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May 02, 2017

Ranking the projected top draft picks according to Sixers’ Defense-Pace-Space criteria

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A couple of weeks ago, we ranked Sixers players according to Brett Brown’s “defense, pace, and space” criteria. It’s an idea the coach has often expressed during his tenure in Philly, but the Sixers are now in position to add more long-term pieces.

As a reminder, here is the quote.

“I’m assuming by now, most of the room would say, ‘You are defense, pace, and space,’” Brown said. “We’re going to guard in the city of Philadelphia, we’re going to run, and we’re going to embrace the three-point line. And so if that remains to be true and it will, it should lead us in a draft, it should lead us in a free-agent decision, and it certainly leads us with [roster decisions].

“You don’t have to tick all three [boxes], you better go two for three or have the ability to move into that area in a very clear way.”

I’m going to put the projected top draft picks through the same subjective exercise. How do they generally rank in each of these categories from a 1-5 scale? Again, this isn’t meant to be the be-all, end-all. All we’re doing here is a quick exercise to identify strengths and weaknesses. As a refresher:

•    Defense: Can you guard?
•    Pace: Can you play fast?
•    Space: Can you make threes?

1.    Poor
2.    Below Average
3.    Average
4.    Above Average
5.    Elite

Markelle Fultz: 11

Fultz’s defense probably isn’t up to average yet, but he has the tools to be at least that in the NBA. I thought his shooting this season was excellent considering the high difficulty of his attempts, but we have to subtract a point for the sometimes-inconsistent mechanics and poor free-throw shooting.

Fultz is a great prospect, but his greatest assets are his pick-and-roll prowess and ability to create his own shot. We’re obviously not accounting for those things here.

Verdict: 2 of 3

Lonzo Ball: 11

Ball put the UCLA offense into high gear with incredible transition passing. His shooting form and the fact that he only went 67 percent from the free-throw line cast some doubt on his shooting transitioning to the NBA, but Ball showcased the ability to make 30-footers fairly consistently. Now that is space!

Verdict: 2 of 3, with two potentially elite strengths

Josh Jackson: 11

Jackson gets to 11 for different reasons than Ball, as the Kansas product thrives running the lanes in transition and his defensive tools on the wing are elite. It was encouraging to see him bump up that three-point percentage to 38 percent with a strong second half, but I’m still pretty skeptical that his shot will translate well.

Verdict: 2 of 3, with two strengths and one potentially fatal flaw

Jayson Tatum: 10

Unlike other players with more pronounced strengths and weaknesses, Tatum has the chance to be above average in all three facets. Can his midrange shot translate to the NBA three-point line? Can he continue to improve on the defensive potential he showcased at Duke?

Verdict: 1 of 3, with legit room for growth

De’Aaron Fox: 11

Fox can absolutely fly, with John Wall level speed in the open floor. His defensive potential is also high, and I loved his competitiveness in both matchups against Ball. I’m pretty skeptical of his shooting, but if that were to improve, he would be a steal in the position where he is selected.

Verdict: 2 of 3, with one major weakness

Malik Monk: 12

A lot of people are selling Monk as a perfect fit for the Sixers, and strictly looking at this exercise, it is more or less correct. Monk has his problems in halfcourt offense (and halfcourt defense), but his shooting is absolutely elite and his athleticism will allow him to do damage in transition.

Oh yeah, I cheated and made Monk’s space grade a 6 like I did with Joel Embiid’s defense. His shooting is that good.

Verdict: 2 of 3, with one super elite strength

Dennis Smith: 10

As a streaky, but capable shooter and an inconsistent defender with the ability to be at least average on that end, Smith is extremely explosive in the open floor.

Verdict: 1 of 3, although the shooting and defense could improve

Jonathan Isaac: 11

A potential great fit with the Sixers, Isaac seems like a pretty "high floor" player to me. With excellent defense, the ability to make catch-and-shoot threes, and the ability to run the wings in transition, the FSU one-and-done would likely do well playing next to Ben Simmons.

Verdict: 2 of 3, with the chance to check all three boxes


Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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