The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to undergo quite a bit of roster turnover this upcoming offseason (whenever that occurs of course). Four players are on expiring contracts, and another few are expected to be made available via trade. Luckily for the Sixers, they’ll have an opportunity to add a first-round level talent to help replace some of the lost production.
Possessing the OKC Thunder’s first-rounder due to the pick conveying, the Sixers will undoubtedly be looking to add an instant contributor in the later stages of the draft. One player that Elton Brand should be expected to do some serious homework on is Nico Mannion out of Arizona.
NICO MANNION – POINT GUARD
Strengths: passing, ball-handling, shot-creation, age
Weaknesses: size, defense, efficiency/turnovers
College Stats: 14.0 PTS, 5.3 AST, 2.5 REB
Many of you are probably already familiar with the name “Nico Mannion”. Gracing pretty much every single social media site and Youtube channel with his crazy mixtapes, Mannion was a borderline national sensation during his senior year of high school. Draining step-back threes, breaking ankles, and dunking on kids, Mannion’s HS dominance was enough to earn him the starting job at Arizona in 2019.
Despite averaging just 14 points per game in college, Mannion was a quick riser when it came to NBA draft boards. Possessing a unique skill set and filled with raw potential, many feel his play style has a high chance to convey to the pro level.
Without question, Mannion’s best attribute is his ability to act as a true “point guard”. Possessing one of the quickest handles in the draft, Mannion operates like he has eyes in the back of his head. His ability to find the open man, regardless of the situation, is comparable to some of the top passers in the NBA. Although 5.3 assists per game doesn’t scream “elite passer”, a lot of the game film shows lackluster teammates missing open shots. If Mannion played at Duke or Kentucky for example, he easily could have averaged 7-9 assists.
The other main trait that has NBA scouts swooning is Mannion’s ability to create shots for himself. When it comes to the NBA, space is at a premium. Point guards are 6’ 10” with 7-foot wingspans, players have to be able to operate in extremely tight windows. Mannion utilizes a quick release, a floater that he can hit with both hands, and a sneaky quick first step which can all be used to create openings in the pros.
On the flip side, there are some obvious drawbacks when it comes to Mannion. Listed at 6’ 3” and 190lbs, Mannion looks more like he’s 6’ 1” and 175lbs. Skinny and undersized, Mannion found himself repeatedly overmatched when it came to the defensive side of things. On-ball assignments were a chore for him, as he spent most of his time sitting in the passing lanes looking for cheap steals. His lack of physical conditioning showed in his offensive game too, as his numbers began to take a hit as the season wore on. Adding a good 10-15lbs of muscle is a must if he wishes to compete with the Russell Westbrooks of the world.
Mannion’s overall efficiency scoring the basketball may cause his value to slip as well. Shooting just 39.2% from the field and 32.7% from three, Mannion was prone to taking the bad shot on occasion. Part of this can be attributed to not having the best teammates around him, but his 2.6 turnovers per game is all his doing. Cleaning up the turnovers and the bad shots ideally get fixed via the introduction of NBA-level teammates.
Mannion turned 19 just a few weeks ago, which really speaks to the fact that there is an absurd amount of untapped potential within him. Weaknesses aside, averaging 14 and 5 in Division I college basketball as an 18 year old is no small feat.
The Sixers are expected to add a point guard this offseason, and have already been linked to the likes of Tre Jones. Mannion has been mocked anywhere from 10 to 25, if he drops to Elton Brand, it’s hard to imagine the Sixers GM passes on such an exciting prospect.
Mannion’s overall size and lack of a consistent jumper will hurt him no matter what team he ends up on, but his basketball IQ makes it hard to believe he’ll “bust”. A somewhat funny, but totally accurate player comparison for him would be TJ McConnell, if TJ was way better at basketball. Undersized, good but not great shooter, awesome passer, and an exceptional IQ.
In conclusion, the overall idea of pairing up Mannion with Simmons has it’s pros and cons. Mannion is clearly a “project” of a draft pick, and may even need some time in the G-League to develop considering his age. If Mannion slips in the draft, I wouldn’t fault the 76ers for taking a stab at him. However, I doubt he’ll be anywhere near the top of the team’s draft board.
Check out some of the other entries in our “Rewinding the Process” series:
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