First Quarter Big Board: Assessing the Sixers’ 2019 Draft Options

The Sixers are projected to win 55 games this season as things currently stand. Personally, I think they will cap out a little closer to 60 than to 55. But that doesn’t mean that they are without weakness. In fact, even if they do finish in that 55 to 60 range for total wins, I would be surprised if they made it to The Finals this season. In other words, they have plenty of holes to address regardless of the outcome of this season, and I’m going to identify them from the get-go.

  • As of right now, the team makes 34.8% of its three-point attempts (18th).
  • The Sixers’ bench scores 31 points per game (24th) and allows 38 points per game (29th). (In contrast, the starters score 79 points per game (6th) and give up 67 points per game (1st)). With a point differential of just +2.0, it is very clear that the 2nd unit is completely ill-equipped to hold or expand on leads that the starters build before being subbed out.
  • Amir Johnson, the Sixers’ backup center in most lineups, is averaging 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 fouls, and 1 turnover in 11 minutes per game this season. That is putrid.

The Picks

Having presented those weaknesses, I’m going to identify the draft picks belonging to the Sixers in this summer’s draft with which they can explore cheap, young options to fill those holes.

  • 2019 1st Round: 1) via Sacramento Kings (top 1 protected), 2) Sixers’ Pick (projected 24th overall)
  • 2019 2nd Round: 1) via Chicago Bulls (unprotected; projected 33rd overall), 2) via Sacramento Kings (unprotected; projected 44th overall), 3) Sixers’ Pick (projected 54th overall)

For the sake of time and space, I’m not going to heavily discuss the options that the Sixers would have should they land the first overall pick because the Kings (13-12) are highly unlikely to land that first overall pick. Given the Kings’ record, it will most likely be rewarded to the Boston Celtics in the later stages of the lottery.

But, should lightning strike the same person twice, there is one player who I will suggest taking number 1 overall because of how perfectly he would fit on this roster.

G/F RJ Barrett (Freshman; Duke) – 6’7″, 202 lbs

24 points (48%/37%/63%), 7 rebounds, 4 assists 

At 6’7″ and over 200 pounds already, the Canadian youngster does two fantastic things for this team just upon being drafted: 1) provides versatility across 3 of the 5 positions and 2) bolsters the bench. Given his body, Barrett can play shooting guard and small forward without question; he could probably play a touch of power forward in an ultra-small-ball lineup. Given his ball-handling skill and passing ability, Barrett can be trusted with point guard duties at the next level as well.

Assuming that the Sixers retain their core 4 and upgrade their starting power forward (and I mean an every-day power forward; it would be unrealistic of me to say that Barrett can play starting power forward minutes as a rookie), Barrett would likely come off the bench in his rookie season. Averaging 24 points per game on 48% FG, 37% 3FG, and 63% FT, with 7 rebounds and 4 assists, Brett Brown could just give him the keys to the Ferrari and tell the rest of the bench to step on the gas.

Now for the more likely options.

24th Pick: SG Zach Norvell (Soph; Gonzaga) – 6’5″, 205 LBS

17.6 PPG (44%/38%/83%), 5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 SPG

The elite teams in this league don’t just have spacing in the starting lineup, they have spacing all over the roster. Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell, Jr. would add depth to the Sixers’ ability to space the floor in any lineup. With Landry Shamet having played a lot of point guard in college and developing out as a multi-skilled JJ Redick, the vision of Shamet and Norvell sharing the court together as a 2nd unit “splash brothers” (extremely) lite is very intriguing. He won’t solve the Sixers’ lack of shooting depth by himself. But, he and Shamet can serve as a dangerous 2nd unit backcourt for the foreseeable future.

If he produces, Norvell is a dependable backup solution on late-first-round money. Thus, the Sixers can aggregate the money they would use on a more expensive player in the same role to another 2nd unit need, thus theoretically magnifying their depth.

33rd Pick: F Eric Paschall (Sr; Villanova) – 6’7″, 260 LBS

14.5 PPG (43%/33%/72%), 6 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal

The Sixers made the right pick (in terms of best fit) last summer when they took one of my Villanova brethren with the 10th overall pick. And then they didn’t. As everyone knows, they traded Mikal Bridges to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and an unprotected first round pick. They will have an opportunity to redeem themselves this summer.

Eric Paschall, with his body type, athleticism, and skill set, is a tremendous fit for virtually any NBA team. I’m not unreasonably biased towards my school, I’m just stating a fact. I believe that he has a great combination of all the attributes that make NBA teams salivate. He probably doesn’t project as a starter because there is a ceiling to his skills as they currently stand at 22 years of age. But, the 2-time national champion can be a difference-maker off of any bench. With the ability to jump through the roof, the body to bully most small forwards, and the skills to stretch the floor, Eric is a viable solution for any team looking to upgrade its second unit.

For the Sixers, the idea of Paschall as a small forward, power forward, and small-ball center is polarizing, especially for a guy who can shoot the long ball. He provides versatility that would allow Brett Brown to run any lineup of players once the starters take a rest. If you like Paul Millsap, you will like Eric Paschall too.

44th Pick: G Ty Jerome (Junior; UVA) – 6’5″, 195 LBS

14 PPG (44%/43%/72%), 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 2 Steals

Brace yourselves, this is not going to be a popular take. When I look at Ty Jerome, I see an immediate and definitive upgrade from TJ McConnell. I love TJ, don’t get me wrong. But his full-court defense, hustle plays, energy off the bench, finishing at the rim are replaceable. The right player provides all of that in addition to whatever skills they add that TJ doesn’t. The reality is that TJ McConnell is small and can’t provide really any spacing on the perimeter with long distance shooting.

Enter Ty Jerome. UVA’s starting point guard has the size of a combo guard and the shooting prowess to provide spacing as a backup. Under the tutelage of head coach Tony Bennett, Jerome wouldn’t even see the court if he weren’t a capable defender. His 2 steals per game indicate that he is one of the more aggressive and aware defensive guards available. I get it, people love TJ; but they might love Ty Jerome more.

54th Pick: C Marques Bolden (Jr; Duke) – 6’11”, 250 LBS

 5 PPG (57%/0%/55%), 4 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 2 Blocks

I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone want a player who averages 5 points and 4 rebounds per game? Well, Marques Bolden hasn’t exactly had an easy college career. The former 5-star recruit overcame a lot of adversity along the way and fell victim to an over-crowded roster of 5-star prospects. With Wendell Carter, Jr. and Marvin Bagley III all in the NBA, Bolden is getting his opportunity.

Yes, he’s only averaging 5 points per game (on a roster featuring the top 3 recruits in the country) as a supporting cast member. But, he’s also averaging 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in very limited minutes on a team that is very crowded in the front-court. Those 2 blocks in the 18 minutes he is playing per game indicate that he is a capable rim protector.

I’m not saying that Marques Bolden is necessarily being restricted in showcasing his skill. However, I am saying that he can fill the Nerlens Noel role as a reliable backup who can protect the rim. And I am adamantly saying that he is an upgrade over Amir Johnson.