The Philadelphia 76ers have spent the last couple of years struggling to find an NBA shooting guard who's both reliable and productive. So do they try to draft a shooting guard this offseason or use their picks to select the best available player?
Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel are the future and locked into their respective point guard and center roles. We know that Carter-Williams is already on pace to become one of the league's top young point guards, but Noel is a bit of a mystery. Still. though, if he stays healthy and develops in a consistent manner, then he has the potential to be a special player as well.
Everything else is up in the air from there.
Nobody knows about the future of Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, but if they ended up on Philadelphia's 2014-15 roster, the Sixers would also have their starting small and power forward of the future.
This leaves the shooting guard position, and it's one that Philadelphia has struggled to fill since Allen Iverson was traded during the 2006-07 season. Yes, it's been that long. In fact, here’s a look at how the starting Sixers shooting guards have done since The Answer was moved:
|Season||Starting Shooting Guard||Points Per Game||Rebounds Per Game||Assists Per Game|
If Philly wants to end its bad run of shooting guards, then the 2014 draft is the perfect time to make it happen. The Sixers will get their own first-round pick, depending on where they end up, on top of the New Orleans Pelicans' first-round selection—as long as it's not a top-five pick.
There's an excellent chance that both will be in the lottery.
The fact that Philadelphia could get two high choices means that it'll be able to use one on the best player available and one to target a shooting guard it likes. If they only had one, then we might be talking about being smart and strictly settling on the best available guy. Fortunately, having two gives them a bit of freedom as to which player they can draft and what direction they want to go in.
Making the decision to draft a shooting guard is step one. Deciding on the player to take is step two.
Here's a look at some of the best shooting guard prospects in the upcoming NBA draft and what they'd bring to the floor.
Dante Exum, Australia
We can skip the small talk and start here like this: Dante Exum is the real deal.
You have to be very careful about comparing young—especially foreign—players to some of the best NBA players of all time, but it's hard to watch Exum play and not think that he has some Kobe Bryant in his game.
Don't believe me? Take a look at some of what he can do for yourself:
Most mock drafts have him listed as a point guard, but at 6'6", he could be a perfect combo guard. He's the kind of guy who can receive an outlet pass and get into the offense, or he may be able to be one of the primary scoring options if Carter-Williams brings the ball up the floor.
Speaking of Carter-Williams, drafting Exum would give the Sixers' starting backcourt two 6'6" players who could potentially be matchup nightmares for opposing teams.
It's hard to get an absolute read on Exum since he has been playing his basketball in Australia. Still, at only 18 years old, it's difficult to not be impressed by what he does on film. If his game translates to the NBA, then the Sixers would be set for years to come at both point and shooting guard.
NBA Comparison: Kobe Bryant/Anfernee Hardaway
Selection Range: Lottery, Pick No. 2-6
Gary Harris, Michigan State
Two of the most important skills for NBA guards to have are the ability to play off the dribble and to get off a clean floater.
Gary Harris possesses both of these.
Harris is a bit undersized at only 6'4" but manages to use his height to his advantage by combining his athleticism with his decision-making. A perfect example is how he's able to attack the paint and finish with either hand at the basket or over the big with a teardrop floater. His highlights against the University of Kentucky show what he's really capable of.
He's one of those guys who won't necessarily wow you at first glance, but watch him long enough and you'll start to see how he could turn into a legitimate NBA shooting guard.
The knock on Harris is that his ceiling is still unknown. Don't be surprised if that ceiling ends up being closer to the sky than the floor, though.
NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
Selection Range: Lottery, Pick No. 8-13
Zach LaVine, UCLA
If the Sixers want to take a shot with a high-risk, high-reward player, then UCLA's Zach LaVine would certainly be the right pick.
The interesting part about LaVine is that his game might be better suited for the NBA than college. The collegiate game is system-based and much less about isolation play, whereas in the NBA, teams often look to get players in their best spots and let them operate.
LaVine is much more of an operator. He's obviously an amazing athlete, but it's his shooting that will dictate what kind of NBA player he becomes. One of his best attributes is how he can score off the dribble to both the left and right. Some young players get caught up with picking a dominant side and going there more often, but he is equally talented at going either way.
LaVine will likely be selected in the 10-14 range of the first round, so he could be of value if that's where the Sixers' second first-round pick ends up being.
NBA Comparison: Terrence Ross
Selection Range: Lottery, Pick No. 10-14
C.J. Wilcox, Washington
Everybody knows about Philadelphia likely ending the season with one of the NBA's worst records and having the Pelicans' top-five protected first-round draft pick. What some don't know about is how the Sixers also have three second-round picks.
If Philly decided to go with the best available players with its first-round draft picks and still needed a shooting guard, then C.J. Wilcox would be a great value pick early in the second round.
Here's what Chad Ford had to say about Wilcox in a mock draft for ESPN Insider (subscription required):
Wilcox is another player who will get drafted primarily because when he gets his 3-point jumper falling, there aren't many better shooters in the country. If he were two years younger, he'd be in the conversation for the lottery.
If Wilcox continues to impress throughout the rest of the season, then there's definitely a chance that he could sneak into the end of the first round. If not, then he won't be around for long in the second.
Philadelphia could use Wilcox off the bench as a shooter in the mold of Jodie Meeks.
He likely won't be a stud at the next level, but he could be a guy who occasionally changes a game with his shooting ability.
NBA Comparison: Jodie Meeks
Selection Range: Late First/Early Second Round, Pick No. 27-35