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June 19, 2019

NBA Mock Draft roundup: Is Cameron Johnson the favorite for Sixers at No. 24?

Johnson is one of a few top contenders for the Sixers in the first round.

We are now just a day away from the 2019 NBA Draft, and with the Sixers further from the top of the board than they have been in years, Thursday night is almost completely unpredictable. They are at the mercy of the 23 teams ahead of them in the first round, a stark change from making selections from a very short list at the top of the board.

That is a good thing, obviously, because it means the Sixers are much closer to competing for titles than they are for lottery odds. But it makes predicting what they'll do on draft night quite a bit harder, as you'll see within the picks of assorted draft experts below.

With the draft nearly upon us, we'll expand today's mock discussion to picks No. 33 and No. 34 in the second round as well, at least for outlets that provided picks from 1-60. Soon enough, there won't be a need for mocks, but here's what the experts are saying with time ticking down.

ESPN, Jonathan Givony

Sixers select: Eric Paschall (No. 24), Matisse Thybulle (No. 33), Chuma Okeke (No. 34)

The explanation

Is this to correct the "injustice" of trading away Mikal Bridges during last year's draft? I'm sure that's what a few Villanova fans would say if this is the route the Sixers end up going on Thursday night. Here's what Givony has to say about the selection of Paschall:

The Sixers are flush with creators and scoring at every position, and they will need to be creative in adding young, cheap players to their somewhat shallow rotation, considering their luxury-tax situation if Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris return in free agency. 
 Paschall is one of the more ready prospects to contribute in this draft class, turning 23 in November, with a chiseled physique and an impressive national championship pedigree. Paschall's athleticism, toughness, perimeter shooting ability and defensive versatility will fit right in with the Sixers, as they've expressed interest in adding older players who bring exactly these qualities. [ESPN]

This is a bit high to take Paschall in my view, but in this version of reality, the Sixers end up getting a guy they've been linked to at No. 24 (Thybulle) and one of my favorite second-round targets for Philly in Okeke. For a team that didn't force a lot of turnovers last season, getting disruptive off-ball defenders would be a shot in the arm for a unit that struggled to put things together until the playoffs.

The Sixers leaning into their size advantage and trying to build an army of wing athletes around their core would be an excellent way to move forward, in this writer's opinion. 

The Athletic, Sam Vecenie

Sixers select: Matisse Thybulle (No. 24), Ty Jerome (No. 33), Terence Davis (No. 34)

The explanation

As we discussed the last time we went through a mock roundup, Vecenie believes Philadelphia may have been the team that promised Thybulle in the first round. No one has been able to confirm that yet (and even if they draft him, I doubt they would), but the Sixers have masked their plans pretty well up until now.

With picks 33 and 34, it’s easy for Philadelphia to mask the promise by bringing in players who could be in the mix at No. 24, as those same players could potentially be in the mix at No. 33. But they also haven’t brought in a ton of players with potential to be picked ahead of No. 24. I wouldn’t call this a certainty by any stretch. I’m not reporting that this is a promise. But teams are in the same boat as everyone else around the industry, trying to narrow down potential outcomes for their opposition. [The Athletic]

Thybulle's shot may be his swing skill at the next level, though there should also be some questions about his ability to translate his defensive numbers at Washington in a man-to-man scheme. As he rose to prominence the last two years, Thybulle played predominantly in a zone, and that will be important to monitor to start his NBA career.

I'm less enthused by the other two guys listed here, and I'll get into that a little bit before the draft on Thursday. Here are Vecenie's thoughts on Davis, who most of you probably know less about than Jerome:

Arguably no player has helped himself as much as Davis has in the pre-draft process. He went from participating in the senior-only Portsmouth Invitational, to not getting an initial invite to even the G League Elite Camp, to getting a last-second invite, to earning his way into the NBA Draft Combine, to being one of the absolute standouts of that event. Davis has hid from absolutely zero comers this pre-draft process, and he’s gotten the better of the large majority of them in his workouts. He particularly has impressed in Philadelphia, so I tossed him here. [The Athletic]

CBS Sports, Reid Forgrave

Sixers select: Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State

The explanation

Now here is an off-the-wall suggestion from Forgrave, or at least one that hasn't been suggested by a lot of prognosticators. That's not because Kabengele can't play, of course, and he's a name that has been debated in certain segments of Sixers world over the last few weeks. There's an intriguing blend of size and skill there if a team can unlock his game.

