March Madness: Scouting for the Sixers
The madness is upon us! No, I’m not talking about the coma-inducingly stupid idea of resigning Andrew Bynum’s dismembered kneecaps. I’m talking about the 19 day, 64 team sprint of delirium that is the NCAA tournament.
Buzzer-beaters, upsets and poor basketball will abound but that’s not the important thing. No, the important thing about the tournament is the opportunity it affords us to scout for future pro talent.
And boy if you’re a Sixers fan you know how badly we need talent. There are few positions we don’t need to upgrade. Unfortunately, this is a thought to be a relatively weak draft by recent standards. There are no “sure-fire” stars. Hell, there’s not even a sure-fire first pick yet.
Double-unfortunately, the Sixers, soon to be mathematically eliminated from a playoff race they’ve been out of for a month, don’t know how to lose strategically. Their scant but nonetheless painful Pyrrhic victories have them set to draft somewhere in 8-11 range this June.
Stuck in that veritable lottery no-man’s land, it’s unlikely the 7-6 will be able to land a truly transformative player to build upon, but that won’t stop me from hoping.
Here are some players to keep an eye on, to kindle the imagination for a brighter 2013 Sixers season. I’ve taken the liberty of breaking them down by tournament region.
Mason Plumlee, Duke Blue Devils – 6’11, 245lbs, 23 years old
NBA Comparison: Older, more loathsome, Meyers Leonard
First tournament game: 3/22 vs. Albany
God I hate the Plumlees. They would be a small step up from the Winklevoss’ but there are three of them, which more than makes up the difference. Plumlee, like his older brothers is a hyper-athletic big man that is someone light on the actual skills and heavy on overwhelming college level players. He’s put up arguably better college numbers than the other Plumlae, but I don’t think that much changes his rather modest pro outlook. There’s not a good track record of drafting big, raw, white dudes. Nor is there a good track record of drafting old (relatively) college players. I don’t think Mason Plumlee will buck either trend. Also he went to Duke…so there’s that.
More after the break…
Gary Harris, Michigan State Spartans – 6’4, 210lbs, 18 years old
NBA Comparison: Worse shooting but better rounded OJ Mayo
First tournament game: 3/21 vs. Valparaiso
To be honest, I haven’t seen a ton of Harris this year but it likely won’t matter as he’s apparently leaning toward staying another year in school. He plays on a veteran-laden and focused Tom Izzo team. He’s an above average athlete who fits the mold of the “new NBA 2-guard” perfectly (Think Bradley Beal, Mayo, Eric Gordon etc.). He’s a decent shooter and ball handler though nothing REALLY jumps out. Tenacious defender with a high upside at his very young age. He would be a pretty solid pickup by the Sixers, especially if it means moving on from Turner and Swaggy Young. But, again, he’s unlikely to declare at this point.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga Bulldogs – 7’0, 238, 21 years old
NBA comparison: Rich man’s Fabicio Oberto (no it’s not just because of the hair…)
First tournament game: 3/21 vs. Southern University
Mobile big man with good touch and Fabio’s hair. Plays well around the rim, above average hands and touch out to 15 feet, maybe beyond. He actually has a fairly developed offensive game compared to other big men in this draft range. Doesn’t rebound all too well for a 7-footer with only 7.2 per game. Will never be a plus defender in the paint at the NBA level either by my estimation. Also, having played out in WCC his resume versus elite competition is lacking. A big tournament could give him quite the bump, but probably not enough so that I’d want the 7-6 taking him, the ghost of Nik Vucevic still looms too large for me to move on to a new, less talented, quasi-foreign center. He projects to be a career rotation player and not much more.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA Bruins – 6’5, 223, 19 years old
NBA comparison: perimeter version of Thaddeus Young
First tournament game: 3/22 vs. Minnesota
Hopes were high for Shabazz coming out of high school, where he was arguably the most sought after prospect this side of Nerlens Noel. One year at college has not completely popped that bubble, but it’s not bolstered it either. Muhammad is a decent lefty shooter with a crafty mid-range game of floaters and push shots. He’s an above average, though not breathtaking, athlete who competes incredibly hard on both ends but still lacks a totally useful right hand. The problem lies in his position, he isn’t big enough to be an NBA 3 and isn’t quick enough laterally to guard NBA 2s. While that naturally raises some flags, he could easily be a guy who gets you 20+ a night at the NBA level, especially if he either develops his right more or gets a consistent 3-point shot in his arsenal. Even with the aforementioned concerns, in a draft this weak he will probably be picked before the Sixers have a crack at him. Should he fall, I’d certainly take a long look at him. He could really help a team that has trouble scoring from, well, everywhere and his hustle and heart would always be appreciated here. Not to mention, Shabazz would greatly improve our relatively boring first-name stable that only really includes Jrue and Swaggy (that’s his birth name right?).
