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June 13, 2019

Sixers draft workout notes: Could a Euro stash be in the cards for Philly?

The Sixers are going to have a ton of draft workouts over the next few weeks, and with a handful of second-round picks, there will be what will feel like an endless amount of candidates to be selected. With that in mind, we will be keeping track of a lot of the guys who make it through the doors at Camden, and what they might bring to the table. 

 Here's what happened (and with who) at Thursday's workout. 

(Disclaimer: during Thursday's workout, we weren't let in until it was basically over, so there is no feedback I can give on watching these guys play beyond what they showed in college and what the Sixers/the players had to say.)

Luka Samanic — KK Olimpia Ljubljana

When asked how the day went during Thursday's workout, Marc Eversley, the Sixers' Senior Vice President of Player Personnel, was quick to bring up Samanic's name. The Sixers first saw the Croatian forward at a Basketball Without Borders camp years back, and Eversley raved about his competitive drive and outside touch for a player his size. 

"I think you look at his year this year, he went through three different coaches, that's not easy on any kid whatsoever," Eversley said. "[But] he led his team to the championship, he had a really, really nice year."

That would partially explain the sort of teams that are working him out during the pre-draft process. The organizations who have had him in to work out so far include the Warriors, Spurs, Jazz, and Pacers, all teams with a reputation of building strong developmental pipelines. While the Sixers need players who can help them compete sooner rather than later, they also can't afford to pass on talented players no matter where they come from or how long it might take them to get rolling.

Whether he would be able to contribute to a playoff rotation right now is certainly up for debate, as Samanic still has a lot of growing up to do. He insisted that the transition to an NBA conditioning program would help put on some muscle mass, though Eversley sounded less bullish about the prospect of Samanic playing important minutes next spring.

"With respect to competing or contributing at the four, I think that's going to depend on the situation he goes into," Eversley said. "I'm not sure if he's ready to play in playoff games right now, but he's definitely ready to make a roster."

As with any European prospect, there are always questions about whether Samanic would be able to join the Sixers right away. Eversley deferred questions on the subject to the player and his agent, and Samanic insisted he'd be able to come over as soon as possible in spite of a four-year commitment to his current club. It might end up benefitting the Sixers if they take him and he doesn't come over right away, just to save them a few dollars on the cap sheet.

(One funny contrast between front office honesty and player confidence — Eversley expressed doubt about Samanic's ability to play the three at the next level and opined he'd probably be more of a versatile frontcourt guy. When discussing where he fits in the NBA, Samanic believes he'll be able to switch 1-5. Good luck with that one, buddy.)

Dewan Hernandez — Miami

After getting tangled up in the college corruption scandal that had far-reaching effects across the NCAA, Dewan Hernandez had to sit out all of his junior season at Miami after being ruled ineligible for taking benefits from an agent. The NCAA's rules are mostly trash as it pertains to player freedom, but he stepped outside of them, and so it goes.

Even without the benefit of playing time over the past year, Hernandez still found a way to impress the Sixers at Thursday's workout. It was his ability to impact the game defensively that stood out to Eversley, who cited his athleticism, length, and his shot-blocking instincts as standout features during the time they spent with him.

"It's not ideal, obviously," Eversley said of Hernandez's lost season at Miami. "Got a lot of tape with respect to high school, and you go back to the two years at Miami and look at lot of stuff. We got a chance to see him in Chicago at the combine, it was our first time seeing him in a while and I thought he performed really well."

Unlike his European workout partner, Hernandez is probably not in any danger of being drafted at all, let alone drafted in the first round. But he's an interesting candidate that they might want to bring in for Summer League to get a closer look at him, as the Sixers could certainly use big, athletic bodies on the interior.

Shamorie Ponds — St. John's

It is going to be a struggle for Ponds to cover just about anyone at the next level. Previous measurements suggest he only just clears six feet in shoes, with a six-foot-foot-inch wingspan and underwhelming athletic traits to go along with that. Guards are only getting bigger, more athletic, and more skilled as the NBA becomes more of a perimeter-driven league, leaving little wiggle room for guys like Ponds.

If he is going to make it in the league, it will have to be as an offensive spark plug off of the bench. Ponds is a tough shot maker, weaponizes change of pace well, and his mechanics attacking a defense are all fairly sound, from footwork through his ballhandling. Combine that with a soft touch, and there's something to work with.

Someone else will likely have to work with that package, though. Ponds doesn't have the cleanest shooting mechanics, and his low release point leads to some wild swings in effectiveness from game to game, or even moment to moment. If the Sixers are going to draft a score-first guard, they probably need a player who is a more reliable bet to knock down threes, instead of a scoring type who might go on a heater every so often.

One caveat — Ponds may have thrown my favorite pass I saw any amateur player make last season, and I have absolutely no idea how he got this much velocity on a kick out from the angle he was at.

The parade of workouts is just about complete, and the Sixers have only had a few guys in who could even credibly be considered at pick No. 24. If they have their sights set on a specific player, they have hidden it fairly well.

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