76ers

Villanova's Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead Sixers pre-draft workout group with Tennessee's Grant Williams, Oregon's Louis King

Villanova's Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead Sixers pre-draft workout group with Tennessee's Grant Williams, Oregon's Louis King

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers on Saturday hosted their most interesting and talented pre-draft workout group so far.

National champions and Villanova products Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were reunited while the team also brought in projected first-round pick Grant Williams from Tennessee and fringe first-rounder Louis King out of Oregon.

Not surprisingly, Paschall, who will likely be a second-rounder, Williams and King all stood in the portion of the workout open to the media. 

‘I can’t get away from this kid’

Paschall and Booth have been teammates since Paschall transferred to ‘Nova from Fordham in 2015.

Both went from being role players on the 2018 national championship team to being the leading scorers on last year’s squad. They didn’t lead a repeat effort, but still managed to win the Big East and a Tournament game.

“I think what’s interesting about their group is that they kind of have to accept progression of roles throughout their career,” Sixers senior director of scouting Vince Rozman said. “With Eric, he came in from Fordham and kind of played fifth fiddle [in 2017-18] to their four NBA guys and they move on and he accepts a more dominant role in the offense and started making plays off the dribble. …

“I don’t know how they do it, but they all kind of excel in all of them.”

Paschall and Booth have worked out for a bunch of teams and the process has kept them apart for longer than they’ve been in years.

But there was definitely something special about being reunited in a workout for the Sixers.

“My agent told me, ‘Yeah, Phil is in your workout,’” Paschall said, “and I just started laughing because I can’t get away from this kid.”

While it’s a cool story, make no mistake, there is real interest.

“They’re just really good players,” Rozman said. “We can sell it that way, but we need talent and Villanova and Temple and St. Joe’s and these schools bring them in, they all have really successful college careers and it’s fun to watch.”

That is especially the case with Paschall. While Booth will likely go undrafted and have to fight his way to an NBA roster spot, Paschall will get drafted at some point. There are even those that think he could sneak into the backend of the first round.

With four second-round picks, including selections at Nos. 33 and 34, Paschall would make a ton of sense for the Sixers. He has NBA size, is a decent shooter and is a winning basketball player. Even beyond the actual success he had with the Wildcats, Paschall is a player who just makes winning plays. 

With his experience, it’s possible he could help the Sixers right away.

“I think I’d fit in well,” Paschall said. “I think they’re a very well-rounded team and I could just hop in and help contribute immediately. Just being older and more physical and being able to catch and shoot and just make plays.”

A talented group

Williams and King are both incredibly intriguing prospects, but for very different reasons.

Though Williams is just 20, he played three years with the Volunteers. He’s solidly built at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds and his basketball IQ is off the charts. The biggest question surrounding Williams is the position he’ll play at the next level.

He’s not at all concerned.

“I’ve never really believed in positions much because in this league nowadays it’s not what you play on offense, it’s what you can play on defense,” Williams said. “No matter how big or small you are, if you can guard multiple positions and be versatile, I feel like you have a place in this league.”

Williams could be a target for the Sixers at No. 24, though Rozman admitted he’s not even sure where exactly Williams would play.

Like Paschall, King could be a fit with one of the team’s four second-round picks. King, out of Jersey City, New Jersey, was a one-and-done player with the Ducks. 

There’s plenty to be intrigued about with King. He’s 6-foot-8 and features a seven-foot wingspan while being able to play on the perimeter. He shot 38.6 percent from three in his lone season and may have quick enough feet to hang with guards. 

He admitted he had to put on weight — as his zero reps on the bench at the combine indicates — but a switchable 3-and-D wing would be on every team’s wish list.

The Sixers are no exception. 

“He’s really skilled,” Rozman said. “He has great size. He can handle and kind of make plays off the dribble … His shot is obviously very, very attractive and projectable. He’s here for a reason. There’s no doubt.”

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2020 NBA free agency: 6 bigs the Sixers could target this offseason

2020 NBA free agency: 6 bigs the Sixers could target this offseason

Another big man may not be high on the priority list for the Sixers this offseason, but a lot can change between when/if the season resumes and when next season starts.

Will the Sixers try to move Al Horford’s contract? Does the team trust Norvel Pelle to take on a bigger role next season? Would Kyle O’Quinn consider returning after he reportedly asked to be waived?

Here are six bigs that could fit the Sixers in free agency depending on how everything shakes out.

Marc Gasol

Gasol is most known around these parts for being a thorn in Joel Embiid’s side. A former Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol is big, smart and physical — a combination that has caused Embiid serious difficulty. He’s not the offensive player he was in his prime, but he can still shoot it (40.2 percent from three), pass it (3.4 assists) and is an excellent screen setter.

