By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
Now that the Philadelphia 76ers know they will have their first-round pick in this year's NBA Draft, it is time to take a look at some prospects who could interest them. The team is in great need of athleticism and wing depth, and there is plenty of players fitting the bill who could potentially be available at their pick. Here are five potential options for the Sixers at No. 23:
E.J. Liddell, Ohio State
2021-22 stats: 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 49% field goal percentage, 37.4% 3-point percentage
Player comparison: P.J. Washington
Height: 6 feet, 7 inches; Weight: 240 pounds
Liddell is a prospect who can help the Sixers improve in a ton of areas they struggled in last season. He plays with a level of toughness and intensity the Sixers were lacking last season, especially in the postseason. He showed improvement in each of his three years at Ohio State, especially in terms of his scoring ability. He improved his 3-point shooting, going from 19.2% as a freshman in 2019-20 to knocking down 37.4% on 3.8 attempts per game as a junior this past season. He can score at all three levels and finish through contact, making it difficult for opposing teams to be able to defend him.
He also excelled defensively at Ohio State. He has the timing and athleticism to potentially be an elite shot blocker. He recorded 2.6 blocks per game this past season and averaged 1.6 blocks per game in three years at Ohio State. He is a bit undersized, but he showed some defensive versatility by being able to play center at times for the Buckeyes while also being able to switch onto some smaller defenders. He does need to improve his foot speed defensively, but the promise and potential is there for him to be a multi-positional defender.
He checks off a lot of boxes for the Sixers, who are in desperate need for more depth at the wings. Liddell, at 21 years old, should be able to step right into a role off the bench assuming head coach Doc Rivers will trust a rookie enough to give him a consistent role. His versatility could allow him to play next to Joel Embiid while also having some potential to be a center in small-ball lineups. Mock drafts have him going right around the Sixers' pick at No. 23. If he is available, drafting him should be a no brainer.
MarJon Beauchamp, G League Ignite
2021-22 G League stats (from the Ignite Tour): 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 45.9% field goal percentage, 30.3% 3-point percentage
Player comparison: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Height: 6 feet, 6 inches; Weight: 199 pounds
Beauchamp, a 6-foot-6 wing, is known more for his defensive abilities. He averaged 1.6 steals per game for the G League Ignite in the Ignite Tour. He has the length (7-foot-1 wingspan) to be able to be a pesky defender and, with Matisse Thybulle's future with the Sixers being uncertain, could step right into the role Thybulle served as being the team's defensive savant.
Offensively, he has both the explosive leaping ability and ball handling to be able to get to the rim and finish with power. He has a quick first step that allows him to successfully attack closeouts, and once he gets to the rim he is difficult to stop.
However, he is not a good 3-point shooter. He knocked down just 30.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc in the Ignite Tour this past season. Despite the low percentage, his good shooting mechanics combined with being a solid free-throw shooter (78.9% in the Ignite Tour) both point towards him potentially being able to improve and become a serviceable outside shooter, something he will likely need to do in order to play significant minutes in the NBA.
While his shooting struggles might cause concern among some NBA front offices, he has the upside on both ends of the floor to be worth selecting somewhere in the latter half of the first round. The Sixers already were confirmed to have showed some interest in Beauchamp at the NBA Draft Combine. Selecting him at No. 23 would be a solid choice, although the team might be better off drafting a player who can make a quicker impact offensively.
Kendall Brown, Baylor
2021-22 stats: 9.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1 steal, 58.4% field goal percentage, 34.1% 3-point percentage
Player comparison: Kenrich Williams
Height: 6 feet, 8 inches; Weight: 205 pounds
Brown, similarly to Beauchamp, is an incredibly athletic player who thrives on defense and is not much of a 3-point shooter. However, Brown is not as polished of a prospect and would be more of a project for whichever team drafts him. He was a middling, at best, outside shooter on low volume (1.2 3-point attempts per game). Offensively, he excels at cutting to the basket, where he can use his leaping ability to finish well around the rim. In his lone season at Baylor, he shot 63.8% on shots from inside the arc.
Brown's most transferable skill by far is his defensive ability. He is a switchable defender who can guard anyone from a point guard to power forward. He plays an aggressive style of defense, similarly to Thybulle, and would be best suited for a Thybulle-like role.
You might be wondering why the Sixers would want a carbon copy of someone they already have on their roster. If the Sixers were to trade Thybulle, and there are already multiple rumors circulating around the league, Brown could step in and fill the exact same role. Playing alongside someone with good creation and ball handling abilities like James Harden would definitely benefit Brown. However, opposing defenses are liable to sag off him due to him not being much of a threat offensively.
Brown is an intriguing prospect due to his insane athleticism and defensive abilities, but his lack of offense will limit his usefulness a ton early on in his career. I would be shocked if the Sixers go on to select Brown considering their desire to win now should result in them targeting someone who can be more of a complete, useful player right off the bat.
Jalen Williams, Santa Clara
2021-22 stats: 18 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 51.3% field goal percentage, 39.6% 3-point percentage
Player comparison: OG Anunoby, T.J. Warren
Height: 6 feet, 6 inches; Weight: 195 pounds
Williams is an interesting player to watch this year. Most mock drafts had him going somewhere in the second round until he exploded at the NBA Draft Combine. He showcased his athleticism and, combined with a good junior season at Santa Clara, as a result is now being talked about going somewhere in the 20s in the first round.
He is a good outside shooter, although his college numbers might not always show it. He shot a career-high 39.6% from beyond the arc last season after putting together an unimpressive 32% from 3-point range over his first two years at Santa Clara. However, his free-throw numbers were always solid (78.5% in three years in college) and that can often be a good indicator of a player's shooting ability. He is also more than capable of either finishing around the basket or spotting up in the mid-range.
Williams is more of a mixed bag on the defensive end of the court. He plays with a ton of energy on that end of the floor, but he needs to work on improving his lateral quickness in order to truly be an impactful defensive player.
Overall, he would fit in well with the Sixers due to his ability to shoot from outside combined with his ability to attack off the dribble while also being a solid facilitator. The Sixers are in dire need of someone who can score off the bench, and Williams would fit that role perfectly. His draft stock is rising, with some mock drafts having him going before the Sixers' pick at No. 23, but if he is still available he would be a good pick for them.
Jake LaRavia, Wake Forest
2021-22 stats: 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1 block, 55.9% field goal percentage, 38.4% 3-point percentage
Player comparison: Kyle Anderson, Dario Saric
Height: 6 feet, 8 inches; Weight: 235 pounds
LaRavia is a do-it-all forward who took a major leap his junior year after transferring from Indiana State to Wake Forest. He is a good 3-point shooter, connecting on 38.4% of his attempts from deep as a junior. He is also a more than capable passer who has good court vision, especially for someone of his size. His versatility could lead to him potentially being a major threat out of the pick-and-roll.
However, while he shot the ball well from beyond the arc as a junior, his 3-point percentage vastly fluctuated throughout his three years at college. It will be interesting to see if he is more of the player who shot in the high-30s from 3-point range or the one who shot 31.3% as a sophomore. He also is a poor shooter off the dribble.
Defensively, he has some versatility to guard both small forwards and power forwards. He plays tough on that end of the floor, but will likely ultimately be limited defensively due to not possessing a ton of athleticism. He did average over a steal and a block per game as a junior at Wake Forest.
He might not fit what the Sixers are really looking for (a prototypical 3-and-D wing), but he would still be a very useful player. He plays with high basketball IQ and can do multiple things well out on the floor. Most mock drafts have him going somewhere in the late first round or early second round. The Sixers could definitely use someone with his well-rounded skillset coming off the bench.