More Sports:

June 27, 2024

Jared McCain's shooting stroke lands him with Sixers: 'I've been working on it my whole life'

After lots of deliberation over various prospects and trade options, the Sixers selected Duke guard Jared McCain with the No. 16 overall pick on Wednesday night.

Sixers NBA
McCain 6.26.24 Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Duke guard Jared McCain seemed like the Sixers' target at No. 16 all along. They made it official Wednesday night, selecting him with their first-round pick.

For weeks -- if not months -- the most popular projection for the Sixers with the No. 16 pick in Wednesday night's round one of the 2024 NBA Draft was for the team to draft Duke guard Jared McCain. In a nice change of pace, the team opted to not throw a curveball at the world, selecting McCain and calling it a day.

McCain, 20, averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game in his lone collegiate season, and he had a very clear standout skill: his lights-out three-point shooting. McCain made 41.4 percent of his three-point tries at Duke on significant volume (5.8 three-point attempts per game). Any team built around Joel Embiid is going to prioritize long-range shooting from its supporting cast members, and this was always going to be the selling point if McCain indeed became their guy.

"I've been working on it for my whole life," McCain said in his media availability about a half hour after realizing his longtime dream. "Shooting has always been something I've loved to do."

A terrific three-point shooter like McCain can be a real asset on the floor for any NBA team, but players who fail to develop other skills see their ceilings capped significantly: a three-point shooter who cannot defend at a respectable caliber will be hunted and played off the floor; one without the ability to attack closeouts or make simple reads as a passer will be run off the line until their offensive utility has shrunk.

McCain is determined to not become a unitasker.

"During this process, I was just showing that I can be on the ball, make reads off pick-and-rolls and continue to level up my footwork, shooting and movement shooting," McCain said. "I know it's going to be challenging with defending, I think that's the biggest challenge I get thrown at me a lot."

There is no doubt that McCain and Sixers All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey would be a dynamic offensive pairing, particularly in lineups also featuring Embiid. But in order for those units to be consistently viable, McCain will need to make significant strides as a defender. His 6-foot-3.25, 203-pound frame and 6-foot-3.5 wingspan do not lend themselves to becoming a positive-impact player on that end of the floor, but Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey expressed confidence in McCain's continued progress in that area of his game during his media availability late Wednesday night.

Asked about the questions some have about McCain's ability to coexist with Maxey on the defensive end of the floor, Morey called it a "valid concern," but said that he can compensate with his physical strength, citing McCain's strong rebounding numbers as evidence that he can compete in that manner.

Morey said that McCain was "on a very steep improvement curve at his time at Duke defensively" while conceding that it was the most prevalent concern about his game entering last season. Morey said that McCain went from being targeted as a weak link on defense early in his freshman year to becoming one of the Blue Devils' better defensive players by the end of the season, which encouraged the Sixers.

Morey claimed that McCain was in the top 10 on the Sixers' draft board heading into Wednesday night due to the team's belief that he is both a safe bet to contribute to an NBA team and has significant upside to grow into a major difference-maker.

Morey went as far as to say that the team passed up multiple trade offers -- including an opportunity to trade down from No. 16 to a later draft slot and add a "pretty interesting" player in the process -- because they were so enamored by McCain's skills and fit with the team's (few) existing pieces.

McCain said he did not spend much time talking to the Sixers before Wednesday night, and Morey later confirmed that and said it was by design. Morey said the team tries to be a "lock box" when it comes to which prospects it covets for the sake of strategic benefit, and joked that he was bothered seeing McCain projected to land with the Sixers in so many mock drafts over the last few weeks.

But now, there are no more secrets: McCain is a Sixer. His job for now is to knock down as many triples as he can when opposing defenses send help in the direction of whoever is guarding Embiid. His job over the long haul is to continue chipping away at his perceived weaknesses to go from a specialist to an all-around contributor who impacts winning in several manners.

"I don't want to put any tough expectations on him," Morey said. "But we really think this guy is going to be a 76er for a very long time."

Follow Adam on Twitter: @SixersAdam

Follow PhillyVoice on Twitter: @thephillyvoice