Sixers Mailbag #18: Buddy Hield and the 2016 Draft
This week we continue our 76ers mailbag series, where we discuss some of the pressing topics around the team.
In the 18th edition of our Sixers mailbag we discuss Dario Saric, the 2016 draft, whether Nik Stauskas is a legitimate piece going forward, and the draft stock of Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield.
Note: any opinions expressed here are my own opinions, and not reports or expectations based off of inside information, unless I explicitly state that a statement is based off of inside information.
“Assuming Dario Saric comes over now and was in this year’s draft, where would he go?”
You can probably make a realistic claim of it being anywhere from 4 through 12 and have it not be wrong. Saric still has his question marks, specifically on the defensive end, where he gives effort defensively but doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stay in front of too many quick forwards, isn’t a shot blocker, and doesn’t have the quick-twitch reflexes to really force turnovers. He’s also probably not going to create a whole lot offensively in the half court, either, and will probably be more of an off-the-ball scorer and secondary passer.
But everybody in the 4-12 range has pretty serious shortcomings and question marks, and Saric’s passing is an undeniably great skill set to have, his shooting is drastically improved and big for his usefulness in a half court game, and he plays his you-know-what off. In that range of the draft, it’s going to come down a lot to team needs, confidence in the teachability of certain skills, and team preference. Saric could be a viable pick anywhere in that range. If you had to pin it down to a smaller, more realistic range, probably 6-through-9.
“If you were Sam Hinkie on Day 1 of FA assuming Ingram & Saric on Sixers, who do you realistically target?”
I’ve written before that the top free agents are unlikely. That, of course, could change if the Sixers pull off a draft-day trade, but right now I’m going to go under the assumption that such a trade hasn’t happened.
So much of the value in those mid-tier free agents is dependent on who they are complementing, a star or situation that makes their unique skill sets more valuable than they are to other teams. With so much uncertainty over who the Sixers will be building around, even if they do draft Brandon Ingram, as this hypothetical suggests, it would make me target those “plug and play” style players who can fit pretty much anywhere. Guys like Kent Bazemore, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, and Allen Crabbe would be guys I’d have interest in, and guys who would help stretch the floor for any combination of Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, or Nerlens Noel.
“Brice Johnson: if he’s around late in the 1st, would you take him with the Miami pick?”
I like Brice. He can alter shots around the rim, he’s very quick in his post moves, explosive around the rim, and has great touch. But he has his deficiencies. This defensive effort and attentiveness that he’s been displaying late in the season, and especially in the tournament, just hasn’t been there throughout his college career, and his lack of range is a pretty big concern, both in today’s NBA and in a potential front court with some combination of Embiid, Okafor, and Noel.
If the Sixers took him with the Miami pick, I’m not sure I’d be upset, but I think that’s probably a little high.
“Do you think the Bucks usage of Giannis at PG provides a blueprint to how the Sixers should utilize Ben Simmons if they draft him?”
I wouldn’t say it’s the blueprint. I think it was always going to be true that whoever drafted Simmons was going to put the ball in his hands a ton. He was always going to play a role where he was initiating much of the half court offense and playing, at least at times, a traditional “point guard” role. Teams didn’t need Giannis to show them that.
Where I think the difference with Giannis comes in is that while Giannis can, at times, legitimately defend point guards with his length and quickness, I don’t see Simmons doing that. So with Simmons you’re always going to want a small, quick player who can defend point guards — think Patrick Beverley — even if that player isn’t orchestrating the offense like he normally would.
“Can you handicap which players will be picked up by Sixers on Team Options after the end of the season?”
This is a bit pedantic, but some of these players you’re likely talking about are on non-guaranteed contracts (Kendall Marshall, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, T.J. McConnell), or qualifying offers (Isaiah Canaan), not necessarily team options (Hollis Thompson).
