Carsen Edwards

Sixers mailbag: Realistic backup centers, shift in draft philosophy and more

Sixers mailbag: Realistic backup centers, shift in draft philosophy and more

Hopefully you’re winding down this Memorial Day Weekend, but we still have another round of Sixers mailbag questions to get to while you sit back and relax.

The second part of our mailbag is about the backup center position, the team’s priorities in the draft and the strategy if Tobias Harris walks.

Let’s get right into your questions.

It was clear the backup center position was a glaring need this postseason. The Sixers had options, but none of them were good enough. If Brett Brown had better ones, perhaps the Sixers would be the team that’s a game away from the NBA Finals.

I imagine Elton Brand will give Brown more ammo at the five next season. The free-agent market isn’t littered with guys, but there are certainly players that would seem like an upgrade. Former Process Sixer Dewayne Dedmon will likely get paid to be a starter somewhere, but he’d be a nice fit here. Maybe DeAndre Jordan or Robin Lopez if their demand goes down. JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler are out there, but they seem like West Coast guys. Nerlens Noel … not sure we’re there yet.

More likely you’re looking at someone like Kyle O’Quinn. O’Quinn is tough, smart and moves better than any of the veteran bigs the Sixers had this season. It’s not a sexy signing, but it could be a practical one. I’d also expect Brand to target the position in the draft. Arkansas' Daniel Gafford, Georgia's Nic Claxton, Maryland's Bruno Fernando and Florida State's Mfiondu Kabengele are guys to watch at No. 24 and beyond.

These questions are similar enough so we’ll tackle them both with one response.

Brand said during his end-of-season press conference that the team could be looking for older players and that it would prioritize defense and shooting. There will be guys who fit that description at No. 24 and Edwards might be one of them. He can score in a variety of ways as he showed in the NCAA Tournament. So, too, could North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson. Tennessee's Admiral Schofield and Washington's Matisse Thybulle could also fit that bill along with any of the bigs mentioned above.

But that’s not to say the Sixers will pass on a player simply because of age. If a player like Kentucky’s Tyler Herro is around at 24, Brand would be wise to take a look. Herro can really shoot it and isn’t a stiff on defense.

I’m answering this question as if you’re thinking Jimmy Butler will be back — not a foregone conclusion — and the Sixers will be pushed into the luxury tax by signing Harris. There really is no one player you’d be looking for to replace Harris. With the money you’d have, it’d be difficult to target a star-caliber player. More likely you’re looking to improve your depth. Really, the same can be said if you lose Butler and retain Harris.

If you’re looking for a starting four, Rudy Gay would make some sense. Gay shot a career-high 40 percent from three and played defense for maybe the first time in his entire career. It could also allow you to sign a backup point guard like Corey Joseph or a veteran wing like Terrence Ross.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

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.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers