June 4, 2017, 1:47 pm
It’s not that prior drafts haven’t had buzz, but 2017’s draft is causing just a little extra craze. The gifted draft class and high profile teams selecting at the top of the draft are two unmistakable factors behind the escalated attention. The Celtics, Lakers and Sixers, with their huge fan bases, are in three different situations with varying needs. This creates a very unpredictable climate. After years of tanking, Philadelphia, the youngest team in the league, is looking for another piece to take a step forward. It is assumed this draft contains players that will have instant returns so the question becomes what impactful player Bryan Colangelo and company will go with? This will be Colangelo’s second draft for the 76ers and will provide more of a challenge than the easy selection of picking standout Ben Simmons.
Simmons not playing last year makes this decision even more difficult to predict. Can Simmons run the offense as the primary ball handler? If not, what position does head coach Brett Brown play his near seven-foot athletic freak? Brown has expressed desire for him to become his point guard. At this very fluid moment (where most teams have not had an opportunity to have individual workouts with players) it appears that Kansas’ Josh Jackson and Kentucky’s Malik Monk are the frontrunners at the three spot. Since the two players bring different skill sets this pick will shape the team dynamic going forward.
A Josh Jackson selection would signify the Sixers are ready to allow Simmons to run the team. Jackson does complement some of the weaknesses that Simmons has but also magnifies others, particularly in three-point shooting. In a league that is more and more three point reliant, the 76ers ranked 25th of 30 teams in efficiency. Jackson’s shooting is far from his strength although it did improve throughout Kansas’ season. The first two months of the season he was shooting below 30 percent but by the end of his season he improved it to 37.8 percent. Do the Sixers believe they can develop him to an above average three point shooter? Many scouts don’t project Jackson as an NBA sharpshooter, but he does bring a series of other strengths to the table.
Jackson has received such endorsements as the “best-two way player in the draft” from Charles Barkley and being named The Big 12 Freshman of the Year. His defensive prowess would be welcomed happily as Philadelphia was in the bottom third of all team defensive rankings when accounting for pace. Jackson’s length and quickness gave his college coach Bill Self the flexibility to switch him onto different players throughout the game. This skill is becoming more and more important in defending today’s pick-and-roll offenses.
Malik Monk also came from a college blue-blood program, as Kentucky made it to the Elite Eight thanks to his crucial play during that run. As mentioned above, Monk brings a different catalog of skills. He is possibly the most dynamic scorer in the draft and his ability to get red hot, as seen in his 47 points versus the future champions North Carolina (including the game winner), must be very tantalizing to a GM. Monk played alongside fellow lottery pick De’Aaron Fox which means he knows how to play with and without the ball in his hands. Already regarded as one of the best shooters in the draft, he could arguably become Philadelphia’s best shooter in his rookie season.
Monk’s defense was an issue as he has been caught ball watching; he also does not have the size of a stereotypical NBA shooting guard. The former is something he will have to work on to become an acceptable defender. The latter obviously cannot be worked on but the fact that he would be playing alongside a large point guard in Simmons would mean that Monk could guard the opponent’s point guard and be more evenly matched size-wise. Another perk of selecting him is that he could help ease Simmons’ transition into an everyday ball handler at the NBA level whereas Jackson doesn’t posses those skills at this point in his development.
After averaging less than 19 wins for the past four years, the entire fan base is continually rejuvenated with hope this time of year; all waiting for another player that could be the piece to take this team to the next level. Now with Colangelo at the reins for more than a full year it is time to see where “the process” is being redirected. June 22nd is coming very quickly and Philadelphia fans are ready for this next chapter.