76ers' Way Too Early 2021 NBA Draft Big Board

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 8, 2021

76ers' Way Too Early 2021 NBA Draft Big Board

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia 76ers are in a good spot—both in terms of their conference standings and where they'll sit as a club approaching the 2021 NBA draft.

    They have their superstar quotient filled with Joel Embiid, an All-Star sidekick in Ben Simmons, a fire-balling scorer in Tobias Harris and a lights-out sniper in Seth Curry. All four players are signed through at least the next two seasons, too, so a lot of their most critical checklist items are already marked off.

    That gives Philadelphia flexibility for the draft, during which it will likely be selecting near the end of the first round. The Sixers could decide their roster is strong enough to add the best prospect available or even swing for the fences on a risk-reward player with towering upside. Or they could selectively shop the market with a specific need in mind.

    Both approaches went into building this top-three big board for the annual talent grab.

1. Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

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    Amanda Loman/Associated Press

    If there's a concern with Chris Duarte, it's that he played too well to still be on the board when the Sixers go on the clock.

    If that isn't the case, though, he'd be an obvious target as a three-and-D who could potentially replace unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Danny Green.

    Duarte apparently received NCAA clearance to bring a flamethrower to Ducks games this season and used it to notch his 17.1 points per game on an efficient 53.2/42.4/81.0 shooting slash. He popped off for 20-plus points in five of his final eight contests, including both NCAA tournament games, in which he totaled 44 points on 28 shots and 13 assists against three turnovers.

    He might bump into his ceiling sooner than most, since he'll be a 24-year-old rookie. But for a 76ers team in championship-chasing mode, they might be more focused on instant-impact than long-term potential.

2. Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The 76ers could use more shot-creation, perimeter defense, outside shooting and reliability in their backcourt rotation.

    Jared Butler, a national champion and Wooden Award finalist, might fill a lot of needs for this team.

    "Butler is one of those veteran college players that makes an impact at the next level," NBC Sports Bay Area's James Ham wrote. "He knows who he is and he has a game that translates. ... The Sixers need depth and an older prospect that might be able to fill in early in his career. He's also a winner and player that might stick around the NBA for a while as a rotational player."

    Butler showed perpetual growth over his three-year career with the Bears, which saw them rise from a No. 9 seed in his freshman season to national champs in his junior year. He played a big part in that turnaround, upping his per-game production to 16.7 points, 4.8 assists, 2.6 three-pointers and 2.0 steals this past season.

3. Greg Brown, PF, Texas

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    After opening with two relatively safe choices, we're selling out for power and swinging not just for the fences, but out of the ballpark entirely.

    If Greg Brown isn't the biggest risk-reward prospect in this draft, he's at least in the discussion.

    He has jet-propulsion-type bounce, the kind of athleticism that could stand out even among world-class athletes. Add speed and fluidity to the equation, and there's the rough sketch of an athletic rim-runner and defensive menace.

    He also flashed just enough shooting potential at Texas (33.0 percent from distance) to make you think he might have a lot of net-shredding in his future. There aren't a lot of hyper-athletic sharpshooters running around, so to be able to grab one near the end of the first round would be a direct gift from the basketball gods.

    But there are no guarantees he realizes that upside, and even if he does, he'll require copious amounts of seasoning to get there. The Sixers need to decide how patient they plan to be with their incoming prospect. If they're willing to wait, Brown could eventually reward them in a major way.