The dust has settled a bit after the latest NBA Draft, and right now at least all the draft picks and Ben Simmons are still a part of the Philadelphia 76ers. No one, not even Daryl Morey (maybe), knows how long that will last, but here’s how the chips stacked up.The Sixers had three picks in the 2021 draft; the 28th, the 50th (from the New York Knicks) and the 53rd (which they got from the New Orleans Pelicans). With those picks, they drafted Jaden Springer, a 6-4 guard out of Tennessee, Filip Petrusev, a 6-11 center out of Serbia, and another 6-11 center in Charles Bassey from Western Kentucky.
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In terms of sheer value this pick is an A- at least. Springer was mocked to go much earlier than 28 by basically every major outlet. CBS had him 18th, NBC had him 24th, SportingNews had him 17th and Tankathon put him 22nd. Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer put him 27th, Bleacher Report had him 28th, and so far the only major mock draft that put him under 28 was Sports Illustrated, who put him 33rd. Jackson Frank, a respected 76ers media member, tweeted that most of his trusted analysts had Springer as a lottery pick or better. Morey loves good value, and the 76ers might’ve gotten one of the best values in the draft.
This is what knocks the pick down in my opinion. Springer profiles as a young (second youngest player in the draft) raw guard, who’s best skill right now is defense. The offense is a work in progress. His percentages are good, but the volume isn’t there, and he doesn’t have a signature scoring skill yet. He doesn’t have much of a handle, he’s a willing passer but not great at it, and he doesn’t wow athletically.
When looking at the 76ers needs, Springer doesn’t fit any of them. He doesn’t create his own shot with any consistency (scored just 12.5 points per game), he doesn’t provide much playmaking (2.9 assist to 2.4 turnovers) and he’s obviously not a back up big. He shot really nice percentages (46.7/43.5/81.0), but he only took 1.8 threes per game. To say that he’s a threat from there is a stretch. That being said, four free throws per game isn’t bad given his overall scoring, and as always, the greatest predictor of shooting success in the NBA is the free throw percentage.
As far as alternatives go, guys like Ayo Dosunmu, Jared Butler and Miles McBride that were still around are all much more advanced in their offensive shotmaking. On the playmaking and passing side, Jason Preston and Sharife Cooper were available as well.
The 76ers already have two front court defensive specialists with shaky offensive games on their squad in Matisse Thybulle and Ben Simmons, and it will be tough for any two of them to share the court. If Ben Simmons were to be traded however, Springer makes a lot more sense, and in terms of the back court of the future he could fit well with Tyrese Maxey, who has shown flashes on the defensive end but is quite small. Still, the chances of Springer contributing this year is quite low, even more so if Simmons is retained.
Springer’s youth should theoretically mean he has a ton of room to grow, and will definitely need as much time as possible to develop. A common theme when talking up Springer was “his feel for the game”. While that can be just scouting buzzwords talking, at its best it means a sense and instinct for basketball that just can’t be taught. Instinctively knowing where people need to be to find gaps in the defense and having that internal timing in your head makes the best passers, so Springer’s playmaking potential is there.
He’s also not terrible at anything offensively. The lack of explosiveness probably won’t ever change, but he’s shown the ability to finish at the rim, hit threes, get to the line at a decent clip and even pull up in the mid range. He’s not amazing at any of those things, but at the same time the foundation for all of those things is there. Finally, no matter what he’s as guaranteed as you can be to be a plus defender, which as we’ve seen from Matisse Thybulle isn’t bad at all. He’s got that aforementioned feel for the game on defense as well, and has active hands, decent size and quick lateral movement.
This was a potential pick through and through. Springer has a chance, especially with his young age, to develop into a really nice player. There’s a reason many mocked him near the lottery. He’s got a decent baseline in everything, is already a great defender and reportedly possesses that unteachable instinct for the game that all the best players have. At his best he can be an all-around guard like Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday or Mike Conley, someone who can contribute to the game in every phase. On the other hand if his offensive game doesn’t develop then he could end up like a less athletic guard version of Justise Winslow, someone who had all the potential in the world but can’t score in the NBA.
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As the Draft gets later and later, mock drafts tend to be much less accurate, and the Sixers last two picks were in the depths of the second round, so it’s hard to judge value. That being said, Petrusev seemed to go about where he was expected to on aggregate. Half the outlets had him higher than 50 (NBC Sports put him at his highest at 39) while the other half had him past 50, with SI putting him the latest at 56.
This pick could potentially fill one of the Sixers major needs, which is a stretch big to back up Joel Embiid or Tobias Harris. Petrusev is a little tall to be a power forward, but he’s got the shooting to possibly allow him to play alongside the traditional bigs in Dwight Howard and Embiid. He also played with another big in Serbia, so he’s got experience in that role. Petrusev shot 41.9% from deep in Serbia last year, and was a prolific scorer. He was the Adriatic league’s MVP with 23.6 points per game to go along with 7.6 boards.
