Wed. Jun 3rd, 2020

Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t ignore big men in 2020 NBA Draft – The Sixer Sense

Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t ignore big men in 2020 NBA Draft  The Sixer Sense

The Philadelphia 76ers should keep an open mind when evaluating options in the 2020 NBA Draft.

We have written multiple times on this site about the Philadelphia 76ers’ need to diversify talent on the perimeter, and more specifically, their need to target such diversifiers in the 2020 NBA Draft. I myself have argued the Sixers should focus efforts on the point guard position.

At this point in the season, Philadelphia owns the No. 22 overall pick. That may change depending on how and when the season is finished, but it’s reasonable to expect a first-round pick for the Sixers. And, if not, the Sixers have a wealth of second-round picks to use, or potentially even trade.

The Sixers should focus on the point guard position. Given the team’s current roster construction, a young and affordable guard who can pressure the rim and space the floor in equal measure would be of tremendous value in the second unit. There are plenty of viable guard prospects expected to be available in the Sixers’ range.

With that said, it’s important for Philadelphia’s front office to keep an open mind. The same can be said for the fandom. The Sixers don’t need a big man, but there are a select few who could, in the right context, bring great value to Philadelphia — even in the first round.

If the Sixers’ evaluations lead them to think especially high of a certain power forward — or even a natural center — by no means should such an idea be relegated to the trash heap. Philadelphia should weigh all its options and act accordingly.

One name stands out in this context: Aleksej Pokusevski. The lanky 7-footer of Serbian and Greek origin is widely considered a first-round talent, and most projections place him somewhere in the 20s. Philadelphia has decent odds to find him available at 22 (or wherever they select), and again, a trade up is within the realm of possibility.

Pokusevski is listed as a center by trade, but he displays the mobility and shooting touch of a wing. He glides around the perimeter with impressive ease, and his shooting mechanics are a treat to watch. Standing still, on the move, even off the dribble, Pokusevski has a wide array of shots in his arsenal.

It’s rare to find a 7-footer who can operate offensively the way Pokusevski can. His first step is quick enough to beat smaller defenders to the cup, and his ability to handle the basketball — even to find open teammates — could lead a viewer with poor perception of depth and scale to consider him a guard, not a big.

In Philadelphia, Pokusevski could very feasibly share the frontcourt with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He could run around screens and allow Brett Brown to deploy some sets previously reserved for J.J. Redick, Landry Shamet, and the like. He’s a genuinely special offensive talent who, if things break right, could drastically improve the Sixers’ situation regardless of the irregular positional fit.

The issue for Pokusevski is his frame, which lends itself to questions of NBA readiness. While he has the natural talent to succeed, at 201 pounds, it’s difficult to project a role for Pokusevski in year one. He will need to add muscle to limit injury risk and to assure his ability to handle contact inside.

While he’s a 7-footer on paper, Pokusevski doesn’t always play at his size. He struggles to properly contest on defense, he gets pummeled by stronger bigs underneath the rim, and he is easily pushed off his spots, sometimes even by guards or wings. Pokusevski will need to improve his physicality in a major way to truly thrive in the NBA.

The Sixers have a strong safety net behind Pokusevski in the form of Embiid, Simmons, and at the moment, Al Horford. If Philadelphia eventually trades Horford, the hypothetical investment in another big becomes even more prudent. Pokusevski is the type of offensive talent who no team should have qualms about taking, even if his flaws are real and his timeline is that of a project, not a championship rotation piece.

Of course, Pokusevski — while maybe the only ‘big’ who deserves consideration in the first round — isn’t the only big who deserves serious investigation from the Sixers’ brass. There are several bigs who could mark intelligent investments in the second round.

My favorite of the second-round options is Killian Tillie, who is listed as low as the 50s on some draft boards. He is a top-25 prospect for me, and if it weren’t for such a worrisome injury record, he would probably crack my personal lottery.

Tillie is another talented shooter who brings even more than Pokusevski when it comes to basketball I.Q. and court awareness. He’s more physically mature, he’s a genuinely skilled passer, and he’s someone who can contribute to a winning cause if he’s healthy and on the court.

The Sixers should throw themselves at Tillie if he slips beyond the 30s. With five second-round picks, Philadelphia can afford to risk-take and invest at multiple positions. Tillie is a name to watch, and probably a more likely outcome than Pokusevski when you consider the Sixers’ current situation.

Next: 2020 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0

Among the other names to watch are Xavier Tillman Sr., Zeke Nnaji, Udoka Azubuike, Daniel Oturu, Jalen Smith, and Vernon Carey Jr., all of whom are expected to fall somewhere in the second round, and all of whom have some level of draw among NBA talent evaluators.