Breaking Down the Sixers’ 2017 Draft

| Fultz was an easy, and noteworthy choice. After that, the Sixers were busy, but prudent with the rest of their 2017 picks and kept the future in mind. |

1st overall: Markelle Fultz – G – University of Washington

The Sixers traded with Boston precisely to draft the 19 year old Fultz, a clear indication of the team’s assessment and valuation of him as the consensus top prospect. They not only view him as the best choice, but think highly enough of him to warrant giving up a reasonable amount assets to get him. It now solidifies a highly talented trio of Fultz, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. He’s a perfect fit with both of them and has the most room for growth.

“When you look at [Fultz’s] ability to shoot, when you look at his ability to create on a catch-go or off a live ball certainly in early offense, he can co-exist with Ben and Joel the easiest out of all of [this year’s prospects],” Head Coach Brett Brown said on Friday.

Brown is correct. Fultz is pure offense. He’s an excellent ball handler who can slice through a defense and finish at the basket. He’s crafty, and excels in a pick and roll. His outside shooting isn’t great (only a 65% free throw shooter, streaky from deep) but his form is far from broken and shouldn’t hold him back. The only area that he needs work is on social media.

“I know a lot of people have beat up on Philly because the team hasn’t been winning a lot. But Coach Brown seems like he believes in growth and development for his players,” Fultz said on the Players Tribune. “And when you have that from a coach, it makes the players wanna work that much harder I think. I’m coming to Philly to work. I’m coming to be part of the team. I’m coming to add more life to The Process. I’m going to have a rookie mentality — above no one, below no one. Basically, I’m coming to give everything I have of myself. I have trust that everything else will work out.”

If the team stays true to it’s insistence on Simmons being the de-fact point guard, Fultz will have to adjust to playing off ball. He can do that, but he can also initiate offense for himself, such as running screens with Embiid and Simmons. The Sixers’ needed a point guard, and Fultz’s ability to create and score efficiently should greatly enhance the flow of an offense that passes the most in the league.

25th Overall:  Anzejs Pasecniks – C CB Gran Canaria

The team didn’t just draft on Thursday. They made a handful of trades. The first, at the cost of a 2020 first round pick to Orlando, gave the Sixers the 25th pick. With it, they selected Pasecniks, a Latvian center playing in Spain. He likely won’t come to North America right away but he has intriguing upside, even for a someone who will turn 22 in December. It’s also smart to acquire centers in the event that the team is priced out of one of Embiid or Richaun Holmes. Jahlil Okafor likely doesn’t have a future here either.

As a player Pasecniks is still very raw. In his league he was mostly used as a pick and roll man, diving to the basket. He’s a good, fluid athlete who finishes lobs, and can even shoot from the outside in small doses. He has tools to be a good defender, but isn’t at this moment.

Look for him to have an expanded role on his team in Spain next season.

36th Overall – Jonah Bolden – PF – FMP Beograd

With their first second round pick, the Sixers took the intriguing Jonah Bolden. The 6-10 forward from Austrailia played for UCLA in 2015-16, but left for a Serbian team this past season and vastly improved. He posted 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds with a smooth shooting stroke from outside (jumped from 25% at UCLA to 41% overseas) and signs of defensive upside. How Bolden slipped into the second round is a mystery; he has all of the tools needed for success in the NBA.

Although listed as a forward, Bolden’s ability to space the floor and guard multiple positions could allow him to be a small ball center. His defense doesn’t shine like his offense, largely because of consistency issues, but he’s shown the ability to protect the paint and switch onto perimeter players. His lapses in effort could be hidden on a strong defensive unit, and the Sixers are a good team to iron out those issues. Familiarity with Sixers’ coach Brett Brown is sure to help.

“[My father] played against Brett’s team, and Brett coached him in an all-star game. The Australian community is so small and tight,” Bolden said  “I just know I can approach them off the court and know I can speak to them on a daily basis about anything. I know that, coming from Australia, we all have each other’s backs, so that definitely helps.”

Bolden, like Pasecniks, might not play in Philly this year. He has two years left on a contract, although a buyout is possible. But when he does, Sixer fans are in for a treat.

52nd Overall – Mathias Lessort – PF – Naterre 92

With their final pick of the night, the Sixers took another big man, this time from France. Lessort is more of a defensive player, but can still chip in on offense. He’s comfortable diving to the rim on pick and rolls and fighting underneath the basket for positioning. Athletically, he should have no problem in the NBA. But he isn’t very skilled outside of the paint and can’t shoot very well. He could improve in those areas, but they will never be strengths of his game. Lessort will be an energy and hustle player which is fine for a late second rounder. He’s another Euro-stash, but the improvement time will do him good.

The Sixers did select two other players; Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans and SMU’s Sterling Brown, but they’ve reportedly been traded to the Clippers and Bucks, respectively.

Overall it was a safe draft for Philadelphia. They ensured themselves the best prospect in Fultz who will contribute right away. And they added more young players in Pasecniks and Bolden who can take time to grow while the current squad sorts itself out for the long term. The Process may have led to this, but it’s far from over.

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