76ers' Ideal 2021 NBA Mock Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 8, 2021

76ers' Ideal 2021 NBA Mock Draft

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    For the second time in three seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers fell a game short of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

    But this postseason exit felt different.

    In 2019, when they fell to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, the Sixers were undoubtedly a team on the rise with presumably their best basketball ahead of them. Now, they have arrived as full-fledged contenders, but the clock is ticking to realize their championship potential. This roster is pricey already, and the payroll will balloon with what feels like an inevitable supermax extension looming for Joel Embiid.

    The championship window is open now, but they'll need a productive offseason to break through it.

    That process (no pun intended) begins on draft night, where they hold a pair of picks (Nos. 28 and 50) to use or put into a trade. We'll map out the ideal prospect at each selection spot, then identify the player they should be going after if they move the picks.

No. 28: Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Philly's wish list for a prospect is long—maybe too long to satisfy with a pick this late in the opening round.

    Ideally, the Sixers add someone who can make shots, move the basketball, hold his own defensively and be able to do all of the above right now. That's a tall task at No. 28, but Baylor's Jared Butler has a chance to satisfy all of those demands.

    This assumes, of course, that the Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year is cleared to play after being referred to a Fitness-To-Play Panel, as reported The Atheltic's Shams Charania reported. If Butler gets that clearance, he could be just what Philadelphia needs.

    His junior campaign measured up exactly the way scouts hoped it would. His efficiency climbed with significant spikes in his shooting rates from the field (42.1 percent to 47.1) and from three (38.1 to 41.6), he bumped up his playmaking (3.1 assists to 4.8) and his leadership shined amid the Bears' sprint to a national title.

    He can handle third guard duties for the Sixers now and has a chance to grow into a starting role over the next few seasons.

No. 50: Nah'Shon Hyland, SG, VCU

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    It's not a direct shot at Ben Simmons to say the Sixers need to pack more of a scoring punch on the perimeter, though his disappearing act in the playoffs magnified that weakness.

    It might be wishful thinking to assume that void can be filled by anyone on the board at No. 50, but if Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland gets there, perhaps Philly's prayers will be answered.

    That's far from a given, as B/R's Jonathan Wasserman reported "scouts expect Hyland to wind up in the first round" thanks to a strong showing at the combine. But when SI.com's Jeremy Woo constructed a mock draft in late June, he had Hyland falling all the way to No. 57. So, there's a chance this could happen, in the eyes of one evaluator at least.

    Hyland is more of a scorer than table-setter, offering deep range on his quantity-plus-quality outside shot (2.9 threes per outing at a 37.1 percent clip). While his lack of size will limit him defensively (6'3 1/2", 169 lbs), he at least competes at that end. He can also play a bit bigger than his size thanks to a sweeping 6'9 1/4" wingspan and an aggressive edge sure to endear him to the Philly faithful.

Trade Target: Damian Lillard

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    The Sixers figure to be among the most active teams on the trade market. That's how president of basketball operations Daryl Morey always operates, and Simmons' playoff struggles might send that urgency into overdrive.

    Damian Lillard might be more a pipedream than a realistic target—for starters, it's hard to imagine the Portland Trail Blazers letting him go unless he requests a ticket out of town—but in an ideal world, he sits as the best-case scenario for what Philly can afford with all of its assets.

    That's not a turn of phrase, by the way—if the Sixers can get him, they'll need to unload all of their assets. Simmons would serve as the centerpiece, but the package will almost certainly include draft compensation (the No. 28 pick, plus future selections or pick swaps), Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle and maybe more. But if that's enough to land Lillard, that's a trade the Sixers make 12 times out of 10.

    Lillard ranks among the Association's most explosive scorers with shooting range reaching nearly to the half-court line, burst to blow past defenders and the hops to put anyone on a poster. Let him work two-man magic with Embiid while Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and any other shooters spot up alongside, and the Sixers could skyrocket into the top five for offensive efficiency.