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June 24, 2019

2019 NBA Draft grades: Sixers receive mixed reviews for their management on draft night

The fun thing about grading the NBA Draft is that even the people who dedicate their entire lives to the process with millions of dollars of infrastructure behind them can screw up. Things go sideways because of injuries, character concerns, or any number of other factors, and what looks like a good pick on draft day can turn into a nightmare in short order.

But there's a lot to be learned about organizations (and executives) by how they operate on draft day. Some teams, like the Spurs, put a premium on international players. Some teams prioritize experience, some teams bet they can turn athletes into shooters, there's a little something for everyone. With just two rounds, it's harder to pin an ethos on a team than it is with, say, the NFL Draft, but the process is something to be studied in order to help us understand what a team might do moving forward.

Plus, what's the fun of waiting three years before making a bunch of declarations? Here's what some draft experts thought of Elton Brand's first big night at the draft.

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic

Grade: N/A

The explanation

Sam did not technically do grades for the NBA Draft, but he did make a detailed list of superlatives. The Sixers were at the top of his "What happened?" list, which seems like a bad sign to me.

Let’s run through what we should probably start calling the anti-process, because none of it is a great look. First, they started with No. 24, a pick they were widely rumored to have promised to Matisse Thybulle early in the process. The Celtics knew that, sniffed it out, and forced the 76ers hand by picking Thybulle at No. 20 and convincing the 76ers to part with picks No. 24 and 33 to get their man. I don’t want to say that the 76ers’ promise to Thybulle was an open secret in the league, but it was a decision that rumors circulated about within the league as early as the NBA Draft Combine back in May. Heck, if I was able to sniff it out in my mock draft, of course the Celtics were able to and force the Sixers’ hand. This was a poor choice that ultimately cost them a valuable pick in the process (one that the Celtics used on Carsen Edwards, a player who would have fit with the 76ers and one who I ultimately just think is a better basketball player than Thybulle). [The Athletic]

He goes on through all of Philadelphia's moves from draft night, including the trade involving Jonathon Simmons and swapping out No. 34 for future picks, neither of which thrilled the fanbase. You can read the rest of Vecenie's article if you so choose, but to avoid just sharing it here wholesale, this is how he wrapped up his thoughts.

None of this was good, and to add insult to injury, every player that was selected at the spot the 76ers traded would have been a pretty useful potential role player for a team that desperately needs more depth. Elton Brand really did not handle this well in any way. [The Athletic]

I'm not as big on Edwards as Vecenie and think Thybulle makes a lot of sense in Philly, but our general thoughts are aligned here. The Sixers came away from draft night looking naive, and that's not what you want to say about a GM after their first crack running the draft. It's especially painful when last year's draft, run by a head coach with no GM experience, produced a surplus of value and turned up a steal at the bottom of the first.

RELATED: What are Sixers accomplishing with Jonathon Simmons trade? | Sixers trade No. 34 pick in frustrating, yet defensible swap with Hawks

Ricky O'Donnell, SB Nation

Grade: B+ for Thybulle pick

The explanation

Thybulle might be the best perimeter defender in the draft. The senior from Washington put up humongous block and steal rates within the Huskies’ zone defense this year. He’s unpolished offensively, but did show ability as a transition scorer and has started to make strides as a spot-up shooter. Thybulle is long and strong, and projects as a lockdown defender. [SB Nation]

I think it would be hard to argue against Thybulle as the best perimeter defender in the class. You don't break records set by Gary Payton without some serious talent, zone defense or not.

Chris Stone, Sporting News

Grade: D

The explanation

Philadelphia's interest in Washington wing Matisse Thybulle was seemingly telegraphed before the draft, and Boston punished the franchise by selecting him at No. 20, earning No. 24 and No. 33 out of the 76ers in exchange for his rights. Thybulle is an intriguing 3-and-D prospect who fits well with what Philadelphia needs in its rotation, but that's a steep price.

In the second, the 76ers snagged Marial Shayok. He was a productive scorer as a senior for Iowa State, but he projects as a fringe prospect. Philadelphia also traded off several of its second-rounders in an effort to shed rookie deals. It's an odd move given the Sixers will need cheap players to surround a hopeful "Big Four." [Sporting News]

Yes, it was certainly an odd move to punt the chance to bring in young talent down the road. I feel like someone else may have written about that at some point.

