Philadelphia Sixers

Kevin Knox, Zhaire Smith to have 2nd workout for Sixers

Kevin Knox, Zhaire Smith to have 2nd workout for Sixers

The Sixers are taking another look at two prospects two days before the NBA draft, in which they hold pick No. 10.

Kentucky forward Kevin Knox will be back at the training complex again Tuesday for an individual workout. Last week, he participated in a group setting.

Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith also will return for a second group workout.

Both stood out their first time in Camden, New Jersey.

“He walked into the gym, it’s not hard to see the intrigue with his size and mobility, his frame,” senior director of basketball operations Vince Rozman said of the 6-foot-9 Knox last week. “He’s 18, so there’s a lot to develop from.”

Knox, who averaged 15.6 points (34.1 percent from three), 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists as a freshman, was confident following his first performance for the Sixers.

“They’re really interested in me,” Knox said. “They love my game, they love the way I can shoot the ball. That’s something they really like to do is shoot a lot of threes. My versatility, being able to take guys off the dribble is something that would complement really well with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.”

The 6-foot-5 Smith posted 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists his freshman season. He was focused on demonstrating shooting, decision-making and playmaking during his first workout.

“He’s got great length,” vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said last week. “He’s a terrific, terrific athlete. He didn’t shoot the ball as well throughout the year, but he came in here today and shot it pretty well.”

The Sixers additionally hold picks No. 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60. Tuesday’s group workout also will include La Salle guard-forward B.J. Johnson, USC guard De’Anthony Melton, Fairfield guard Tyler Nelson, Kansas guard Malik Newman and Wichita State guard Landry Shamet.

More on Sixers, NBA draft

• Knox thinks he would fit with Sixers

• NBA draft profile: Kentucky's Knox

NBA draft profile: Texas Tech's Smith

NBA draft profile: Villanova F Omari Spellman

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NBA draft profile: Villanova F Omari Spellman

Omari Spellman

Position: Forward

Height: 6-9

Weight: 254

School: Villanova

In last year’s draft, the Sixers had four second-round picks and turned none into players that came to training camp. They sold off two (Nos. 39 and 46) and used the others on draft-and-stashes (Jonah Bolden at No. 36 and Mathias Lessort at No. 50).

Now slated to make another four second-round picks, this draft could have a similar outcome. The Athletic’s Michael Scotto reported Thursday that the Sixers' second-round picks are available for trade and they’re open to moving them in exchange for future second-rounders. This isn’t surprising considering they already have 11 contracts on the books for 2018-19 without including their two first-rounders and incoming free agents.

But should the Sixers use at least one of those picks on non-draft-and-stashes, Omari Spellman is the type of the player they should target. His combination of size, shooting (43.3 percent on 150 attempted threes) and defensive potential makes him an intriguing prospect in today’s NBA. 

A five-star recruit out of high school, Spellman was ruled academically ineligible for his true freshman season. During his redshirt year, Spellman lost 30 pounds and returned to play an integral role in Villanova’s national title run. The 6-9 forward averaged 10.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 29.1 minutes, earning Big East Freshman of the Year honors as well. He really shined late in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 13 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks from the Sweet 16 beyond.

For Spellman, his catch-and-shoot three-pointer is easily his most translatable NBA skill. Not only did he hit over 43 percent of his overall threes, but Spellman shot around the same clip on triples from NBA three-point range, per The Stepien's shot chart data. While he does most of his scoring out of pick-and-pops and spot-ups, Spellman contributes in other ways; he has good vision and passing skills, cuts and moves off the ball, and crashes the offensive glass.

Defensively, Spellman works hard, is a strong team defender and a surprisingly-good shot blocker. Although he doesn’t leap out of the gym, he has the body and length (7-2 wingspan, 8-11.5 standing reach) to bother opponents in the post and at the rim. And since he can’t simply outjump everyone, Spellman creates space with his body to be an effective defensive rebounder.

A big that can stretch the floor and pull down offensive boards is already appealing, but can Spellman add more to his game? For instance, as good a shooter he is, if he can put the ball on the floor and create a shot when defenders close out too hard on a spot-up or overplay his shot on a face-up, he’ll become a lot more dangerous. He can also improve at the free throw line after shooting 70 percent at 'Nova.

His other limitations come down to his height and body, of which he's still working to slim down. He doesn’t have great explosiveness jumping off two feet, so he struggles to finish above length around the rim. When he’s switched onto smaller, quicker players, it's tough for him to stay in front. His career's swing skill will be how he defends in space on the perimeter, both in isolations and pick-and-roll coverage.

Since Spellman still has developing to do skill and body-wise, it’s important to note that he’ll already be 21 when he makes his NBA debut.

NBA comparison
While Spellman is a few inches shorter and a better rebounder, the player his game resembles most is Kelly Olynyk. The Heat's forward is a career 37 percent three-point shooter who operates in pick-and-pops and is a solid team defender despite some athletic limitations.

How’d he fit with the Sixers
Even though it sounds like Bolden is coming over next season, Spellman could still carve out a role on the Sixers. He could be utilized as a stretch-five in small lineups to pull opposing centers away from the rim or at the four alongside Joel Embiid or Bolden. Although, unless he cracks the rotation immediately, it's probably best for Spellman’s development to spend time in the G League so he can get a ton of playing time and reps. 

Draft projection 
While all it takes is one team late in the first round to really like him, Spellman will likely be a second-rounder. There’s a good chance he’s there for the Sixers' taking at Nos. 38 and 39, but won’t last until 56 and 60.

More on the Sixers and the NBA draft

Report: Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio

Report: Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio

Kawhi Leonard wants out.

ESPN's Chris Haynes, Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski all reported Friday that Leonard wants to leave San Antonio.

That's not shocking, given the simmering discontent between Leonard and the Spurs. Nobody seems especially happy with how Leonard's quad injury was handled, and that tension evidently hasn't been smoothed over.

What's more interesting is a piece of news from Wojnarowski on where Leonard wants to go next. Wojarowski reports that Leonard "has Los Angeles — preferably the Lakers — at the center of his preferences for a trade destination."

Leonard is a Los Angeles native, and evidently he wants to return home.

Wednesday, Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers and Sixers were both interested in Leonard. 

According to Wojnarowski, Leonard "has expressed nothing directly to Spurs about [his] future."

The Sixers are in a unique position to make a compelling offer for Leonard, given the cap space and assets they possess.

Undoubtedly, this news will lead many Sixers fans to dream up hypothetical trade scenarios that could convince the Spurs to part with their unhappy star. However, if Leonard isn't willing to accept a trade anywhere besides his hometown, there's not much the Sixers can do. 

The Sixers like their young core, but they're obviously willing to explore what it would take to land Leonard. Stay tuned ...

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