Prospects 76ers Fans Should Watch in March Madness 2021

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2021

Prospects 76ers Fans Should Watch in March Madness 2021

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia 76ers are perched atop the Eastern Conference standings and right in the thick of the NBA championship race.

    That's great news in almost every area. What it means for the upcoming draft might be the only exception.

    There, the Sixers could be making one of the final picks of the opening round. It's possible to find talent in that range, but the hit rate drops the further you move down the draft board.

    Here are three players who could be available in Philadelphia's range and are worth monitoring at March Madness.

Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    If the 76ers have a backcourt need, Jared Butler can probably take care of it.

    He creates shots with shifty handles and gets wherever he wants. But he's just as threatening as an outside shooter (42.9 percent this season), which is key with how often he'd be playing off of the ball in Philadelphia. Basically, he could complement the Sixers stars when they're on the floor and do a lot more of the heavy lifting when they're not.

    Defensively, he's limited only by his 6'3", 195-pound frame. Otherwise, he's a willing and smart defender who's a quick lateral mover and a tremendous competitor.

    Butler and the top-seeded Bears begin their tournament Friday against 16th-seeded Hartford (3:30 p.m. ET on truTV).

Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

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    Amanda Loman/Associated Press

    Regardless of how Sixers fans feel about having Danny Green on the team, they can understand the rationale behind his addition. The same line of thinking could point the front office toward Chris Duarte.

    Like Green, Duarte is a relentless, versatile defender who can shred nets from distance. He might be a little more usable off the dribble, too, as he has displayed some pull-up ability and some quick-process passing.

    Duarte will be 24 by draft night, so long-term builders might see him as the anti-upside choice. But Philadelphia might prioritize floors over ceilings to help with its championship chase, and he looks rotation-ready right now.

    Duarte's seventh-seeded Ducks open with 10th-seeded VCU on Friday (9:57 p.m. ET on TNT).

Tre Mann, PG/SG, Florida

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    If the Sixers get their hands on Tre Mann, it might be a sneaky-good way of improving both the present and the future.

    Short-term, he's a shot-creator with good size (6'6"), great pace and explosive burst. He might be more scorer than table-setter, but that works with a roster that already runs through Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If Mann's three-ball keeps trending up (27.5 percent last season, 39.8 this year), he'll work as both a support spacer and occasional offensive engine.

    Long-term, he has a chance to grow out of a third guard role. He's a former five-star recruit and McDonald's All-American. The pedigree points to stardom, and his production keeps stretching closer to that status (23.5 points on 58.5/47.1/88.9 shooting over his last four outings).

    Mann and the seventh-seeded Gators tip off Friday against 10th-seeded Virginia Tech (12:15 p.m. ET on CBS).