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June 23, 2023

A closer look at new Sixers two-way player Ricky Council IV

Here's everything you need to know about new Sixers rookie Ricky Council IV.

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Ricky-Council-IV-Sixers-draft_062323_USAT Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Will the Sixers get rotation minutes from their new two-way player?

Despite the whole world finding out exactly who they wanted to try to buy second-round picks from on Thursday night, the Sixers were unable to get into the back end of the 2023 NBA Draft. But they still managed to come away with some interesting prospects to fill their new two-way slots, with Arkansas' Ricky Council IV arguably the biggest get of the group.

With a lot of discussion about the new CBA, this small wrinkle was forgotten about by many — NBA teams will be allowed to carry three two-way players at a time now, which gives them one extra shot at a future rotation player if they choose wisely and develop smartly. What does Council IV bring to the table other than a great story about his name? Read on to find out.

Functional use of elite tools

The reason you take a flier on Council IV is that you can't teach some of what he brings to the table. He's six-foot-five with a six-foot-nine wingspan and can jump out of the gym, which is useful fodder for a highlight reel. Council went by "Fourth" as a kid, and teammates at Arkansas would reportedly call him "C4," an allusion to his name and his ability to detonate on opponents at the rim. 

It's great fodder for highlight reels, but it also shows what separates Council IV from a lot of peers. You aren't going to find this sort of effortless, one-footed leaping ability growing on trees, as Council IV can cut through the air with an effortless swagger. Get him in the open floor, and you'll take your chances that he can go over, around, or through somebody.

But it's Council's ability to leverage those gifts in static situations that will earn him real consideration as a prospect. The same explosiveness that creates those dunks is leveraged as a driver, where Council summons burst out of Euro steps and crossovers to go past an opponent before they realize what has hit them. Council's acceleration is excellent, and he earned strong reviews from scouts for his ability to play through contact.

Arkansas was a spacing-starved team last season. They had just two regular players shoot better than 35 percent from beyond the shorter college three-point line, and there are caveats for each (Joseph Pinion played less than six minutes a game, while Trevon Brazile appeared in only nine games). That makes Council's ability to get to the rim, finish, and generate free throws that much more impressive. Council shot 79.4 percent from the free-throw line on more than six free-throw attempts per game, averaging almost exactly one free-throw attempt for every two shots he took, an excellent and encouraging mark for a guard prospect. As a slasher and cutter, he has a strong base to work from.

For now, his best hope as a defensive player appears to be as a point-of-attack defender, with Council drawing stronger reviews for his on-ball defense. Multiple draft reporters noted that he earned strong reviews for defensive work at the 2023 Draft combine, excelling in the scrimmages on that front.

Will he shoot at the next level?

With a functional jumper, Council IV would have stood very little chance of making it to Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent. But his poor outside touch is why we're discussing him as a Sixers two-way player and not an interesting prospect for another team.

Here's the hard truth: Council IV shot just 30.3 percent from deep in 85 college games for Wichita State and Arkansas, albeit on low-ish volume (238 total attempts). Believers will rest their hope on his improvement as a free-throw shooter, with Council shooting well from the stripe on good volume over his last two seasons in college. But the first problem for Philadelphia comes from the discomfort he has shown as a catch-and-shoot player, with inconsistent mechanics that scouts flagged as a source of pain.

The first part of developing Council IV will be harnessing the fluidity he shows as a pull-up shooter into that catch-and-shoot process because he won't get a high volume of on-ball reps at the NBA level right away, his G-League workload notwithstanding. Even there, Council's ability to attack off of the bounce is an eye-of-the-beholder issue currently, because the raw percentages are pretty rough. He shot 35.6 percent on two-point jumpers during his final college season, and his pull-up percentage from three was even worse. The Sixers will be tasked with figuring out how much of that is due to role and decision-making compared to mechanical and touch issues. The environment here could help him, as his decision-making should be simplified by playing alongside James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, among others. And with teams probably sagging off of him early in his career, Council IV will be put in a sink-or-swim environment as a shooter, which may end up working to his and the team's benefit.

I can't earnestly tell you what to make of his defensive profile overall, but it should be noted here that there are a few concerns about his reads off-ball coming into the league. That's a pretty standard problem for young players across the board, so I'll defer to his reputation as a competitive defender on-ball in that case.

Big picture

Council IV is probably the best example from this UDFA class of Philadelphia's overall philosophy regarding prospects and role players. He has some strong underlying numbers, definable skills paired with elite athleticism, and two-way potential if they can fix his current big flaw. That flaw is significant enough to have pushed him out of the draft entirely, and it will be up to him and the organization to chart a path forward for his jumper. If they successfully fix the shot, they could have a diamond in the rough on their hands.

(And I'm asking, not demanding, for Council IV to ring the bell with his father, the original Ricky Council, and his two older brothers, Ricky Council II and Ricky Council III. Would be pretty high in the power rankings for me.)

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