Petrusev might not come over right away, but he adds a scoring and shooting punch to the bench that sorely lacked it. At worst he can stand in the corner for threes a la Mike Scott, at best he could really be a reliable scorer off the bench with the skills he showed with KK Mega Basket, his old club.
Defensively he’s not great, lacking athleticism and he’s quite skinny right now at just 225 pounds. On the 76ers bench though that’s not a huge problem, as any combination of Thybulle, Springer and Howard should have that end covered pretty well.
Petrusev is a big man with spacing, which is always a fantastic commodity in today’s NBA. Overall he’s got a developed offensive game, able to make buckets in a multitude of ways. Petrusev won’t be a star in the NBA, but it’s not like you were hoping to get one with the 50th pick anyways. Petrusev can absolutely be a nice role player however, especially if he can continue to knock down threes at a good rate. Matt Bonner had a 12 year career (and won two rings) as a shooting center, and there’s nothing stopping Petrusev from carving out a similar career.
Again, the expectations for a 50th pick have to be quite low, and with those low expectations the 76ers did a good job. The fit works well, with Petrusev able to bring the spacing and scoring the bench desperately needs, while the other members can cover his defensive deficiencies. If Petrusev can become a better version of 2020 Mike Scott, that’s already a solid improvement, and the 23.6 points per game he had in Europe give hope for more.
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Right up there with Springer, Bassey represents immense value where the 76ers ended up taking him. CBS had Bassey mocked to the 76ers in the first round, and almost all the other outlets had him in the 30s. The only one to rate Bassey lower than the 53rd pick where the 76ers ended up taking him was Tankathon, who had him 59th.
Dwight Howard had a good season as Joel Embiid’s backup, and while the 76ers would like to retain him, Howard is a free agent right now. Charles Bassey (along with Petrusev) are potential replacements, with Bassey being much more similar to Howard of the two. Just like Howard, he’s a dominant force inside, throwing down massive dunks on his way to shooting 59% from the floor and grabbing 11.6 boards per game. He brings that same energy as a rim protector, averaging 3.1 blocks per game in 2020. Unlike Howard though, Bassey can shoot a bit, hitting 30.5% of his threes on 2.1 attempts per game last year with Western Kentucky, and he shot 76.8% from the line for his college career which is a big difference from Howard’s career 56.6% from the charity stripe.
Bassey does face some competition in the back up big spot for last year’s 2nd round selection, Paul Reed. Reed is another traditional big man, relying on the post and athleticism to get his points without much threat from deep. Reed was the G-League MVP last year too, and there’s probably not room for both of these guys to play.
Bassey is a classic old-school center. He’s going to alter shots at the rim (but probably be exposed quite badly on the perimeter if it comes to that), gobble up boards, and his scoring in the NBA will probably be reliant solely on dunks, putbacks and alley-oops. There’s still a place for that in the NBA, as long as that person isn’t playing big minutes, which Bassey won’t. Not only that, but it’s not like Bassey can’t shoot at all. He made a big leap from his sophmore year to his junior year from range, and he’s always had good free throw shooting numbers for a big. Bassey was a former five-star recruit in high school and his physical attributes (size, length, vertical) could have him far outperform his draft pick.
The chances of the 53rd pick in the draft positively affecting your team are slim to none, so going for a home run should be the way to go. Bassey has as good a chance as anyone in the second round to really impact the NBA in a major way. He’s a former top prospect, and his size and athleticism leave nothing to be desired. Shot-blocking and rebounding are already plus skills, and he’s got the groundwork to develop an offensive game. If he can become a decent three point shooter, Bassey has a real chance to be really good in the NBA. In terms of a 53rd pick, it doesn’t get much better than Bassey.
Overall Draft Grade: B+
Petrusev and Bassey were about as good as you can expect considering they were two of the last ten picks in the entire draft. They both fill a need that the 76ers have, and they also have good potential to be better. Bassey in particular was a great value pick at 53 considering what he could become.
For most teams, Springer at 28 would be fantastic. He’s very young, with a solid base of skills in every facet of the game, and is especially potent on defense. His ceiling is sky-high, a do-it-all point guard that can score, pass and defend in equal measure. The only issue is that unless major moves are made, Springer has no place on this current team. Barring a massive developmental leap forward in a near unprecedented way, his skill set won’t earn him any minutes over Simmons, Thybulle, Maxey, Shake Milton or Seth Curry. Even 2020 pick Isaiah Joe has a better shot to see minutes considering his shooting prowess. He just doesn’t offer anything the 76ers need right now, and everything he currently does is done better by someone else.
He does have the ability to become the all-around player the Sixers need so badly, but he’s probably 2-3 years away from actually becoming that. Considering the 76ers window is now and rapidly shrinking with each new Embiid injury, that might be too late.
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