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The case for SMU's Semi Ojeleye as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for SMU's Semi Ojeleye as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Semi Ojeleye
Position: SF/PF
School: SMU
Height: 6-7
Weight: 195
Wingspan: 6-10

Many of the prospects we've made the case for and against have been household names, at least among those following the draft. Others aren't quite on the tip of your tongue, but you saw them play if you took a peak at the top programs this season. An example of the latter would be Frank Jackson, who came off the bench at Duke.

Semi Ojeleye came off the bench at Duke ... two years ago. In Durham, he played a combined total of 143 minutes (and scored just 46 points) at Duke during his freshman and sophomore seasons before transferring. He sat out a season and played his junior year at SMU in 2016-17, blossoming into an NBA prospect. 

The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 19 points per game with 6.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.4 blocks in 34.1 minutes a game for the Mustangs. He made his hay by becoming a sound offensive player, particularly from beyond the arc. He hit 42.4 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game and could be a potential three-and-D forward at the next level.

Here's the case for and against Ojeleye, along with his potential fit in Philadelphia.

The case for Ojeleye
Every team needs a wing player who can shoot threes and hold their own on defense. By the time the second round comes, the players that easily fit this bill are off the board, but there are still diamonds in the rough. Ojeleye has that potential.

When you begin to make the case for drafting him, it starts with his jumpshot, which he developed significantly by his junior season in 2016-17. He was able to live behind the three-point line and bring opposing forwards out to the perimeter with him. He has stretch three or stretch four written all over him. He was lethal in catch-and-shoot shoot situations and can be effective on midrange jumpshots as well. As the screener in the pick-and-roll, he was a threat to pop off the screen and hit shots, helping his teammates.

Ojeleye has some power in the post, showing he could back down smaller defenders and finish near the rim in college. That power came in handy when he guarded taller defenders at SMU. He was able to hold post position and not give the players an easy route to the hoop.

Arguably his best game this year came in Philly. Ojeleye put away a 66-50 win over Temple with a 30-point, 10-rebound evening. 

He's known for his muscular frame and size, but he's pretty quick, too. Particularly laterally. That'll aid him in trying to stay with opposing threes and fours. Which of those he defends consistently is the question...

The case against Ojeleye
So, who will Ojeleye be guarding at the next level? Playing a lot of four at SMU, he doesn't have experience against NBA caliber wings. His size and vertical reach make him small for a four at the next level. He'll need to be able to stay on the court against threes. His lateral quickness helps, but quicker guards were able to get by him. The fear is quick NBA wings could do the same.

His size also makes him a liability on the glass. Sure, it seems like Tristan Thompson is the only one under seven feet still boxing out these days. but Ojeleye is still at a disadvantage against fours in the post, particularly against the many NBA wings with large wingspans. He had some issues rebounding against taller bigs in college.

Assuming he can extend his range to the NBA three-point line, the question is how he'll attack closeouts. He goes to his right almost always on drives and he'll need to diversify his attack since the league will certainly be in tune with his desire to use his dominant hand.

Finally, he is 22 years old and will be 23 in December. Age is less of an issue with second-round prospects, but he won't be quite the spring chicken that others who left eligibility on the table are. 

Analysis
Ojeleye is the type of player everyone wants if he can hit his ceiling or close to it. You'll hear a lot of Jae Crowder comparisons and that type of outcome would be intriguing. Imagine getting a three-and-D forward who can drain off the catch from Ben Simmons' many passes. And on the cheap, too. At his best, he fits the mold of the modern NBA.

He certainly has flaws, but there's enough to like in order for him to be a strong second-round selection. He's even crept up into the late first round on some boards and may not be around at 36 when the Sixers select. He's the type of athlete you take a chance on in the second round and would be a strong fit in Philly if he falls to the Sixers.

Interesting new odds on LeBron James' free agency destination, next season's Rookie of the Year

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Interesting new odds on LeBron James' free agency destination, next season's Rookie of the Year

Brett Brown is "star hunting." He's not naming names, but it's clear that LeBron James is at the top of his (and everybody's) list.

Until free agency officially starts on July 1, there's going to be plenty of speculation about whether the Sixers can actually land James. Bovada's latest odds on which team James will be playing for in Game 1 of the 2018-19 season don't give the Sixers a great shot.

The Lakers are now strong favorites, at 4/13. That's presumably because Spurs star Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants out of San Antonio and would like to return to his hometown of Los Angeles, specifically with the Lakers. Though the Spurs have said they want to keep Leonard if possible and reports are they don't want to trade him to a team in the Western Conference, the Lakers would definitely be a much more enticing option for James if they managed to get Leonard. 

