It goes without saying that the Sixers are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA heading into the 2017-18 season. From Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, to “The Process” himself, the roster is flooded with talent and bursting with potential. But the Sixers could have three secret weapons that go unaccounted for in years to come. Those three weapons might just help provide the reliability off the bench that the team have craved.
Jonah Bolden was a borderline 5 star player coming out of the 2014 high school class. Players such as Devin Booker, DeAngelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Myles Turner, and Jahlil Okafor were rated above him when he redshirted his freshman season and played 1 year with UCLA. Bolden has a skillset in the mold of a taller Scottie Pippen in that he can shoot from long range, can play great defense, and can rise above the rim with aggression. When you see him play, you are seeing the development of an all-around player. In his final collegiate season, Bolden averaged 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, shooting 47 percent from the field, and 41 percent from long range. He was named the ABA League top prospect in the process.
Bolden was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round. A move which Bolden was praised by fans and media alike. Many labelled Bolden a first round talent and those claims were solidified after a solid Summer League outing. Bolden averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 2.3 blocks per game in Utah and 8 points 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals in Las Vegas. Bolden is a very active and aggressive player, possessing the type of talent to be an NBA all-star with time and and a top two-way player. I can see him being a future 18 point 9 rebound guy as a starter, watch out for this kid.
After selecting Markelle Fultz, the team decided that they weren’t done adding stars and traded up for 7’1, 220 lbs, Anzejs Pasecniks. For his size, he is very mobile and can run the floor. The Latvian was mentored by current NBA star Kristap Porzingis. Pasecniks can shoot from long range and can rebound, but will likely be 23 by the time he steps foot in the NBA. Two more years of seasoning and I see this guy coming over and becoming a quality power forward or center in the league. The upside is simply staggering. Why? Not only does he have the size of a defensive dominator, but the traits of a reliable shooter.
While he may not be a refined defensive talent just yet, the potential has been flashing for years. In 2013 he helped the Latvia U-18 national team reach the semi-finals of the European Championship and was named to the all-tournament team, averaging 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. Pasecniks had games of 24 points 9 rebounds and 2 blocks against Turkey, 18 points and 13 rebounds against Spain, 16 points and 11 rebounds against Bulgaria. He was also MVP of the European U-18 all-star team in 2013.
Pasecniks is a 4 time champion and was named to the Spanish League All-Young players team in 2017 before being drafted 25th overall. Just like Saric, it’s likely that Pasecniks will spend some time overseas before joining the Sixers…but when he does, he’s going to make a splash.
Finally, there’s Matthias Lessort who was drafted late in the second round by the 76ers; he is 6’9, 250 lbs, with energy and strength in the mold of Kenneth Faried. Lessort averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds last year for Nanterre International, he is an international star on the rise that does things not seen on the stat sheet to help his team win. Lessort is as tough as they come, his defense is a key strength to his talent, and he is also very good in transition and dunks with authority. Lessort almost enrolled in college as he was in contact with Gonzaga and North Carolina State. In 2013 at the Nike Global Challenge he averaged 19.5 points 7.8 rebounds with 1.3 blocks and received all-tournament team honors. Lessort has won 3 championships overseas and was named French League co-6th man of the year in 2016.
You can’t look past these 3 players, they are not only productive, but have extremely high ceilings. One thing we know is that all 3 will be on the bench when they enter the league. Bolden has the talent to be a lot more but on the bench he is dangerous as a defender and a scorer. Bolden would add that instant energy and offensive spark. Picture the tenacious rookie taking lobs from fellow Australian Ben Simmons and it becomes easy to see how he will fit into the rotation.
Pasecniks will get time backing up the power forward and center position, with his scoring becoming key for the bench. At 7’1, he would be hard to block with Fultz, Simmons, and Saric distributing the ball through lobs or penetrating and finding him for open jumpers.
Lessort adds energy and defense along with offense; he would add extra energy that would help make the bench a position of strength for the Sixers. Three players like this off the bench added to the Sixers in two years would make that bench a championship one. In two years the Sixers should be a championship contender. In two years by my timeline; these 3 guys should be a crucial part of that success.
Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports