Duke Blue Devils

Haughton's 2018 Sixers mock draft: Mikal Bridges goes at No. 10

Haughton's 2018 Sixers mock draft: Mikal Bridges goes at No. 10

Now that the dust has settled on the NBA draft lottery and the combine is over, our pundits provide their latest Sixers mock draft. Here is Matt Haughton’s first version.

First round (10th overall): Mikal Bridges, SF/SG, 6-7/210, Villanova
It appears the Sixers could end up with a player named Bridges with their first pick of the draft, whether that is Miles or Mikal. We’ll give the Sixers the Villanova version in this instance, which is far from a consolation prize.

Bridges took his game to another level in his junior season to help secure a second national championship with the Wildcats. He improved his scoring to 17.7 points per game from 9.8 a season ago. Even with the increase in production, he didn’t sacrifice efficiency. Bridges still shot a robust 51.4 percent from the field. 

That had a lot to do with his long-range marksmanship. Bridges connected on a career-best 43.5 percent of his three-pointers in 2017-18. That pushed him to 40.0 percent from deep during his three years at ‘Nova despite the fact that he shot just 29.9 percent on threes as a freshman.

Along with the improved three-point shooting, what has really made Bridges a likely lottery selection is his standout defense. With great technique and a seven-foot wingspan, he has the ability to defend multiple positions at the NBA level.

The lasting image of the Sixers’ perimeter players missing one jumper after another and getting circles run around them by Boston’s wings should be more than enough reason to jump on Bridges at No. 10.

First round (26th overall): Dzanan Musa, SF/SG, 6-9/195, Bosnia and Herzegovina
With precious few roster spots and an eye on free agency, Sixers president Bryan Colangelo already admitted the team could go the draft-and-stash route at No. 26. If they are able to land Musa, who is widely regarded as the second-best international prospect behind possible No. 1 pick Luka Doncic, that would be considered a win for the franchise.

Musa can fit the bill as a quick-trigger scorer with the ability to catch and shoot off screens or rise up off the dribble. In 67 games this past season for Cedevita of Croatia, Musa averaged 12.3 points (47.6 percent shooting from the field, 31.9 percent from three), 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

Musa made a big impression for his national team play and in EuroCup action as he received the EuroCup Basketball Rising Star award, an honor that has gone to NBA players Victor Claver, Jonas Valanciunas and Kristaps Porzingis in recent years.

There are some issues with Musa that start with his frame. Despite being 6-9, he is frail and could get pushed around at the next level. He also reportedly has an explosive competitive side that rubs teammates the wrong way at times.

Either way, the Sixers can afford to make a run at a player who just turned 19 earlier this month and some have compared to Manu Ginobili.

Second round (38th overall): Elie Okobo, PG/SG, 6-2/180, France
Of the Sixers’ four second-round picks last season, two ended up being draft-and-stash prospects (Jonah Bolden, Mathias Lessort) and two were traded (Jawun Evans, Sterling Brown).

Expect that trend to continue in the 2018 draft as the Sixers opt for the combo guard Okobo with their first second-rounder. The two sides already have some familiarity after the Sixers were one of Okobo’s pro workouts last summer before he removed his name from draft consideration.

Whatever advice the 20-year-old received in those pre-draft workouts, he appeared to take to heart. Okobo’s production this past season saw a major boost for France Pro A squad Elan Bearnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez. In 34 games (31 starts), he recorded 12.9 points on 47.6 percent field goal shooting and 39.4 three-point shooting to go along with 4.7 assists and 2.7 boards a game.

Okobo could be a stash candidate you see stateside sooner rather than later if the Sixers select him.

Second round (39th overall): Gary Trent Jr., SG, 6-6/210, Duke
Whether the Sixers decide to use this pick for themselves or ship it to another team, the final destination is bound to be satisfied.

With his strong frame and long-range shooting (40.2 percent on three-pointers), Trent has the makings of an ideal shooting guard from an offensive standpoint. Even while playing a secondary role behind teammates Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen, he managed to put up 14.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals per contest in his lone season at Duke.

If the Sixers think they’re going to lose some of that scoring pop off the bench, Trent would be worth latching on to at this point in the draft.

Second round (56th overall): Raymond Spalding, PF/C, 6-10/210, Louisville
Did you think the Sixers would go an entire draft and not take a big man?

Spalding makes moving up and down the court look easy and throwing down monster dunks even easier. He improved on the boards (8.7 a game last season) and his timing on blocked shots (1.7 a night) in his first full year as a starter.

He definitely could stand to put on some more weight to bang in the post against NBA bodies. However, it’s not something that should overly concern teams.

It’s highly unlikely the Sixers wouldn’t pick up Richaun Holmes' relatively cheap team option for next season, but if not, Spalding is a player in a similar mold that could fill that void. 

Second round (60th overall): Trade
Take your pick on this one. There are always teams that jump up with a trade offer at the last minute in an attempt to get a coveted player in those final few slots. 

If the Sixers do keep the pick, look for them to go the stash route with someone like Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs or Serbian guard Vanja Marinkovic.

Villanova climbs to No. 4 after winning Battle 4 Atlantis

usa-mikal-bridges-villanova-northern-iowa.jpg
USA Today Images

Villanova climbs to No. 4 after winning Battle 4 Atlantis

Villanova's impressive Thanksgiving weekend was enough for the Wildcats to move up a spot in Monday's AP poll, from No. 5 to No. 4.

After rallying from 15 points down to beat Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals, Villanova, led by junior guards Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, dominated Northern Iowa 64-50 in Friday's final to take home the tournament title.

Aiding 'Nova's effort to move up was the poor week from previous No. 2 Arizona, which lost all three of its games in the Battle 4 Atlantis and dropped out of the Top 25.

Duke (8-0) stayed at No. 1 in the nation, receiving all 65 AP votes after two big comeback wins against Texas and then-No. 7 Florida led the Blue Devils to the Pk80 Invitational's Motion Bracket title.

Kansas climbed to No. 2 after beating Texas Southern and Oakland to stay at 5-0, while Michigan State and Notre Dame each moved up a spot to No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

On Monday, Villanova and Kansas announced a home-and-home series the storied programs will play over the next two seasons.

For Sixers' JJ Redick, leadership is a covert operation

ap-usa-jj-redick-coach-k.jpg
AP Images/ USA Today Images

For Sixers' JJ Redick, leadership is a covert operation

You might remember JJ Redick as the obligatory Duke villain, the 3-making, tongue-wagging, crowd-baiting so-and-so who in Mike Krzyzewski’s eyes drew more flak from opposing fans than any player he has ever coached (including Christian Laettner).

Or maybe you don’t remember. It was a long time ago.

Nor do you likely recall that Redick spent his first two NBA seasons chained to Orlando’s bench, seemingly well on his way to fulfilling another cliché — that of the failed Duke pro (and nevermind the careers of Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, et al.).

More likely you see Redick as he is normally seen. As a coveted shooter and consummate pro. As a guy who is supremely fit and supremely confident. As a guy who follows through on his everyday obligations as surely as he does that lovely jumper. 

He’s with the Sixers now, of course, having signed a one-year, $23 million contract shortly after free agency opened in July. And even as he approaches his 12th season at age 33, his reinvention continues.

He is now JJ Redick, leader.

A bit of an oversimplification? Sure. The team has other guys to serve in that capacity, notably Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless  — and perhaps Emeka Okafor or Kris Humphries, should one of them stick (see story). But surely Redick will be among those providing ballast for a flighty young team. He will be the example Brett Brown can point to and say: This is how you take care of your body. Or: This is how you practice. Or: This is how you treat locker-room attendants or (fingers crossed) reporters.

The point being that leadership doesn’t have to be verbal; it can be a covert operation. Showing, not saying, is often as good a method as any.

“I don’t think you just show up,” Redick said Monday, “and just start talking to people — barking out orders and giving advice.”

Rather, he will pull guys off to the side, if the situation requires. And surely he understands others are more likely to listen if he continues to shoot the you-know-what out of the ball. He is 40th on the NBA’s all-time list in made 3-pointers (1,271) and 14th in 3-point percentage (.415) — sixth among active players — while averaging 11.9 points in his career, including 15.8 over the last four years with the Clippers.

Not only that, but he’s a good passer, and a better defender than most of us realize — not Kawhi Leonard, certainly, but not James Harden, either.

And should anybody really want to know, Redick does have an interesting story to tell, having gone from National Player of the Year his final season at Duke (2005-06) to deep sub his first two years with the Magic, to complementary piece on some strong Clippers' clubs.

Takes a pretty steady hand on the wheel to negotiate that many twists and turns.

