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June 18, 2024

2024 NBA Draft Q&A: Which Sixers targets at No. 16 have star potential with Ricky O'Donnell

Breaking down the Sixers' draft night options -- and a potential Alex Caruso trade -- with Ricky O'Donnell of SB Nation.

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Ron Holland 6.17.24 Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports

Could NBA G League Ignite's Ron Holland be a lottery ticket at stardom for the Sixers at No. 16 in this month's NBA Draft?

With the 2024 NBA Draft kicking off next week and the Sixers owning the No. 16 and No. 41 picks -- with the potential of trades looming -- this week we will be talking with NBA Draft experts about this year's class, one that has been scrutinized heavily. 

Up first is Ricky O'Donnell of SB Nation. Stay tuned to Ricky's Twitter and writing at SBN for extensive coverage of all things draft-related. You can find Ricky's most recent mock draft here.

Adam Aaronson: Before we get Sixers-specific, let’s discuss the top of this draft class. Many have called this the weakest draft class in many years due to the lack of clear-cut star-quality players. How would you describe this year’s top-end talent relative to that of the average draft class, and independent of team context, who is your top prospect in the class?

Ricky O'Donnell: I’ve been lucky enough to cover the draft for more than a decade at SB Nation, and this does strike me as the weakest class since 2013 when Anthony Bennett went No. 1 overall. Of course, that draft also had two obvious Hall of Famers in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert taken after the lottery. There’s not an obvious All-NBA talent in this class, which means picking at No. 1 is a dangerous game, because it seems highly unlikely the player who goes in that spot will have the best career in the class. I had [Serbian guard] Nikola Topic at No. 1 for most of the cycle, but his recent ACL tear complicates that evaluation. I still like Topic, but would probably give [French big man] Alex Sarr the edge now for the top spot after his injury. Sarr just has the best physical tools in the class as a super athletic 7-foot-1 big man with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He should be a highly switchable defender who can make plays above the rim on both ends, and he’s shown enough flashes of perimeter skill offensively to dream on. I would say this is not a strong draft class, but I still think there will be a bunch of solid NBA players throughout it.

AA: Given their organizational timeline and win-now mindset, one would expect that if the Sixers keep No. 16, they will aim to draft a player who can give them quality minutes immediately. How confident are you that they can find such a player, and who are a few prospects projected to be drafted in that range who you believe can contribute right off the bat?

RO: Finding a ready-made contributor with the No. 16 pick is difficult even in a strong class, but if anyone can do it, it’s Daryl Morey. There are a few players I like who could go in that range. [Colorado wing] Tristan da Silva is a tall shooter who could space the floor for Joel Embiid. [Dayton big man] DaRon Holmes is a super productive three-year college big man who could backup Embiid at the five, or possibly play minutes with him if he continues to develop his shooting and ball handling. [Baylor wing] Ja’Kobe Walter makes some sense too as a wing in the "3-and-D" mold who play a complementary game without needing to hold the ball.

AA: The Sixers’ championship hopes were largely revived by their selection of a future All-Star in Tyrese Maxey at No. 21 in 2020. Is there any player who could be available at No. 16 with star upside?

RO: The two players I like for long-term upside bets who could still be available in this range are Ron Holland and Isaiah Collier. There isn’t a lot of star power in this draft, but there’s a pathway for those players to get there. Holland is one of the youngest players in the class turning 19 in July, and he wouldn’t exactly fit a “win now” approach for the Sixers. Still, his defensive motor, transition scoring ability, and top-tier athleticism gives him as high of a ceiling as any player in this class. Collier would seem to be a tough fit for Philly’s backcourt due to his lack of size and shooting, but he’s a fantastic downhill driver with real passing vision.

AA: Sadly, you are a tortured Chicago Bulls fan (I won’t ask you anything about the White Sox, I promise). I recently wrote about the potential of a trade between the Sixers and Bulls, where the No. 16 pick and Paul Reed would go to Chicago and Alex Caruso would join the Sixers. Do you feel this is a reasonable proposal, and how would you describe what Caruso could bring to the Sixers?

RO: I like that but I’d want one more future pick from Philly in that deal if I’m the Bulls. Throw in that Thunder/Rockets/whatever 2026 pick and we can talk. I love the fit of Caruso on the Sixers. Caruso deserves to play meaningful games, and the Bulls are never going to get there with him (sorry, Arturas, play-in games aren’t actually meaningful). Caruso is just a genius with his defensive instincts and communication, and he shot the ball well last year while staying healthy. I think he’d be a game-changing addition for any contender, including Philly.

AA: Most of the focus will be on what the Sixers do at No. 16, but they also own No. 41 thanks to the Jaden Springer trade. Are there any prospects in that range who you think could carve out a role for the Sixers?

RO: I’ll throw a few names at you for No. 41. [Wing] Melvin Ajinca is interesting as an off-ball shooter from France with pro size. [Colorado's] KJ Simpson is a tiny point guard who is just really good as a dribble/pass/shoot creator. [UConn's] Tristen Newton is a big guard with a well-rounded offensive skill set, and [Stanford's] Harrison Ingram is a big wing who can shoot it. Those are all good bets at No. 41 to me.

Follow Adam on Twitter: @SixersAdam

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