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Hoosiers – 6’5, 210, 20 years old
NBA comparison: More offensively developed Avery Bradley meets poor-man’s Dwyane Wade
First tournament game: 3/22 vs. James Madison University
My fingers are firmly crossed here. Oladipo is almost everything you’d want in an NBA 2-guard already and certainly as much as you could hope for coming out of this draft. He’s a truly elite athlete in every way, has prototypical size for a shooting guard and plays with a fire that you don’t see too often. He has shown a penchant for raising his play for big opponents and stages. His offense is still a little rough around the edges, relying mostly on catch-and-shoots, one dribble pulls up, and tantalizingly Dwyane Wade-ish forays to the rim. He is still a bit away from an advanced “pro-ready” offensive game, but at only 20, he still has some room to grow. I am hoping beyond hope that Oladipo falls to the Sixers, he would team well with Holiday and has true star potential, rare for this draft.
Cody Zeller, Indiana Hoosiers – 6’11, 240lbs, 20 years old
NBA comparison: Taller/more polished Tyler Hansbrough
Ok, what’s the deal with all these big white dudes?!? Sorry, that wasn’t a very scientific first impression of draft stock, but still. Zeller, like his older brother Tyler (Of UNC and the Cleveland Cavaliers), is tall, very mobile and fairly polished offensively. He runs the court very well for a player his size and can step out and hit jumpers reliably. Also like his brother, however, he isn’t terribly explosive and doesn’t quite have the post-game to make up for it. Zeller has often struggled when matched up with long, athletic big men. Unfortunately, that’s the primary type of big man at the next level. He doesn’t rebound or block shots particularly well either, which raises some concerns about his defensive potential at the next level.
At one point he was thought to be the likely number one overall pick this year, but has taken a modest hit due to his lower ceiling. While he wouldn’t be an absolutely awful pick, I wouldn’t bet any share of the Sixers rebuilding effort on his ability to be a transformative player. And again, the NBA has a long history of exposing tall, unexplosive, white dudes. Though, with a gun to my head, I’d take this incarnation over the previous two listed.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV Runnin’ Rebels – 6’7, 239lbs, 20 years old
NBA comparison: homeless man’s Charles Barkely. Or, a more athletic Paul Millsap
Next tournament game: 3/21 vs. Cal
Man, if Bennett were just a few inches taller… said every scout ever. Then again, if he was, he would likely be the first overall pick and thus, not in this particular piece. Bennett is an explosive athlete wrapped in elegantly in the shell of a rhinoceros. A man that beefy just shouldn’t be able to elevate the way he does. Nor should he be able to shoot out to 3-point range, but he can. Bennett compliments those two already impressive abilities with a surprisingly refined post-up game and some truly NBA ready moves. At just 6’7″ though, it might be tough for him to find a position in the league. Despite his freakish 7’1″ wingspan, he might have trouble matching up inside with 4s, and is FAR from quick enough to handle small forwards on the perimeter. He could wind up in the dreaded Derrick Williams zone as a pro. Bennett also has a decent history of injury problems. Nothing major, but he has always been dogged by nagging injuries, like the shoulder issues that slowed him this season. He has a truly fantastic compilation of skills and physical prowess, just 2-inches too few of it. Bennett’s stock will likely revolve heavily around the NBA combine and how tall he REALLY is. 6’8+ and he’s going well ahead of the Sixers pick. Less than that and who knows. I’d take him, worst case, he’s a bigger, more talented Thad Young… with injury concerns… told you this wasn’t the best of drafts.
So there you have it, seven guys to watch as a 76ers fan stuck with the tournament and the promise of a lottery pick and not much else. Oh well, there’s always next year right?
Note : In case you should wonder, regardless of some other current mock drafts, barring some sort of catastrophe, I give roughly a 0 percent chance to Otto Porter falling past the top 4 picks.
 I’m not a huge NCAA hoops fan, and I’m not shy about it. The quality of play is much worse and deteriorating, I have no built in school allegiance and I hate the organization for being corrupt and unfair. Other than that though…play on.
 At this point in the past few years we had already long since known whose name David Stern would call first. That it was so apparent so early speaks volumes to the talent of said players. Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, well deserved first picks all around.
 The very nature of this tournament and the mid-late lottery slots of the draft in which the Sixers will be picking, lend themselves to wild fluctuations in stock. The guys who are going top 3, are likely fairly safe where they are. But the guys 4-14 are subject to major shifts based on tournament play (and then after that individual workouts and combine numbers)
 Yeah I’m not hopeful either…
 That’s the proper Latin plural right?
 That said, Williams has played impressively this season when getting major minutes at the PF position, something to keep in mind.