1-2-3-4-5 Potential Sixers: A Super Early Draft Look at 2015 Prospects

BY PAUL MANCANO—I think about the Sixers way too much. I spend many a night tossing and turning, wondering if a first-round pick is a necessary inclusion in an Anthony Bennett/Thad Young trade, or if Jordan McRae will be a viable bench player in a few years (it is and he will be, in case you were wondering). It’s unhealthy.

About a week after the 2014 NBA Draft, I googled “2015 NBA mock draft.” I know, my life is depressing. But it’s not totally my fault. Maybe if the Sixers had used at least one of their first rounders on a player who will actually play in 2014-15, I would’ve waited a month or so. Instead, they picked Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, ceremoniously raising the tank flag once again for the upcoming season. So to the draft boards we go.

Unlike last years crop, the 2015 Draft class is not (said to be) loaded with potential All-Stars. However, it is chockfull of power forwards and centers. Good thing we’ve used the last two drafts to fill those positions.

Over this draft also looms the possibility of format reform, which would be a terrible thing for the Sixers, and therefore, the world. But assuming the Great Reformation doesn’t come this year, the Sixers will be in prime position to win the lottery come May. There’s no consensus No. 1 at this point, but there may be once these guys actually arrive on campus/China. In the coming months, the Moose will analyze the top prospects for the 76ers in a segment we like to call “1-2-3-4-5 Potential Sixers,” named after the greatest song ever written. Currently, here are the top five 2015 draft options for the Sixers:

KELLY OUBRE— Small Forward, Freshman, Kansas University

This is exactly what the Sixers need: a true wing. He’s long, athletic, and—what for it—he can shoot! He shot 57% from the field his senior year of high school—yes, it is high school, but it’s all we got right now. His mechanics are a little wonky but Brett Brown can fix that. Oubre also shoots a ton, but I think that wouldn’t be terrible for the Sixers considering he’d be the only one on the roster who can shoot. Oubre’s knack for hitting the J gives him the flexibility to move to SG, which might be a necessity in a few years when Dario Saric finally gets his ass over here.

Everything looks easy for Oubre. Watching his highlight reel—and again, it is high school, but still—he seems calm on the court, no matter what he’s doing. With his 7’1” wingspan, he can surely flap his way to the basket in the NBA. His athleticism gives him a fluidity that’s rare in young prospects. He lacks the herky-jerky motions seen in still-growing athletes, such as Andrew Wiggins. Also, his hair is, uh, interesting.

Currently, Oubre sits at #2 in NBADraft.net’s mock, and at #5 in Draft Express’ mock. At this point, he looks like the best option for the Sixers.

EMMANUEL MUDIAY— Point Guard, (Would-Be) Freshman, China

A ball-dominant point guard who’s forgoing college to play overseas… sound familiar? Dante Exum comparisons aside, Mudiay elected not to play for coach Larry Brown at SMU, instead heading to China to play for $1.2 mil. Great money, not so great development. There’s not chance Mudiay develops as much as he would under A.I.’s old sworn enemy mentor. However, in China, he’ll be playing against bigger and stronger guys than he would in college.

In terms of his fit with the Sixers, the same questions that were asked about Exum are likely to be asked about Mudiay in the coming months. Will his shooting improve? Can he play next to MCW? Who framed Roger Rabbit? All important questions.

JAHLIL OKAFOR— Center, Freshman, Duke University

In Chad Ford’s latest first 2015 mock, he’s got the projected-to-be-the-worst Sixers taking the almost-7-footer with the first overall pick. Why? Because “assets are key right now and Okafor appears to be the most valuable asset in the draft.”

Here’s Ford’s official take on the pick:

“Okafor is the consensus No. 1 pick right now and with the exception of Emmanuel Mudiay, all of the other top prospects are bigs as well. While Okafor is different than Noel and Embiid — the Duke freshman is an old-school, back-to-the-basket, below-the-rim post beast — he could create a log jam considering Philly’s roster.”

Here lies the true test of Sam “Big Ping Pong Balls” Hinkie’s position-blind asset acquisition. Would he really draft another center if he was the best player on the board? I truly hope we won’t get to find out the answer to that question, because I think we all know what the answer would be. The Hinkster wants to build a team of potential superstars, which means getting the best player available. Plus, given that the injury history of Noel-Joel is about the length of War and Peace, it might not be unwise to add another center, Justin Case.

Let’s just wait a couple months before we delve too deep into the enigmatic psyche of Dr. Samuel Hinkie, mad scientist.

MARIO HEZONJA— Shooting Guard, 19 Years Old, FC Barcelona

International Man of Mystery Mario Hezonja seems like the perfect fit for the Sixers. He’s everything they crave: athletic, strong defensively, Croatian. Plus, he can shoot the rock. He looks out of this world so far. Granted, he only played 12 minutes a game last year for FC Barcelona, but he’s a guaranteed superstar nonetheless.

It’s ridiculous how early these scouts start evaluating prospects. Hezonja has played so little, it’s impossible to evaluate him. The sample size is miniscule. They say he’s a great shooter, they say he’s a versatile defender, but who knows? Ideally, he plays great this year and becomes a legitimate option for the Sixers. But I just can’t be sold yet on a guy who played less than Jarvis Varnado last year.

STANLEY JOHNSON— Small Forward, Freshman, University of Arizona

Perhaps the best all-around player of the bunch, Johnson is a premier defender. The dude’s big and thick (6’7”, 235 lbs) and he’s got a knack for using his body to push guys around. We all know how much the Hinkster and BB adore long defenders, so he should fit in perfectly.

Unlike that of other top prospects, Johnson’s athleticism isn’t elite, and he doesn’t light up the highlight reels with earth-shattering dunks or ankle-breaking crossovers. But he’s fundamentally sound in a lot of areas. He’s a good ball-handler and a smart, versatile player. And for what it’s worth, he won four state titles in four years in high school, but Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, so take it with a grain of salt. He’s also got great hair, which you should not take with a grain of salt.

In a couple months, we’ll get our first taste of these prospects against college-level competition. I can’t wait.



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