korver would need to be willing to accept a veteran minimum deal to come back to Philadelphia. 

A return to the city where he started his professional career would make a lot of sense for both parties. As Brand said, the Sixers could use some outside shooting. And for Korver, you’d think the chance to play for a team that looks poised to contend for a championship would be appealing. 

You can listen to the full interview with Brand here

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