BY PAUL MANCANO – As the draft slowly crept along last night (team’s had way longer than five minutes to make a pick), the biggest shock of the Sixers’ draft dawned on us: Hinkie was actually going to use those second-round picks to… draft players. I, like most fans, completely expected him to package some of those picks to move up. Maybe they would be a secondary piece of a deal to get another lottery pick. Maybe they would be used to grab a couple late-first rounders. Instead, Hinkie did the last thing we all expected: he kept them (for the most part).
Aside from the Russ Smith for Pierre Jackson trade and some other minor moves, the 76ers stood pat and took a wealth of college talent in the second round. First, Clemson standout, KJ McDaniels, went at 32. Then the lanky ’Cuse forward, Jerami Grant, went at 39. The 52nd pick, Vasilije Micic, and the (Spurs’) 58th pick, Jordan McRae, are the only other two who were not traded, as a flutter of mini-trades went down at the very end of the night.
Second-round picks don’t usually amount to much in the NBA. Guys like Manu Ginóbili, who was selected 57th overall, are a rarity. So why didn’t Hinkie try to finagle his way up to the late first round?
Because the Sixers need bodies, now. With the team’s first two selections not even on the bench next year, the two-time tankers need to put somebody, anybody, on the court. Packaging and jumping up doesn’t do you much good, especially considering how bustable some of the guys in the #20-#30 range can be. Hinkie must’ve turned on ESPN in the last week and heard the phrase “deep draft” over and over, and figured he could still get talented, high-upside guys in Round 2.
I had a chance to see both McDaniels and Grant in person, and I like them a lot. Here are my very professional, qualified scouting reports – no ESPN Insider account required:
McDaniels was the backbone of Clemson’s team. He’s a great defensive player, and he’s great in transition – a perfect fit for Brett Brown. He’s also quite athletic, though his stock reportedly dropped because of poor workouts. I don’t think watching a guy making jump shots alone in a gym gives you any indication of how good he’ll be, so I don’t really care how his workouts went.
Grant is absurdly athletic. He’s got a huge wingspan (over 7’2”, perfect for Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone) and a lot of quickness. However, he’s quite lean, and he doesn’t look like he knows what to do with his body yet. He’ll need to fill out, cause at this point, he’s just raw athleticism. Oh, and he’s got NO JUMPER. Like, not even close. I can’t tell you how many airballs of his I’ve seen from 12 feet away. But for a guy who many considered to be a first-round pick going into the draft, he’s a great value pick.
As for the other two picks, Micic and McRae, there are things to look forward to. Micic is supposedly an excellent passer. Like Saric, he could wait to come over from Europe. McRae scored a bunch of points at Tennessee (18.5 ppg) and he can shoot better than anybody currently on the Sixers’ roster.
But wait, there’s more. Pierre Jackson, who was traded to New Orleans in the Jrue Holiday trade before he was even drafted, is back and Better Than Ezra. He averaged 29.1 points in the D-league. That’s gotta count for something, right?
For right now, it looks like these rookies are going to eat up a great deal of minutes. With huge holes at the wings, Brown is likely to throw them all into the fire immediately. As the saying goes, he’ll throw s*** at the wall and see what sticks. If he’s lucky, a couple of them can play. They’ll learn, grow and develop. Perhaps, if they’re really good, they’ll be trade pieces down the line. But the fact that Hinkie didn’t trade MCW last night gives me hope that he’s actually looking for good players, not just assets.
If they’re pretty good and Hinkie doesn’t trade them, they could all be solid bench players down the road. If everything goes according to plan, they’ll be replaced as starters in a few years by Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, and some other potential superstars. When we’re looking to make a deep playoff run in a couple years, they could be great players off the bench.
While we wait for Embiid and Saric to suit up, these five will keep us entertained and excited about the future of the 76ers.