The Sixers have the fourth-best odds, which are listed in full below.

What team will LeBron James play for Game 1 of the 2018-2019 Season?
Los Angeles Lakers                   4/13
Cleveland Cavaliers                   13/4
Houston Rockets                      15/2
Philadelphia 76ers                     10/1
Boston Celtics                          18/1
San Antonio Spurs                    20/1
Los Angeles Clippers                25/1                                           
New York Knicks                       30/1
Miami Heat                                40/1

2018-19 Rookie of the Year Odds

This season's Rookie of the Year hasn't even been announced yet. We'll know Monday night whether Ben Simmons brings home the award. But the odds for next season's Rookie of the Year are already out, and one of the newest Sixers, first-round pick Zhaire Smith, appears on Bovada's odds.

Unsurprisingly, Smith, who has a lot of room to grow (see story), is a long shot. The No. 16 selection has 45/1 odds to win. No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton has the best odds at 13/5, followed by the Mavs' Luka Doncic and the Kings' Marvin Bagley III. Mikal Bridges has 22/1 odds, while fellow Villanova product and new Milwaukee Buck Donte DiVincenzo makes an appearance at 40/1.

The complete odds are below.

2018-2019 NBA Rookie of the Year – Odds to Win
Deandre Ayton                          13/5
Luka Doncic                              3/1
Marvin Bagley                           9/2
Trae Young                               7/1
Jaren Jackson Jr                       9/1
Mohamed Bamba                      11/1
Kevin Knox                               15/1
Michael Porter Jr                       15/1
Mikal Bridges                            22/1
Collin Sexton                            22/1
Miles Bridges                            28/1
Wendell Carter Jr                       28/1
Donte DiVincenzo                     40/1
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander          40/1
Zhaire Smith                              45/1
Lonnie Walker                           50/1
Robert Williams                         50/1

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With Bryan Colangelo saga in rearview, Sixers use draft as 1st step in repairing image

With Bryan Colangelo saga in rearview, Sixers use draft as 1st step in repairing image

Even Brett Brown had to admit just how much of a whirlwind this month has been for him.

“This has been a really different June,” he said after the 2018 NBA draft.

That’s certainly an understatement.

In a matter of weeks, Brown went from drawing up plays during the postseason to orchestrating his first draft as interim general manager. And there’s no time to take a breath with free agency barreling down the calendar on July 1.

While Brown has been tasked with running the Sixers’ front office operations for the time being (see story), he has also been put in charge of an even bigger challenge: reshaping the team’s image.

No matter your feelings on the Bryan Colangelo saga, there is no denying it was a black eye for the Sixers. One the franchise could ill afford heading into such an important summer.

So Brown set out to show that the Sixers are truly all about the player-friendly, tight-knit and development culture they have cultivated throughout “the process.” The reinforcement started with grabbing a pair of players in the draft with not only first-round talent, but first-rate character.

“When you look at sort of the values that were most important to us as we decided how to grow this team and select our players, there were none more important than just good people and character,” Brown said Friday of first-rounders Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet. “Personally, when you would see me work the players out and then intermittently we would call people into my office, there was a connection and a comfort level that I had just talking to them as people.”

Of course talent trumps everything and Brown admitted the duo was ultimately snagged because of basketball ability above all else. However, it’s no coincidence that both players are soft-spoken and eager to grind for whatever minutes come their way on the court.

“I just want to come in here, put my work in and let it play out,” Smith said.

“At the end of the day, I just want to be a player that’s known to do whatever a coach needs me to do,” Shamet said. “Whatever the staff or my team needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to be. … Coming in and working hard and doing what I can on a day-to-day basis.”

What’s a little competition between family?

Oh, make no mistake, the Sixers see the program they’ve constructed as a family. And now that the branch of the tree that tends to talk way too much on social media is gone, Brown wants every draft pick that enters the building (and superstar that is willing to listen) to know this organization is a place you want to be.

“We’d like to welcome Zhaire’s family, we’d like to welcome Landry’s family to our home,” Brown said. “As I told these two young players, [they have] the ability to walk into this building and look up behind us and recognize the true history of this organization. To be able to look around and see the backyard that they now have and see sports science, and see a strength and conditioning program, and see an analytics department, and seeing the medical staff, and seeing the video area, and looking at our kitchen, which we kind of designed almost like a college atmosphere where we all go up as a team, as a family, an organization and spend time. This is their backyard where they’re going to get better.”

Now Brown hopes the franchise is stable enough again to add a high-profile name to the family by the time the July 4 BBQ rolls around.

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