The age-old mantra of success in professional sports tells us that defense wins championships. But while stopping your opponent from scoring at will is indeed crucial to a team’s success, defensive stops do little good for a team who cannot score itself.
With the worst offensive output in the NBA this season, that would be the problem at hand for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The City of Brotherly Love isn’t showing too much affection toward getting baskets this season, as their 102.6 offensive rating registers as dead last in the league. Adding to their poor overall showing, the Sixers rank in the bottom third across the NBA in field goal percentage, three-point percentage and turnovers per game.
Simply put: the Sixers need players who can score the basketball.
Luckily for them, the draft in June is chock full of guys who fit the bill.
Currently sitting at 23-39, the Sixers are slated to receive the fourth-best lottery odds in the 2017 NBA Draft, a 33.7 percent chance at landing a top-three pick and a 10.4 percent chance of drafting first overall. Odds are, the Sixers will be selecting in the top handful of picks come June.
Even better for the Sixers, thanks to the 2015 trade deadline deal that sent then-Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams packing from Philly, the team will own the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2017 first-round pick should it fall outside of the top three selections.
Holding the second-worst record in the NBA, the 19-43 Lakers have a 55.8 percent chance at landing (and ultimately keeping) a top-three pick. However, depending on how the ping pong balls bounce, the Sixers could find themselves in possession of two top picks in this year’s draft.
With a lack of go-to scorers on the roster and a wealth of assets in the bank, there may be a few players who could help the Sixers in this coming draft.
Any conversation about which player fits with Philadelphia needs to start with the point guard from the University of Washington.
It’s no secret that the Sixers don’t have an excess of supremely talented guards. Although T.J. McConnell has been a pleasant surprise this season, head coach Brett Brown is on record saying he plans to play Ben Simmons at point guard upon his return. In light of that, a lethal perimeter scorer like Fultz would fit in nicely with the team’s current roster.
Fultz averages 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game, all while shooting 41 percent from downtown. At 6-foot-4, Fultz possesses the size and stroke to play an off-ball guard role, should Simmons assume point guard responsibilities.
While what will likely be his lone season in college hasn’t produced many wins, the freshman phenom registers a 7.8 offensive Box Plus/Minus score. That means Fultz has been responsible for nearly eight more points per 100 of his team’s possessions than the average guy on the court. That number would be far and away the highest on the Sixers roster this season, even if NCAA-to-NBA translations are imprecise.
Should Philadelphia win the lottery, Fultz would be their safest bet to add another potential superstar to their budding young core.
A prototypical wing player with nearly every iso-move at his disposal, the 19-year-old Tatum would do wonders as the second scoring punch behind Joel Embiid for Philadelphia.
Tatum has been a pillar of consistency this season at Duke. Suiting up for 23 games, the freshman has managed double-figures in scoring 20 times, with his career high 28 points coming against the University of Virginia – college basketball’s toughest defense.
Connecting on shots from beyond the arc at a rate of 36 percent, Tatum provides the ability to make it difficult on opponents should they choose to double-team Embiid in the post. Coupled with Simmons’ noted playmaking ability, a consistent bucket-getter like Tatum would open up new possibilities in Brown’s playbook.
Along with his proficiency from the field, Tatum also makes those that commit fouls against him pay the price. On the season, the ACC rookie is hitting 87 percent of his free throws.
For the Sixers, Tatum could equal points from just about every area of the basketball court.
Perhaps the most prolific scorer in this upcoming draft, Monk knows how to put the ball in the hoop.
While there are questions about his true fit in the NBA – he measures 6-foot-3 and would be considered an undersized shooting guard – he possesses a trait that translates to just about every level of basketball. Four times this season, Monk surpassed the 30-point mark, including a 47-point effort against the North Carolina Tar Heels in a nationally televised game back on December 18, 2016.
Following the conclusion of the regular season, Monk ranked in the top 10 of every major offensive category in the SEC. He finished atop the list of his contemporaries in seven of those same group of categories.
Playmakers like Simmons and Dario Saric would have field days dropping the ball off to Monk in prime positions, and watching those assist numbers pile up.
Outside of Fultz, this may be the most intriguing fit for the City of Brotherly Love.
Yes, Markkanen is another big man and yes, the Sixers have a lot of those, but adding a stretch-four to pair with Embiid could cause a tremendous headache for opposing defenses. It would be especially wise for the Sixers to consider him if the previously mentioned Lakers pick conveys this season.
In his freshman season at Arizona, by way of Finland, the 7-footer challenges Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball as supreme freshman talents of the PAC-12. Averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, the sweet-shooting forward can do damage from any part of the court.
As one of the tallest starters in his conference, Markkanen not only converts 43 percent of this three-point shots, he leads the entire field in free-throw percentage at 84 percent.
For the Sixers, although adding another frontcourt player doesn’t seem ideal, a unique player like Markkanen is much more than a “regular” big guy. His shooting would complement Embiid’s post ability, drawing the opposing team’s second big man out to the perimeter and allowing Embiid the necessary space to operate down low.
Additionally, a situational lineup featuring Simmons (6-foot-10), Saric (6-foot-10), Markkanen (7-foot), and Embiid (7-foot-2) could present matchup nightmares for their opponents. So much for “small ball.”
The Sixers are still in the midst of their process, but adding one of these four players in the draft could go a long way toward rebuilding a contender in Philadelphia, and eventually, putting some more marks in the win column.
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