Stone wasn't the only guy at Sporting News who wasn't a big fan of Philly's draft. Mike DeCourcy listed Thybulle as one of his "worst reaches" of the draft, citing his middling shooting ability as a potential concern as he enters the league. DeCourcy also thought Nassir Little was one of the steals of the draft, and he's worse at basketball than Thybulle in almost every conceivable way (albeit at a younger age), so make of that what you will.

Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer

Grade: B for Thybulle pick

The explanation

The 76ers packaged the nos. 24 and 33 overall picks to the Celtics to move up to no. 20 and draft Thybulle, one of the most interesting 3-and-D prospects in this year’s draft. Thybulle is fairly limited offensively, but he shouldn’t have to do much beyond make open 3s now that he’s playing next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and potentially Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, too, depending on what happens in free agency. His value at the next level will come down to whether he will have as much of an impact on defense playing man-to-man as he did in Washington’s 2-3 zone. [The Ringer]

Perhaps if the Sixers didn't shoot themselves in the foot by having their promise leak, they would have had another pick to use on a guy who doesn't profile as, "fairly limited offensively." 

RELATED: Sixers delivered on a promise to Thybulle, and they paid for it

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports

Grade: D for Thybulle, C for Marial Shayok

The explanation

Parrish is not a fan of going Thybulle in round one, if the grade wasn't enough to convey that to you:

The 76ers traded up with Boston to make this pick. I'll be honest. I don't get it. The 76ers needed to add shooting, and here they trade up to add a non-shooter in Thybulle. He can be a great defender, but he played in a zone in college. I'm not sure why you trade up for this guy on this roster. [CBS Sports]

A controversial take — I think the need for shooting in Philadelphia is beginning to be overstated. Yes, the Sixers would obviously love to put as many shooters on the floor as they can around their stars. But they can't ignore every other basketball trait to do so, and we saw during Ben Simmons' rookie year that putting shooters on the floor doesn't help in the playoffs if they're getting torched on the other end.

And by the way, even if you load up on shooters, teams are going to ignore non-shooters on the perimeter and impact how you try to run your offense. The Raptors basically spent all of the NBA Finals daring Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to shoot, and they have the benefit of playing with the best shooting backcourt of all-time. A mid-to-late first is not going to change how important it is for Philadelphia's tentpole stars to improve as shooters.

CBS' Kyle Boone handled the second round for this write-up, and he had this to say about Shayok:

After transferring from Virginia to Iowa State, Shayok showed himself to be one of the best players in the Big 12 as a do-it-all scorer and physical rebounder from his position. He's not an elite athlete and tends to be turnover prone but has some upside as an offensive weapon. [CBS Sports

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated

Grade: B

The explanation

Woo was a bigger fan of the Thybulle pick than others, though even in his praise of Philadelphia, Woo had to make mention of Boston snookering the Sixers.

My read on this is that Boston sussed out that the Sixers were the mystery team who had tried to shut Thybulle down, dating back to before the draft combine. They were able to extract additional draft value out of them by taking him here and then moving back. This is shrewd operating by the Celtics, and remains a solid pick for the Sixers—Thybulle needs to grow offensively, but his defense could be outstanding, and he fits nicely with Philly as a long-term role player. [Sports Illustrated]

The good news is that the Sixers have a great track record of success in trades with the Boston Celtics involving Washington players.

David Kenyon, Bleacher Report

Grade: B+

The explanation

Let's go to the blurb before I editorialize.

The Sixers added a whole bunch of defense. Thybulle won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year with 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game, and Shayok is an intelligent player with a great wingspan. Whether the duo is efficient in limited offensive touches will dictate if they're rotational or situational pieces. [Bleacher Report]

Thybulle was a tremendous defensive player in college and the Sixers definitely went and got him for his defensive impact, but this may be the first time I've seen someone suggest the Shayok pick was about defense. He's long, but you're mostly betting on him to shoot above all else.

MORE: The Sixers are getting a quality kid in Matisse Thybulle

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