Forgrave's take:

The 76ers lack of options at backup center might have derailed their chances of making an NBA Finals this past season. Who knows what the Sixers will look like next season with Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler entering unrestricted free agency. But Kabengele will fill a need no matter what, as a big, athletic, NBA body who can stretch the floor (36.9% from 3-point range last season). He could be a pick that, a few years from now, we're perplexed didn't get selected in the top 10. [CBS Sports]

I'm of the mind that the Sixers should be focusing their draft on positions that aren't center, because the free agency crop at center is reasonably crowded this summer. Someone decent and cheap should shake loose at some point, and it will be harder to find value on the wing or at guard if they wait to address those needs until July.

But if they go this route, the feedback on Kabengele is largely positive. His compete level is high and he is a good shooter for a center, both of which are attractive to a team looking to win now like Philly.

The Ringer, Staff

Sixers select: Cameron Johnson (No. 24), Terence Davis (No. 33), Luguentz Dort (No. 34)

The explanation

As noted last time, The Ringer simply lists their overarching scouting reports with each prospect, so I will include Johnson's below in lieu of an explanation for the pick.

Strengths: Good spot-up shooter with a compact form and good footwork. He has the body control to balance himself midair to hit shots off movement. Uses screens and relocates at an NBA level. If he masters his off-screen shooting, he could become a tough cover due to his size. Runs the floor hard in transition. He’s a leak-out threat who will benefit from NBA pace.

Weaknesses: Unable to create much off the dribble. Average athlete with a slow first step; he takes short, choppy steps on drives. His shot also isn’t quite as accurate off the dribble. Subpar at-rim finisher against length, and he rarely draws fouls. Despite his height, he’s also not a post threat. Improved perimeter defender following his hip procedure but he’s still stiff moving laterally, and struggles to contain scorers who change directions quickly. Lacks ideal strength to be an effective defender on switches against larger players. He’s also not a great rebounder for his size. [The Ringer]

Davis' name emerges once again here, and Dort makes his first appearance as a potential target at the beginning of round two. There was some early buzz that he could be the guy at No. 24, and a tenacious on-ball defender like Dort would certainly be a welcome addition to a group that struggled to deal with guards for most of last season. We will revisit all three of these names before the draft.

Bleacher Report, Jonathan Wasserman

Sixers select: Dylan Windler (No. 24), Carsen Edwards (No. 33), Terence Davis (No. 34)

The explanation

Shooting is the name of the game here, with Wasserman directing two of the draft's best shooters to Philadelphia. All three of these guys participated in group workouts for Philadelphia, and if last year's crop was anything to judge by, making the trek to Philadelphia may be an important sign when predicting if they'll end up here or not.

Wasserman thinks Windler slots in comfortably in Philly:

One of the nation's most efficient scorers, Windler projects as a fit for a team with stars in place. The Sixers would value his off-ball offense as a spot-up shooter and cutter. [Bleacher Report]

It's hard to disagree with that logic, even if this is a little rich for my blood. If the Sixers keep their current core in place, Windler will probably draw the team's worst defender a lot of the time, which will make his job a lot easier on the perimeter. He'll shoot over small guards and cut by slower ones, so his value might increase based on the situation.

Sports Illustrated, Jeremy Woo

Sixers select: Cameron Johnson (No. 24), Jontay Porter (No. 33), Chuma Okeke (No. 34)

The explanation

This might be the most interesting (and controversial) grouping of players from any outlet I have seen. Johnson is a conventional pick at No. 24 as a guy who can come in and presumably space the floor right away, assuming his shot translates. Things get crazy from there.

I wrote about both these guys as potential second-round targets, and Okeke is a player I'm particularly fond of as a fit in Philadelphia. They would have to wait a bit for him after he tore his ACL during the NCAA Tournament, but Woo makes the case on why the value is too good to pass up here:

Okeke has a case to go in the first round, and before his season-ending ACL injury, he was tracking in that direction. Now, he could end up going in the 20s, and he seems unlikely to fall out of the 30s, at worst. He could be a big-time value pick for someone in this range, and fits nicely with the Sixers as a floor-spacing forward. If not for the knee issues, there would likely be much more buzz here. [Sports Illustrated]

But using both of those high second-round picks on injured guys is tough, especially with the extensive injury history throughout Porter's family, and the state of the draft board as Woo presents it. Just a few of the names on the board in Woo's version of the draft universe — Edwards, Dort, Grant Williams, Naz Reid, and Daniel Gafford, all players with cases to be selected in that early-second range or perhaps earlier.

And really, this highlights the difficulty of the mock draft exercise. Everything hinges on how the board shakes out for real because you never know who might be available in the early '30s. The good news for Philadelphia is that they have flexibility because of their pick volume, and if a player starts to fall that they covet, they have the means to move up and get him.

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