“The thing about JJ,” Krzyzewski told CSNPhilly.com last month, “is that he has a mantra of always becoming — in other words, whatever he’s done, there’s the next step: 'I need to get better. I need to prove myself again.' ”

Redick has no idea why he is wired that way, only that he was never satisfied as different accolades came his way while he was growing up — as he was named a McDonald’s All-American, for instance, or was accorded one ranking or another by one recruiting service or another.

“I don’t know if it’s out of fear of failure or just that I enjoy new things,” he said, “but I’ve always sort of looked: What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?”

If ever he were tempted to rest on his laurels, he said, “I’ve had good enough people in my life to tell me, ‘Hey, you’re being a brat.’ … ‘Hey, you’re being an (idiot). Stop it.’ ” 

It is safe to say that Krzyzewski has been among those people. He and Redick are close — “amazingly close,” Coach K said — their relationship having taken root in 2000, when the legendary coach began recruiting Redick out of Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Va.

That Redick spent four years playing for the Blue Devils seems a rather quaint notion these days, but his body of work speaks for itself: He set the Atlantic Coast Conference scoring record (2,769 points) and made more 3-pointers than anyone else in NCAA history (457) — marks that have since been eclipsed — and had his No. 4 jersey retired.

Opposing fans were not impressed, showering upon him the sort of invective often reserved for high-profile Dookies. Think not only Laettner but Steve Wojciechowski. Or Greg Paulus. Or, currently, Grayson Allen.

“As a 33-year-old, there’s nothing that any human can say to me that hasn’t already been said,” Redick said. “There’s some sick (stuff) that’s been said to me. I’ve heard it all.”

He chose to fight ire with ire, adopting a strutting, smirking persona that only inflamed opposing fans that much more.

“You can either react (to the abuse) in one of two ways,” he said. “You can sort of go into a shell and be fearful, and I had teammates that did that, or you can sort of just embrace it and be like, ‘(Bleep) it. You say I’m that? I’ll be that.’ That’s what I did.”

The more a player like Redick uses the crowd as fuel, Krzyzewski said, the better — “because,” he said, “you’re not only singing your song at home, in front of a friendly crowd, you can sing your song in front of a very vocal crowd on the road. The main thing is that you have a great song to sing, and JJ did.”

Redick, drafted 11th overall by Orlando in 2006, received a comeuppance of sorts his first two NBA seasons, averaging 14.8 minutes in 42 games as a rookie and 8.1 in 34 his second year. 

“It was very humbling,” he said. “But it was also necessary. It was helpful.”

He admittedly didn’t always handle it well, especially that second season, when he played what he calls “the victim card.” Finally, though, it dawned on him that he wasn’t doing enough. While he had gone from round to ripped in college, he still wasn’t as fit as he needed to be.

Enter Joe Rogowski, then the Magic’s conditioning coach. He has vouched so often for Redick over the years that he jokingly refers to himself as the “JJ Whisperer,” but he whipped him into shape, redirected his career, changed his thinking to the point where he became “OCD about everything,” as Redick put it.

In his third season, he was a rotational piece for a team that reached the Finals. That was also the first of seven straight years that he improved upon his scoring average. 

In all, Redick spent six-plus years with the Magic, then part of a season with Milwaukee, before landing with the Clippers. He called his time in Los Angeles “basically the four best years of (his) career” on his podcast, “The Chronicles of Redick,” but the Clippers elected to move on after last season.

That led to a free-agent odyssey he chronicled in a short documentary, ironically entitled “The Process.” Toward the end, he was shown agonizing over a three-year offer from Houston, as well as the deal with the Sixers. Ultimately he decided Philly was a better fit, after being cajoled into a workout by Brown in the team’s facility.

In a blazer and slacks.

In the wee hours of July 1.

As Redick told Business Insider, Joel Embiid happened to be there, so they ran through some of the ways the two of them could complement each other. Brown said the other day the symbiosis between a shooter like Redick and a post threat like Embiid will be “an offense, all unto itself.” Redick did not disagree, and said he and Embiid have “a budding bromance” to boot.

But he’s not just here for on-court reasons. He’s also here to steady a young team. And to that end, he was asked what his 33-year-old self would say to the 21-year-old version.

“‘Shut up and listen, ’” Redick said.

He would never say that to anyone now. Rather, he would want his teammates to listen when he’s saying nothing at all.

It’s as good a way as any to lead.