Despite Questions About Size, McCain’s Outside Shooting Enough to Prompt 76ers Selection

Despite Questions About Size, McCain’s Outside Shooting Enough to Prompt 76ers Selection Brooklyn, NY, USA; Jared McCain poses for photos with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2024 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After weeks of uncertainty about the Philadelphia 76ers’ intentions in the 2024 NBA Draft, they ended up staying pat at the 16th overall pick and selecting Jared McCain.

The 20-year old, who has a TikTok account with just shy of 3 million followers, is coming off an impressive season at Duke. He averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game for the Blue Devils. McCain was one of collegiate basketball’s best outside shooters last season, draining 41.4% of his 5.8 attempts per game. He was the lone player in college to shoot at least 40.0% from 3-point range while taking 200-plus attempts last season. The Sixers prioritized this offseason adding players who can shoot, and McCain definitely fits the bill.

“We really value shooting given the rest of the roster,” president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said when speaking to reporters after the first round of the draft. “Especially, Joel [Embiid]. We just think Joel’s unguardable when he has shooting around him. It doesn’t mean we don’t put tough-nosed guys out there that maybe that’s their—it’s never an easy thing, but look, I mean, if early on, obviously, Jared’s not going to be playing with Maxey a whole lot. It’s just hard for a rookie, but that elite shooting from two guys out on the floor is pretty hard to guard and both of them make it really tough on if you try to guard them tight. I don’t have to sell Tyrese Maxey, but Jared can attack a closeout and make a play.”

McCain is a pure sharpshooter who is not afraid of the big moment. He shined brightest in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 21.0 points per game while leading Duke to the Elite Eight. The California native scored 30-plus points in two separate contests during the tournament.

While scoring is his main area of production, McCain also has the potential to be a secondary creator. He can efficiently operate the pick-and-roll in addition to making smart plays with the ball. While at Duke, McCain was used more in an off-ball role. He is not likely going to develop his playmaking enough to play point guard at the NBA level, but there is enough there for him to grow into a combo guard role.

McCain has the tools to be productive offensively, but there are questions about where he fits on the other end of the floor. His 6-foot-2 frame and 6-foot-3 wingspan will limit his impact defensively. McCain is a hard worker while also being stronger than his frame would indicate. He knows how to use his strength, whether on drives to the basket or while crashing the glass. However, it is still fair to question McCain’s fit in the backcourt next to Tyrese Maxey, who is also 6-foot-2. Morey, when speaking to reporters late Wednesday night, talked about why he believes McCain will develop and become better defensively.

“I think that’s a valid concern. Obviously your backcourt, in a perfect world, you’d have taller,” Morey said. “But I think you have to compensate that with strength. He’s got a strong frame — very strong. Good rebounder. We think he’ll be a solid defender in the league over time. He started off at Duke … he was being targeted at Duke and as the season went on, he became someone that was actually one of their better defenders. He’s got the attitude that Coach [Nick] Nurse likes to bring, which is just get a little bit better every day. He’s got a 95th percentile approach to the game — teammate, work ethic. We’ve had some good luck taking the kids with a real base of potential and a strong work ethic. We were really happy. I’m excited for Philadelphia to get to know him.”

Head coach Nick Nurse has experience running lineups with two small guards. When he was head coach of the Toronto Raptors, there were years where his starting backcourt consisted of a pair of 6-footers in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. While Maxey and McCain are not defensive oriented like the Toronto pairing, their success provides optimism a potential Maxey-McCain backcourt duo can eventually succeed.

The Sixers were shocked McCain fell to their pick at 16. Morey said the team explored trading the pick, including for “a player we might be able to acquire later, potentially.” However, they settled on staying at 16 and selecting McCain, whom they viewed as a top-1o player in the draft.

“We had McCain as a top-10 player in this draft and someone who, you know, we’ve got a lot of roster opportunity. So, if you can get a player who is hopefully rotation-ready at a very young age – I don’t want to put pressure on him, but we think he’s got that improvement curve, he’s got the approach, he’s obviously got a skill that the coach will turn around on the bench and say, ‘Hey, I need that skill’,” Morey said.

McCain is not going to immediately step into a spot in the starting lineup. However, due to his elite outside shooting he should have a role during his rookie season.

“I think so,” Morey said when asked if he envisions McCain contributing immediately. “I think it’s a big bar; I think it’s tough. Obviously, we’re planning to be the best team in the East next year and be right there with Boston and the other competitors, so it’s a high bar. Generally, when you’re in the 10-to-20 range, it’s someone who’s not starting the year in the rotation but you hope by the end of the year, if they’re contributing, you’re in a really good spot as they show their work ethic.”

The Sixers felt McCain checked all the boxes. His outside shooting should allow him to contribute immediately as a rookie. He has the potential to grow into a productive combo guard. McCain also possesses an intense work ethic. There are also some weak spots to his game, but overall McCain is a talented player with a ton of potential.

“I don’t want to put any tough expectations on him,” Morey said. “But we really think this guy is going to be a 76er for a very long time.”

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