Of those 6 players, here are some off-the-cuff guesses (these are not including chances they’re traded):
Covington (95% chance to stay), Grant (95%)
(I’m really just leaving that 5% chance there just to save my you-know-what. If they’re not brought back on those contracts, I’d be stunned).
Very good chance:
T.J. McConnell (60%)
Depends on the money:
Isaiah Canaan (30%)
I’d be surprised:
Hollis Thompson (20%), Kendall Marshall (10%).
“Is this the most talented 2nd round in recent memory?”
There’s certainly some talent and depth projected to be drafted in the second round. But I’ll say this: don’t put too much stock in the strength of weakness of the second round yet. The change in NCAA withdrawal rules — which allows players to wait 10 days after the combine to withdraw from the draft, which is a month later than last year, allows players to work out with a team prior to withdrawing, and allows players to withdraw multiple times while still retaining eligibility — drastically change the way the second round looks right now. Now, some guys, like DeAndre Bembry and Wayne Selden, have already hired agents, and they have lost their eligibility. But we really have to wait until late-May to have a great sense on how strong the second round will be, and even a little bit later, since international candidates can wait until June 13th to withdraw.
“How does Nik Stauskas fit into Sixers’ future?”
Depends. How does Nik Stauskas defend in the future?
Right now I think Nik is on the “he’ll probably be back on the team next year, but until/unless he drastically improves as a defender, don’t spend too much time thinking of him as a long-term piece” category of players. The type of guy who makes sense to have on the roster just in case he improves, but in his current form, even with the way he’s shooting, isn’t somebody you pencil into your future plans.
“With the reports Hinkie has a short leash, do the Sixers feel more inclined to deal Jah or Noel for players and not picks?”
Depends. Is Hinkie making the final decision, or is Jerry Colangelo? If Hinkie’s not, his leash, however short or long it may be, may not matter.
Even if he has a short leash, I think there was always going to be a time when they used all the assets they’ve been accumulating to target a star player. Is this the time that they trade those players/picks for that star? That probably depends on who is available, not what Hinkie’s leash looks like.
“If we can’t get Ingram or Simmons and aren’t allowed to take Dragan Bender, is it Buddy Hield?”
Buddy is the perfect example of recency and exposure bias. All of a sudden the narrative becomes that you can’t pass on Buddy at 3 or 4, even though you could go through his game log this year and find numerous 4-game stretches where Buddy was doing exactly what he’s doing now. Just because he’s doing it at the end of the season, when most people are watching, doesn’t make it inherently more valuable.
Now, what I do think increases his value slightly is that his improved three-point shooting has a larger sample behind it. I did have questions whether Buddy, who was a 36-37 percent three-point shooter his previous two seasons, had improved to the point where he was a mid-high 40 percent three-point shooter. Him maintaining that efficiency at the end of the season has value in terms of his ranking as a prospect, and his off-the-ball shooting is certainly something that would be extremely valuable on a Sixers’ team that will likely be built around Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor in the post.
Still, there are some concerns that I think could prevent him from stardom, and would give me pause selecting him in the top 5 of a draft.
He doesn’t create much, really at all, for his teammates, averaging just 2 assists in 35 minutes per game, despite a very high 30.5 percent usage rate. He struggles finishing through contact when challenged at the rim, and is as-reliant on the three-point shot to generate points as any guard in recent memory, which gives him very little margin for error when translating that shot to the next level. If it’s not elite, he’s going to struggle to be an impact player. Finally, he’s a very inconsistent defender who has average defensive tools.
Now, he may still go in the top-5 of the draft. Heck, he might even end up in the top-5 in my big board. I’ve mentioned recently how the hardest, but most important, thing to scout is mental makeup, approach to the game, work ethic, and coachability. I have heard only glowing reviews about Hield in that regard. In this draft, you’re betting on somebody in the 4-12 range to improve more than expected, to beat the curve. I may just be willing pick Hield as the guy I’m betting to do so. But I think the tournament has overrated his current ability, and value, as a basketball player just a tad.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.