We’ve almost arrived at the real deal after a longer lead-up to this year's NBA draft than ever before.
Here’s our final Sixers-only mock draft ahead of Wednesday night:
No. 21: Desmond Bane
Bane is the first of three four-year college players we have the Sixers taking in this mock draft. He racked up 141 games over his TCU career and improved each season, averaging 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a senior.
The 22-year-old shot 43.3 percent from three-point range in college, has no trouble from NBA range and can fire both off the dribble and off movement.
“The feedback I’ve gotten from a lot of NBA teams is they feel that I can shoot the ball,” he said on Sept. 30. “I defend, I play hard, I’m a smart player on both ends of the floor. Something they told me to work on, depending on the organization and team I go into, I may have to play out of some secondary actions and things like that — be able to initiate offense. … That versatility, being able to be off the ball and on the ball, is something that I want to be able to do to provide value at the next level.”
Bane mentioned in September that the Sixers had shown “a lot of interest” and said he thinks he can have a similar impact to JJ Redick and Landry Shamet. Like Shamet, he’ll enter the NBA with the skills to join a rotation immediately. There won’t be the same defensive questions as there were surrounding Shamet and his smaller frame, either — Bane is a muscular 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds — although his 6-foot-4 wingspan and unexceptional athleticism work against him. At a minimum, Bane’s an intelligent defender who will understand his responsibilities in the NBA and give excellent effort.
It’s possible Bane doesn’t last this long, especially with the way his stock appears to have risen during this unorthodox pre-draft process. He should be an option for the Mavs at No. 18, Nets at No. 19 and Heat at No. 20, three teams with deep playoff aspirations. His shooting should attract the Sixers if he’s available at No. 21, as well as his skills as a pick-and-roll distributor.
TRADE — No. 34 and No. 36 for No. 30 (Cassius Winston) from Celtics
A move late into the first round is one of many possible directions for the Sixers with these two early second-round picks.
Winston isn’t close yet to being a six-time All-Star and NBA champion, but there are some parallels with Kyle Lowry. He’s a short and sturdy point guard, a leader who likes making big plays and gets to his preferred spots despite not being a great athlete.
Over his decorated Michigan State career, Winston made 43 percent of his threes and 84.5 percent of his foul shots. Add savvy, nuanced pick-and-roll play to that shooting ability and you’ve got a nice package for the Sixers. Winston scored 1.40 points per catch-and-shoot jumper in the half court per Synergy (97th percentile), one positive sign for his prospects of both playing with and backing up Ben Simmons.
The main concerns with Winston are related to his physical traits, not his basketball skills. He wasn’t a very good finisher around the rim and will concede quickness in many defensive matchups in the NBA. His strengths pop, though, and it appears they’d fit well on the Sixers.
TRADE — No. 49 and No. 58 for No. 46 (Udoka Azubuike) from Blazers
With this final trade, the Sixers slide up a few spots to ensure they can select another 7-footer from Kansas as a young backup to Joel Embiid.
Azubuike is a strong 260 pounds and has a 7-7.25 wingspan, the highest of any prospect measured at this year’s Draft Combine. While he won’t be able to extend beyond drop pick-and-roll coverage in the NBA, he protects the rim well and has good instincts as a shot blocker. Azubuike hardly ever shoots outside of the paint, but he’s extremely efficient inside, a powerful and frequent college dunker. His 74.6 field goal percentage is highest in NCAA history.
Free throw shooting is a different story; Azubuike’s 44.1 percent mark from the foul line as a senior was actually the best of his college career. If he can’t figure out free throws, his path to important NBA minutes looks steeper. He’s had conditioning issues in the past, though those seem to be behind him.
Guard play is a reasonable focus for the Sixers in the draft, but don’t discard the possibility of a center. The fact that 34-year-old Al Horford was Embiid’s primary backup last year suggests a big man prospect could be helpful at some stage.