At 35, it will be interesting see what kind of offers Gasol will get. The only scenario in which the Sixers would likely be able to make it work is if they successfully trade Horford and his massive contract. Is it worth taking a shot on Gasol with the team’s mid-level exception? With the Sixers having other pressing needs, it’s a tough call. Gasol would make an excellent Embiid backup and mentor.

Aron Baynes

Baynes had a solid run in Boston and was having a strong season in Monty Williams’ system in Phoenix. The Sixers were the first team to experience Baynes’ evolution as a three-point shooter in the 2018 playoffs. He was hitting 35 percent on over four attempts a game before the 2019-20 season was suspended. He also has proven to be a solid post defender and screen setter.

This is going to be all about what Baynes’ preferences are. If he wants to get paid like a starting center, the Sixers aren’t the team for him. If he’s willing to accept a backup role to Embiid on a lesser deal, there’s a possibility. It seems more likely Baynes could find a better situation, but he’d be a solid option for the Sixers if he can’t.

Alex Len

Len hasn’t lived up to the status of being the fifth overall pick, but he’s become a solid rotational NBA big. His career numbers per 36 minutes are solid: 14.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks. Though he struggled to hit threes this season, he’s had some success for a big (33 percent for his career).

Still just 26, there could be a team that views Len as having a higher ceiling. Being so young, he also could value playing time and money over being a reserve on a contender. Like Baynes, if he can’t find a better situation, the Sixers could do worse in a backup center.

Noah Vonleh

Vonleh is another top-10 pick that hasn’t quite panned out but has shown he can be a serviceable NBA player. After a strong campaign for the Knicks in 2018-19, Vonleh had a tough year for the Timberwolves. He was eventually shipped to the Nuggets in that crazy four-team deal ahead of the trade deadline.

Signing Vonleh would be similar to when the Sixers signed O’Quinn this past offseason. He won’t have a definitive role but could be a nice insurance policy if there are injuries and Pelle struggles. Though he’s only 24, the price shouldn’t be high given his struggles in Minnesota this season.

Dario Saric

If you’re reading this, you should know all about this guy. Saric hasn’t been the same player since he was dealt to the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade. Still, he’s played a solid role for Williams in Phoenix. Saric has flashed the combination of skill and grit he did here, but his lack of athleticism has limited him.

Saric is a true four. Though you could get away with using Saric as a small-ball five in certain lineups, you wouldn’t want him back there for an extended period of time with a true NBA center. Saric did love his time here and played the best basketball of his NBA career. He's a restricted free agent so the Suns would likely have to rescind his rights for the Sixers to have a chance. If the price is right, you can’t rule out a reunion.

Markieff Morris

The Philly native was having a good year in Detroit before being bought out and signing with the Lakers. He’s struggled with his shot during his eight-game stint in L.A. but was hitting just below 40 percent of his threes with the Pistons. Morris plays with an edge and could bring that physical style and attitude back home.

Morris could be repetitive with Mike Scott already signed for next season. Though Scott struggled this year, he’d come on a bit before the season was suspended and looked more like the player we saw during last year's playoff run.

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Charles Barkley '100 percent sure' NBA will continue season

Charles Barkley '100 percent sure' NBA will continue season

Charles Barkley had a busy weekend cracking jokes at Tom Brady's expense during Sunday's popular charity golf outing with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and Phil Mickelson.

Barkley followed up his big Sunday on TV with a guest appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show on ESPN on Monday in which he made a statement about the NBA returning this summer with a rather high assurance level.

"(The NBA is) gonna make a decision in the next week," Barkley said on Monday. "I'm 100% sure we're going to play. I know my friends in Major League Baseball are going to play. I know that the hockey league is going to play. I think the pro football and the college football, they have to sit back and see how it goes for us."

This isn't just some betting hunch that Barkley has, he told Finebaum (via the Score) that it's based on conversations he's had with his bosses.

"I do know this, talking to my bosses at Turner: we're going to play basketball," Barkley said. "It's gonna be in Florida and Vegas, or just Florida."

There does seem to be momentum building towards pro sports returning in the States. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said pro sports teams in his state are allowed to start practicing and competing as long as they follow the proper health protocols.

This would appear to be an early step in sports returning. Now that teams are allowed to start training in New Jersey, it will be up to the leagues themselves to come up with a more concrete plan.

The Sixers and Flyers have practice facilities in New Jersey. Both are a short drive across the river from Philadelphia which could have a differing timeline.

With the return of the NBA season looking more likely, it's no longer clear if all of their players will want to participate. Portland's Dame Lillard said he will not play if the Trailblazers don't have a realistic shot of making the playoffs.