June 06, 2019
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. We'll also go a little deeper on some )
Windler is a popular guy in the NBA Draft world right now. By the time he has finished the six-workout trip he's on right now, Windler will have worked out for 10 different teams — he has already made stops in Indiana, Utah, Cleveland, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia, and has trips to Boston, Portland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Golden State remaining.
One look at Windler's shooting numbers in college and you understand why that would be the case. He has been a high-level shooter for three seasons now, and he put an exclamation point on his college career by shooting nearly 43 percent from deep on over seven attempts per game during the 2018-19 season. That is his calling card, and he showed off crazy range and shot diversity in college.
With Philadelphia's roster construction looking the way it does, guys who can play without the ball in their hands and hit shots all over the floor are invaluable. Windler was not just a standstill guy, either, showing the ability to use the threat of his shot to hit opponents with backdoor cuts. His size (6'7.5" in shoes with a 6'10" wingspan) should allow him to get his shot off over NBA competition, and that's a good base to start with on the defensive end.
It's the rest of his game that will be in question. Windler is not a bad athlete, but he played against a lower competition level at Belmont than some of his contemporaries, so it's a bit harder to trust his ability to separate at the next level. He exploded for 35 points against Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but he was kept in check against Temple in the play-in game to get there.
"I'm trying to tighten up my handle, get really comfortable coming off of the pick-and-roll, making good decisions," Windler said Thursday. "I've got to get better finishing around the rim...I think I have a lot of potential [on defense], I just got to work there. I got to get stronger, and I think that's going to come at the next level."
Windler told reporters he has gained around 10-12 pounds since finishing his season in March. He was tasked with switching 1-3 in the lineup at Belmont, but that's a monumentally different task in the NBA than the Ohio Valley Conference. Traveling has interrupted his weight program, but his goal of being at a playing weight of 205 pounds seems realistic. That said, he wasn't much of a defensive playmaker in college, and those traits don't tend to appear over time. A good outcome for him is probably as an average team defender who gets by on preparation.
In a scenario where the Sixers bring everyone back, there is probably a good case to be made in the draft or free agency for specialists like Windler. The Sixers' core is going to get the bulk of the minutes, so players who can offer a needed skill alongside them will make the lives of the stars easier. On Windler's end of things, he would also theoretically get to learn from a guy like JJ Redick, assuming he's back next season, who can show him what it takes to make it as a shooter at the NBA level.
Windler's range is a little hard to figure at the moment — draft sites have listed him anywhere from the low 30's to out of the second round altogether — but elite shooting tends to find a way in today's game.
With a great shooter in the building for a workout, it was no surprise that Landry Shamet's name came up during Thursday's workout in Camden. There were many people (myself included, naturally) who raised an eyebrow when the Sixers took him in the first round last year, based on assumptions coming into the draft that he would be available in the second round.
As it turns out, Shamet ended up being one of the most immediately impactful players in the class. Shamet's shooting ability was something the Sixers obviously liked at the time, but part of the reason they were willing to invest in him as a player was because of the impression he made on them as a person during the pre-draft process.
"[Shamet has] always been an overcomer and mature and very, very self-aware. He knows who he is, both on the court and off the court," said Vince Rozman, the Sixers Senior Director of Scouting, on Thursday. "I think those are the guys that tend to make it in that range because they know their role and they know what's going to be asked of them. They'll fit in alongside veterans, alongside guys like Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid] who are going to dominate the ball."
Most of the homework on who a player is and whether they'll be able to step into a role comes before these guys get in the gym with the team. Rozman estimated there are "50 or so" conversations had with coaches before anybody is brought in, and the process of interviewing guys at the practice facility is really only to confirm what they believe they already know.
Unfortunately, this is the part of the process that is hardest to pin down from the outside, and it's the information teams can manipulate the most. There are rumors (many of which are dangerous and/or not printable) about off-court habits for prospects that you have to filter through to get to the heart of the manner. Work ethic is a decisive factor in an athlete's ceiling, but unless laziness is evident on game tape, it is difficult to trust anything that bubbles to the surface in the month of June. Always question how and why you know something if it isn't immediately clear on tape.
(And there are counterpoints to the game tape component, too. Ben Simmons, for example, didn't give a damn about defense at LSU, and now he's knocking on the door of All-Defense teams. Scouting is hard.)
As the son of a former Temple standout and a former Pennsylvania State Player of the Year, there are few players with stronger Philadelphia roots in the draft process than Alston Jr.
"My favorite team growing up," Alston Jr. said. "Aaron McKie played here, Marc Jackson, lot of Temple guys played here, so it was a dream come true today."
It will probably remain a dream, unless something improbable happens. He had an excellent final season in North Philly, but a path through the G-League or overseas may be the best bet for Alston Jr. to stick around as a professional basketball player. And there is no shame in that — only 450 players in the world make the cut at the NBA level, which makes playing for your hometown team a nearly impossible goal to achieve.
But we did learn a little about how the Sixers go about their business from Alston Jr. Compared to the other workouts he has gone through, he says the Sixers stress quick decisions and pace more than other teams. That shouldn't be a huge surprise based on how the Sixers play, but it's a snapshot of how far that philosophy spreads.
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