I had this article written before Sam Hinkie decided to take over the NBA trade deadline, so I needed to do some revisions in the wake of so many changes…
As we end the All-Star break and get set to start the unofficial second half of the season, it is now time for draft gurus to come out with their mock drafts. Perhaps no man’s drafts are as highly regarded as Chad Ford’s of ESPN. Whether you call it Tanking 2.5 or not, the Sixers are in desperate need of improvement if they want to have a chance of winning any games next year. In his latest Mock Draft, he has the Sixers picking D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State with the third pick and Malik Pope of UNLV with the No. 14 pick. There may end up being more picks with the deals made at the trade deadline, but for now these two picks are fairly safe to consider a certainty.
Of course, it’s way too early to say if this will happen, but it’s fun to speculate anyways.
With the departure of Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels, one of the key needs for the Sixers becomes point guard play, but at least a guard is needed. Russell, a true freshmen, has shown that he is a top player and his stock has steadily risen since the season began. His break out game came against Minnesota, where he scored 25(!) points in the first half.
He is an incredible scorer, averaging nearly 19 a game. He has a very quick first step, and has the ability to shoot it from deep when defenders back off from him. He’s also an exceptional passer, averaging nearly 5.5 assists a game. His biggest issue is that he tries to do too much (bad passing, shot selection, etc.) especially against the better teams he’s faced. His defense has also not been stellar as of yet. However, he has the athleticism to defend at the next level so if he does join the Sixers and begins to learn from Brett Brown, that doesn’t seem like much of an issue. The Sixers would welcome a guard with a game that resembles James Harden’s, and D’Angelo Russell is something they desperately need.
Malik Pope is a player with athleticism galore and is a name that has many fans (myself included) asking “What are you thinking?”. Pope doesn’t start for UNLV, sat out most of his junior and senior years of high school, and only averages about six points per game. However, a 6’10” player who can play the 3 is something of a rarity. His ball handling and athleticism are rare for a player of his size, but there is still such a small sample size for him. Pope’s length does make him appealing as a defender too, as he could be a player that defends multiple positions. His upside would be worth taking a chance on, since he’d be their 2nd pick of the first round, and is a somewhat intriguing prospect.
There’s a huge chance that the draft will shake up differently than a Mock Draft this early (hey, maybe the Sixers will go on a run and sneak into the 8th seed, but I digress.). However, these picks aren’t unrealistic either, and it’ll be interesting to see how these players finish out the season, and how the Sixers evaluate these players after the season.