Before we know it the NBA Draft will be here once again, and the Sixers will be once again looking to narrow down their search for the missing piece of the roster. The return of the NCAA Tournament this year gives college prospects a chance to showcase their skills and look to climb their way up draft boards.
As it is, the Sixers are tied for first in the Eastern Conference and the 4th best record overall which puts them in line for the 27th pick in the draft. They also still currently hold two second-round picks. While the draft slots are certain to change as the season progresses, here are some names the Sixers should be on the watch for as the Tournament prepares to tip-off:
The Top Dogs
Barring a franchise-altering trade, the Sixers will have no shot at getting their hands on either one of these guys. That being said, both are more than worth watching and each guy has a lengthy NBA career ahead of them and will secure a spot in the top 5 picks at the conclusion of this tournament if that hasn’t been set in stone already.
Cade Cunningham- PG/SG Oklahoma State
If the season ended right now, Cade Cunningham is the clear-cut number 1 pick and it seems there is little chance this changes up until the draft. The 6-8 guard has a mature feel for the game and an overall calming presence on the court. On the season, Cade averaged 20.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and shot 41.2% from beyond the three-point arc.
Cade can score on all three levels, has a solid NBA frame, and is ideal for the position-less basketball that is seen in today’s NBA. He has excellent court vision and a great ability to break defenders down to free himself for a mid-range jumper or find his way into the lane. Cunningham also has a unique ability to score in bunches late in games and he averges about twice as many points in the second half compared to the first. Despite being the 4th seed, Oklahoma State has picked up steam as the season progressed and have the intent of making a deep tourney run.
While he is already much more advanced as a scorer, Cade Cunningham shows many similarities to Ben Simmons due to his control of pace and ability to find his teammates. Cunningham has one of the higher floors of recent potential first picks and he will be an exciting player to watch at the next level. Cade and the rest of the Oklahoma State roster will begin their tournament journey in a matchup with the 13th seeded Liberty Flames.
Jalen Suggs- PG Gonzaga
A natural point guard and fiery competitor, Jalen Suggs has led Gonzaga to a 26-0 record on the year and climbed from a potential lottery pick to a guy who now has been in the conversation for the first pick. Suggs stands 6’4 and averages 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on the season.
The freshman has a solid feel of the game and plays within its flow, but often showcases his ability to take over late in games. He is a bouncy athlete with a quick first step and an effortless jumper that he can create on his own. Gonzaga is a popular pick to win the entire tournament and this would likely lock in Jalen Suggs name for being a top pick in the next draft.
Sixers Potential Prospects in NCAA Tournament
Ayo Dosunmo- PG/SG Illinois
Often recognized by his Batman-like face-mask, Ayo Dosunmo is a crafty combo-guard who should fit right in at the next level. He stands 6’5 and is now in his third season at Illinois. Dosunmo has taken strides every season and has made the All-Big Ten team twice.
While he has been productive in all three seasons, the Chicago native took a major stride this year and averages 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Ayo is a bucket-getter who can effectively break down his defender with his advanced array of hesitation moves and euro steps.
Dosunmo is a solid defender who can defend multiple positions and has improved his shot throughout his time in college. He has seen his draft stock slide from early in the year and he is now slated as a late first-round pick. It seems likely the Illinois product will climb throughout the tournament and draft process, but he would be a great addition to the Sixers backcourt and has potential for a successful NBA career if he finds himself available. The talented Illinois roster has prevented Ayo’s full rise as it is possible he will be joined by two of his teammates on draft night. In the meantime, Ayo and the rest of the Fighting Illini will begin their tournament journey in a matchup with Drexel in the first round.
Mac McClung- PG/SG Texas Tech
While the human highlight reel may not have grown into the future NBA star that he was once hyped up to be, Mac McClung has begun to find his true pathway for professional basketball success. After spending two years at Georgetown, where he averaged a combined 14.2 points per game, McClung transferred to Texas Tech for the remainder of his college career.
Texas Tech comes into the tournament as the 6th seed and will open up with a matchup against 11th seed Utah State. McClung will continue to lead the Red Raiders in scoring with his 15.7 points per game. Despite his 6’2 height, Mac has shown to be at his best when he plays off-the-ball. He will need to continue to improve on his 33.3% from beyond the arc as he makes the NBA leap, but McClung is currently slated as a late first-round to early second-round prospect.
Yves Pons- SF/PF Tennessee
It does not take long to notice why Yves Pons is a future NBA player. Standing at 6’6 with a shredded frame and with over a 7-foot wingspan, Pons is a problem on the defensive end. He was the 2019-2020 SEC DPOY and also made the SEC all-defensive team twice in his four-year college career. The Frenchman has active hands and rotates well, producing a ridiculous 4.3 steals and 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes at home this season.
Showing shades of Matisse Thybulle, Pons is slightly limited in his offensive skill set at this point. He has shown stretches of being able to knock down the three on a consistent basis but averages just 8.9 points per game on the season. That being said, his impact lies much deeper than the points per game indicate. In many ways, Pons is the heart and soul of Tennessee, who will take on Oregon State in their first-round matchup and has hopes at a legitimate tournament run.
Currently, Yves is slated as a late first-round pick to early second heading into the tournament. His high-flying, powerful dunks and explosive blocks will catch eyes, but he needs to add some more polish to his game before being NBA-ready. Pons will be a player to watch in the league if he is able to add offensive polish and improved shooting to his defensive-oriented game and the tournament will be a valuable opportunity to further evaluate his ceiling.
Greg Brown- SF/PF Texas
The 6’9 freshman has a super exciting skillset and may very well be looked at as a steal in the draft a few years down the line. Brown is a quick and wiry athlete who can jump out the gym and doesn’t think twice before elevating for a poster dunk. He has already shown signs of improvement as a ball-handler and is in the process of adding skill to his athletic-based style of play.
Brown’s shot is mechanically sound and he knocked down three’s at a 32.2% rate on 3.6 attempts per game this season. He plays at a fast pace and loves getting out on the fast-break. Greg Brown needs to add weight to his 190-pound frame, but he will be an NBA-caliber athlete the second he steps into the league. If Brown elects to stay another year of college and grow into his body, it is possible he could be in the discussion for a top 10 pick. The early rumblings seem to indicate he intends to declare for the draft and his unique athleticism could be more than worth a gamble on.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire