Potential Sixers Draft Target Elijah Hughes

This 6’6 guard was one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2019-2020 college season. How does Elijah Hughes project at the next level? How does he fit with the Philadelphia 76ers? Let’s get it.

OVERVIEW

Elijah Hughes was a 3-star recruit out of Beacon, New York. In June 2015, Hughes committed to East Carolina where he made 7 starts and averaged 7.8 points per game his freshman season. Elijah Hughes transferred to Syracuse and sat out the 2017-2018 season. In his first season with the Orange, Hughes made an immediate impact. He started all 34 games in 2018 and was a fantastic spot up and three-point shooter, converting 36.9% from 3 on 6.9 attempts per game.

After losing four starters and lacking a true #1 scoring option prior to the season, saying Elijah Hughes stepped up for the Orange in 2019 would be an understatement. Hughes became the go to scorer for Syracuse and shockingly evolved into the best scorer in the ACC. He was first in the ACC in minutes played (1,175), points per game (19 points in 36.7 minutes per game) and total points scored (609). Hughes had the 6th highest usage percentage (26.6) but was also 2nd best in offensive win shares (3.5) in the ACC.

Putting the Orange on his back…

Due to his excellent offensive season, Hughes was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-ACC First Team. The Orange’s inability to win close games haunted them all season long. Inexperience and inconsistency was the story for Syracuse in 2019. With a stronger team around him, a case could have been made for Elijah Hughes winning ACC Player of the Year. That just didn’t happen.

On April 20th, Elijah Hughes announced that he will be foregoing his final year of eligibility and entering the 2020 NBA Draft. Currently, Elijah Hughes is seen as a second-round pick where the Sixers own four picks in this year’s draft. Could Elijah Hughes be a target for the Philadelphia 76ers? Let’s talk about what Elijah Hughes brings to the table at the next level.

STRENGTHS

  • Above average shooter: During his three-year career in college, Elijah Hughes shot 34.2% from beyond the arc on 552 attempts. Hughes’ best season from three came in 2018/2019 where he shot 36.9% from 3 on 6.9 attempts per game. He had a true shooting percentage of 56.1% and shot 81.3% from the free throw line last year. Elijah Hughes saw his usage rate increase drastically between 2018 and 2019 (22 to 26.6%). He put up 100+ more shots in junior year. Due to the increased workload, it is easy to understand the decrease in percentages from the perimeter.
  • Offensive versatility: Elijah Hughes can get buckets in a myriad of ways. Hughes can shoot and score off the dribble. He can post up with his back to the basket. How about crunch time? Elijah Hughes can play point guard and be a real playmaker in the fourth quarter. In each of his three seasons in college, Hughes showed steady increases in his offensive rating. Elijah Hughes scored 20 or more points 14 times this past season with the Orange. He was utilized primarily as a spot up shooter in 2018 but then saw his role thoroughly expand in 2019 as a shot creator.

WEAKNESSES

  • Mediocre defensive player: Despite being a breakout offensive scorer last season, Elijah Hughes doesn’t bring much to the table on defense. He was often seen struggling with rotations and being late on close outs. At 6’6, I believe he is too small to defend NBA wings. Due to his size, Hughes will likely defend guards in the NBA. Defense is one of the main areas Elijah Hughes needs to put in significant work to thrive at the next level. One area that Hughes does provide is rim protection. It’s worth noting that Elijah Hughes was 20th  in the ACC in blocks with 27 in 2018. He had the 12th best block percentage in 2018 at 3.4%. Hughes had 26 total blocks in 2019, good for 19th in the ACC.
  • High volume shooter: Despite the above average shooting numbers, Elijah Hughes struggled with inconsistency from the perimeter. He would often force it or take low percentage shots. While he averaged 19 points per game, he also tallied nearly 15 shots per game. Hughes will never be a go-to scorer in the NBA. He spent the majority of 2019 on ball so it’s difficult to see how much of an impact he can have without the ball in his hands. He’ll surely need to show more efficiency on offense and an ability to impact the offense without the ball.

FILM HIGHLIGHT

As you can see, Elijah Hughes has a low quick release and shows solid mechanics. This guy is not afraid to let it fly from the perimeter. Hughes shot the 5th most three pointers in 2018 (236) and the 2nd most in 2019 (228) in the ACC. In 32 games played, Elijah made at least one three pointer made in all but two games.

One of Elijah Hughes’ biggest strengths is that he is a versatile scorer. At 6’6, Elijah Hughes is very intriguing as a point guard and playmaker. Here he pulls up from mid-range and shows off his smooth, jump shot. Hughes played the majority of 2019/2020 with the ball in his hands as the Orange’s primary shot creator.

A great look at Elijah Hughes’ offensive arsenal. First up, he’s a great athlete and shows real NBA range from three. Hughes scored 20 or more points 13 times last season for the Syracuse Orange. When he’s on, this is one of the best scorers in the country.

An area Elijah Hughes must continue to develop is his handle and shooting. At 6’6 with very good athleticism, Hughes has upside to eventually become a secondary ball handler with further development. Before that happens, he will most likely be featured in the catch and shoot role off the bench. Elijah Hughes has all the skills to thrive off ball but this wasn’t something he did much in 2019/2020.

POSSIBLE FIT

I don’t see it. I admire Elijah Hughes’ performance during the 2019 season. The way he carried the Orange on his back all year was beyond inspiring. However, I simply see a better prospect working his butt off down in Wilmington, Delaware. The Sixers have a player in Marial Shayok currently blossoming with the Blue Coats. Not too long ago, Rookie Wire ranked Shayok as the top prospect in the G League. Marial Shayok shot 35.8% from 3 on 7.2 attempts per game (260 total attempts). He averaged 22.4 points per game and featured a true shooting percentage of 56.8%.

The question is: what is Elijah Hughes at the next level? He’s not a good enough shooter to be reliability utilized in the DHO and force defenders to fight over screens. While he certainly has the athleticism and size, Hughes hasn’t shown enough defensively to adequately call him a future 3&D at the next level. He’s an older prospect (22 years old) who will most likely look to the G League to find his niche moving forward.

This is clearly a prospect that doesn’t exactly match what the Sixers need at the current moment. Perhaps the Sixers could select Elijah Hughes with one of the later picks in the second round, but personally I believe they should look elsewhere. The team already has Zhaire Smith (better on ball defense) and Marial Shayok (better shooting) currently grooming with the Blue Coats. While I respect Elijah Hughes and his given skillset, it’s just not a match with the Philadelphia 76ers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It would be foolish for the Sixers to bring in another inconsistent, streaky shooter from beyond the arc. In my opinion, the two biggest areas the Sixers must target in the 2020 NBA Draft include pure floor spacers and playmaking guards. Unfortunately, Elijah Hughes doesn’t do either well enough to justify selecting him with their first-round pick or one of their high second round picks. While he certainly shows potential in the catch and shoot, there are other prospects in this draft I would look to groom.

With their current makeup, it doesn’t seem logical for the Sixers to wait for a 22-year-old prospect to develop. I think the best path for Elijah Hughes is to continue developing his handle and his shooting. At 6’6, what intrigues me the most about him is his potential as a point guard in a pick and roll offense. Hughes has very soft touch with a solid handle and developing his skillset further in a pick and roll offense in the G League could be interesting. However, Elijah Hughes certainly shows enough upside to be selected in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft.

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