May 30, 2016
Outside of true college hoops diehards or NBA Draft junkies, Sixers fans are probably unfamiliar with most of the six players that worked out at PCOM on Memorial Day: Joel Bolomboy (Weber State), Brannen Greene (Kansas), James Webb III (Boise State), Danuel House (Texas A&M), Tim Quarterman (LSU), and Isaiah Taylor (Texas).
(I can judge this by my Twitter replies: Who? Yawn. These are made-up names, right?)
They aren’t household names by any means. In DraftExpress’ latest mock draft, only Bolomboy is projected to hear his name called, and even then it’s only at No. 58. The rest of the players are generally ranked in 60s and 70s, on the outside looking in.
So why are the Sixers, who hold the 1st, 24th, and 26th picks (nowhere near the range they will be drafted), bothering to work any of these players out?
Due diligence. As vice president of basketball administration Brandon Williams said, the last thing the Sixers want to be is unprepared if a draft day deal places them late in the second round, or when they have a chance to offer a summer league roster spot.
“We try to identify guys that have a chance to make our team at some point,” Williams said. “It may not be right out in the draft, but we also have a D-League team to think about. As you’ve seen, some guys take the long road so we pride ourselves on identifying players that eventually have a shot.”
That is all good and well, but what about the top guys? So far, the highest-rated prospect to work out at PCOM has been St. Joe’s swingman DeAndre’ Bembry, a projected mid-to-late first rounder. The question now is when the like of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are going to come to Philly.
According to Williams, that will hopefully be soon. The higher-rated players tend to be much more selective when it comes to workouts.
“We have yet to see the top end of the draft,” Williams said. “We’ve had to go to some of those guys, but those are touches that we appreciated and they appreciate it. It’s a way to show their agents that we’re really interested. So next phase is to get those guys in our building. We’ll approach that much like recruiting.”
Both Williams and head coach Brett Brown are holdovers from before president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo came aboard in April. Williams, who played the role of chauffeur on the 405 in Los Angeles last week for the rest of the Sixers staff, says he’s starting to get a feel for how Colangelo and vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley operate.
Both Colangelo and Eversley were on hand today to watch a bunch of players that could go undrafted. Along those lines, the amount of detail that goes into scouting the draft was not lost on Brown when watching the likes of Ingram and Jamal Murray go through noncompetitive drills in New York last week.
“To look to my left and see 200 NBA employees, a few coaches but mostly front office people, taking notes and looking at things,” Brown said. “You’re just kind of blown away at the effort, the information, the studies, the competitive edge that we all try to get just by watching somebody spot shoot or dribble a little bit.”
By now, Brown is a veteran of scouting players at the top of the draft. At the same time, he’s also very familiar with trying to find the so-called “diamonds in the rough.” And while Robert Covington is probably the only undrafted player on the roster who you feel 100 percent confident about moving forward, all of those swings produced a few NBA players.
“We should all remember the day when the draft finished [in 2014],” Brown said. “About two minutes after the draft finished, ‘Hey JaKarr, this is Brett Brown, we really liked your workout, come in with us.’”
JaKarr Sampson eventually signed a two-year contract with the Denver Nuggets. Fast forward a year later, and the Sixers were again strongly interested in bringing in a player that went undrafted.
“The draft ends, straightaway, ‘T.J. McConnell, my name is Brett Brown, we think a lot of you, I was you to come play with us on the summer league team,’” Brown said. “And so we have stories to tell of people that weren’t drafted who still come into our program. Maybe we’re looking a few types of those people now. I think this workout was more oriented toward that.”
Quarterman, a 6’6” guard, played with the potential No. 1 overall pick at LSU, which means he went through the Tigers’ frustrating season as well. He spoke highly of his talented teammate, who Quarterman still keeps in contact with.
“Ben is a great person, great player, and great competitor,” Quarterman said. “I don’t think throughout the season he quit on us. I think he continued to play hard. I think us losing frustrated a lot of us as competitors because we always want to win. I think we had a young team.”
Quarterman is ranked as the 71st overall prospect by DX. As Simmons seems to be very much in play for the top overall spot, you can bet the Sixers will ask plenty of other people who came into contact with him at LSU (and everywhere else) about his personality.
Joel Embiid saw a familiar face in Greene, his teammate at Kansas and back during AAU ball with Florida Elite (Greene is also a hero, it seems.). “B.G. is in the house!” Embiid exclaimed while going through a few shooting drills after the six players worked out.
Joel Embiid getting some shots up. pic.twitter.com/PiuejPs8YO— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) May 30, 2016
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann