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July 28, 2021

Sixers mock draft roundup: Final projections from experts at pick No. 28

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Primo-Cooper-nba-draft_072821_usat John Reed/USA TODAY Sports

Both Auburn Tigers guard Sharife Cooper (2) and Alabama Crimson Tide guard Joshua Primo (11) have been mocked to the Sixers.

The NBA Draft is just about here, and soon we'll all put our pencils down and see who came closest to guessing the selection order ahead of time. For the Sixers, it has been a particularly difficult exercise, in large part because it's unclear if they'll even use their first-round pick.

All indications from the team suggest pick No. 28 will be on the move at one point or another, with the Sixers looking to pick up extra draft picks or a veteran contributor first and foremost. Using their first-round pick is certainly on the table, and the team ended up standing pat last season when Tyrese Maxey fell into their laps at pick No. 21. But if lightning doesn't strike twice, all these mock draft exercises could be for naught.

That's not going to stop us from one more look around the landscape.

Joshua Primo, G, Alabama

The mockers: Jonathan Givony, ESPN and Kevin O'Connor, The Ringer

Here's Givony's take on Primo:

The Sixers will be looking to surround their core with as much 3-point shooting as possible after a disappointing playoff exit. Primo, the youngest player in the draft, might need some time before becoming a consistent contributor, but he has helped himself with a strong pre-draft process and is a candidate to come off the board around this range or earlier to a team trading up to select him.  [ESPN]

A rare opportunity to discuss a player we haven't hit on yet in the pre-draft process! Primo is super young (his 19th birthday isn't until Christmas Eve) and brings a signature skill to the table coming out of Bama. The question is whether that's all he brings to the table, or if the role he was asked to play disguised some of the strengths he could show off in the pros.

Shooting is going to be what gets him drafted, and that makes him easy to like from a Sixers perspective. Primo has smooth, intuitive mechanics as a shooter that allow him to punish opposing defenses who concede space to him, and in an offense reliant on Joel Embiid in the post, a player in Primo's mold can help turn record-scratch possessions on kick-outs into made shots (or at the very least, good attempts). With the ability to relocate, potential as a movement shooter, and solid scheme instincts as a defender, he could be a useful three-and-D guy long-term.

But what does he offer beyond shooting? Hard to say after his year in the SEC. Primo was almost exclusively off-ball for Alabama, so opportunities to evaluate him as a self-creator were few and far between, and a lot of the indicators are unfavorable to him. Primo had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, didn't get to the line much, and has to do some growing into his body in order to be a credible defender in one-on-one assignments. The value of his height and wingspan are currently undercut by his lack of strength, and while that should (hopefully) change as he gets older, it could be a while before a young teenager can bulk up.

As Givony mentions, the pre-draft process may have shown teams that those issues were situation-related, not a product of his own limitations. Do the Sixers have the time to wait out an ultra-young player's development? All indications pre-draft have suggested the opposite. 

Miles McBride, G, West Virginia

The mocker: Sam Vecenie, The Athletic

Here's what Sam had to say on McBride:

McBride is one of my favorites in this class. He’s lightning-quick laterally and is elite at the point of attack defensively. His game is all about pressure. He attacks the opposing ballhandler, then attacks when he has the ball on offense. When West Virginia switched to more of a four-out offense in the second half of the year, McBride thrived and looked like a potential high-level backup. He could become a starter if his jumper off the bounce continues to come along. This would be an absolutely tremendous pick for the 76ers. McBride is seen as likely to hear his name called in the last third of the first round and could go a bit higher than this in the 20s. 
For their part, the 76ers are still seen as a potential threat to trade this pick given that president of basketball ops Daryl Morey has traditionally not always gotten involved in the draft.  [The Athletic]

Adding another small guard to a team that is already trying to bring Tyrese Maxey along may be tough, but McBride definitely has the profile of a guy you'd bet on to keep improving at the next level. The 20-year-old guard was second-team Big 12 and an honorable mention All American last season and made a huge shooting leap between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, knocking down over 41 percent of his makes in 2020-21 after hitting just 30 percent the previous year. 

That can be a red flag when projecting out to the next level, given the small sample size of a college season, but McBride has good free-throw numbers and other positive traits to fall back on if the shot is questionable. Given the state of Philadelphia's bench, they could do worse than a player who can defend the point of attack and knock down threes, assuming the jumper holds up in the pros.

Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland, G, VCU

The mockers: Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated and Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports

Here's Woo on the man they call Bones:

Hyland has been rumored all over the first round, with interest from teams picking in the Top 25, but identifying a spot for him is a bit tricky, as his likely microwave-scorer role is a bit of a luxury on some teams. He gathered steam with a terrific showing at the draft combine and has impressed with his shooting skills, putting him in play higher than this. While he’s quite slender for an NBA two-guard, his ability to make tough shots is hard to find, and has helped separate him from the large pack of guards in the 20-40 range. While his game is not the most diverse, Hyland is viewed as a potentially valuable bench scorer. 

Daryl Morey has never been particularly attached to his draft picks, and history suggests the Sixers will entertain trade offers here, making it an interesting spot for another team to grab a player who unexpectedly slips to the back of the first round.  [Sports Illustrated

Hyland is a confident shooter from deep range off-the-dribble and off-the-catch, offering a bit more upside than some of the other candidates this deep in the draft. We didn't get to see him play in the NCAA Tournament as a result of COVID issues shutting things down for VCU, but the tape says he is a bucket getter. Hyland's efficiency dropped a bit from deep as he transformed into a high-volume outside shooter in his sophomore season, but his overall scoring efficiency improved and he more than quadrupled his free-throw volume compared to his freshman year, positive signs for an offense-first prospect. 

He is not without concerns. Hyland played a ball-dominant style of basketball at VCU and it doesn't appear to be something that will just disappear in a new situation, as it's directly connected to his confidence as a scorer. His negative assist-to-turnover ratio is something that isn't surprising when you watch him play, with Hyland forcing up plenty of tough/bad shots rather than searching for the open man. And there are still tools questions even with the wingspan measurement coming in to help out — he lacks the strength to consistently play through contact, and his defensive instincts neutralize some of the gifts he does have, resulting in a lot of blow-bys. You have to be content with a guy who may only be here to get buckets, especially in the short-term, in order to take Hyland at No. 28.

Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee

The mocker: Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report

Wasserman, as he has throughout the pre-draft process, is light on analysis for the guys later in the first (and I don't blame him, he puts in a lot of legwork this time of year).

Springer was considered a legit lottery candidate for most of this season for good reason. He's among the youngest guys in the class — Springer doesn't turn 19 until late September — and the consensus five-star recruit flashed a lot of potential during his lone season with the Volunteers. His calling card right away will most likely be his defense, with his lateral quickness and tenacity an excellent starting point for a player who will be tasked with guarding the point-of-attack at the next level. While Springer is not the biggest or longest guy in the world at 6'4" (6'8" wingspan), he's big enough to be switchable across backcourt players.

The other side of the ball does feature some positives, most of them connected to his scoring potential. He's already pretty good at using his body to initiate contact and finish amongst the trees, and Springer showed the ability to utilize the pressure he creates as a finisher as a setup man on the interior. But there are questions about his ability to create separation at the next level, and shooting will be the big question at the next level. Springer's three-point and free-throw numbers suggest he could be an effective floor spacer with time, but he was a low-volume shooter and has a lot of work to do as an off-the-dribble threat. The Sixers don't need hesitant shooters surrounding Embiid, and Springer's ability to get to the cup as a pro will be directly connected to the attention teams are forced to pay him outside.

MORE: What is the Sixers' biggest need heading into the 2021 NBA Draft?

Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn

The mocker: Ricky O'Donnell, SB Nation

Here's what Ricky had to say on Cooper as a major sleeper in this class, not specifically related to the Sixers:

Sharife Cooper is the best playmaker in the draft after Cade Cunningham. He has an ultra-quick first step, an endless combination of dribble moves, and the best vision and passing ability in this class. Cooper is held back by his lack of size (6’1, 180 pounds) and unrefined three-point shot, but we think he’s a top-10 overall talent in this class. The Knicks at No. 19 or No. 21, and the Houston Rockets at No. 23 and No. 24 feel like wonderful landing spots.  [SB Nation]

Cooper has been all over the map during mock draft season — I've seen him go as high as the top-10, and now he seems to be falling deep into the first round, if not the early second in some scenarios. His size is an obvious reason for that and figures to impact him at the next level, but Cooper is an interesting guy to consider if Philly does stand pat. 

The Auburn guard has a claim on the best ballhandler in his draft class, with a terrific handle and a package of moves and countermoves that he weaponizes to great effect. Cooper is great at mixing speeds and using an opponent's uncertainty to burst through gaps and create disadvantages, willing himself to the line (8.6 attempts per game last season) and routinely creating easy looks for teammates. His passing ability is an extension of the elite ballhandling we mentioned, with Cooper able to mix one-handed hook passes with no-look dimes with hit-ahead passes to free teammates in transition.

Question number one for Cooper to answer is whether he can succeed in the NBA at his size. Cooper's wingspan is roughly even to his height, which will pose problems for him at both ends of the floor. Calling him a one-position defender would probably be overstating his ability to guard anybody, and his lack of size was an issue finishing around the basket at the amateur level (47.9 percent at rim in half-court possessions). His free-throw numbers on high-volume indicate shooting potential might be there, but it didn't show up at Auburn, and it'll be considerably more important in any Sixers-related context.

If the Sixers do decide to hold onto the pick and Cooper is available at No. 28, selecting him would be a rare chance to grab someone with multiple high-level skills deep in the first round. But with the Sixers already a bit small in the backcourt, especially if they trade Ben Simmons, his path to playing isn't immediately clear. I think he'd be worth a gamble, but wouldn't be surprised if the Sixers decided otherwise.

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