As the 2022 NBA Draft approaches and fans are beginning to dive deeper into the analysis and coverage available on the prospects, a term that might confuse followers who aren’t as big on college basketball or the draft is BPA. This is especially applicable for teams picking outside of the lottery like the Philadelphia 76ers are this year. BPA is shorthand for “best player available,” an acronym that sums up a popular draft strategy.
When determining which prospect to pick, teams can tackle the question from two different angles: talent and roster fit. Usually, those making selections at the top of the draft will almost always go with BPA. As the squads with the earliest picks are usually the ones that finished with the worst records in the preceding regular season, their roster construction is likely far from finished, and each lineup probably has more holes to fill than surefire foundational pieces. Therefore, it makes sense to just take the most talented player remaining rather than try to mold a certain direction for the team so early in the process.
On the flip side, the franchises that hold the later selections should have a fleshed-out rotation and are just a piece or two away from title contention. Also, with the draft’s best prospects already off of the board, the talent level starts to even out, making it more reasonable to justify taking a better fit over a slightly more promising player who might be redundant or unnecessary.
2022 NBA Draft: Best Player Available vs. Team Fit
That doesn’t necessarily mean that every team picking in the 20s has to base their decision on fit, though. Those that have a truly complete rotation or even a surplus of talent can afford to take a flier on a boom-or-bust prospect — someone that may not contribute right away but has the potential to take a burgeoning playoff team over the hump and into true title contention.
There have been examples of non-lottery picks in both directions in recent drafts. Last year, the Atlanta Hawks swung for the fences when they took Duke Blue Devil Jalen Johnson with the 20th-overall pick. Rather than adding a more surefire contributor to their squad that just made the Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta opted to play the long game by selecting Johnson, a former five-star recruit whose stock tanked when he unexpectedly withdrew midway through his freshman season in college, to prepare for the draft instead.
The Hawks currently have an incomplete grade on that pick, as Johnson appeared in just 22 games last season for a grand total of 120 minutes in the NBA. He did provide some encouragement by dominating in the G-League, however, to the tune of 22.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per contest in eight total games with the College Park Skyhawks.
Unlike Atlanta, the Boston Celtics opted for team fit in the 2020 NBA Draft, taking University of Oregon guard Payton Pritchard with the 26th-overall pick. After the Kemba Walker experiment failed in New England, the Cs had to find someone to provide shot creation and steady guard play. Pritchard hasn’t been outstanding by any means but has adequately filled his role as an offensive spark plug off of the pine. So far in Boston’s postseason run, he’s notched six games with double-digit points, including two outings with 14 and one 18-piece.
Why the Philadelphia 76ers should take the BPA in the 2022 NBA Draft
The Philadelphia 76ers have exhibited both strategies in recent years. They displayed a BPA mindset when they acquired Jaden Springer in 2021 and when they traded the rights to Mikal Bridges in exchange for Zhaire Smith. They also showed a willingness to draft for team fit when they took Landry Shamet in 2018. So the question begs: what will the Philadelphia 76ers do in the 2022 NBA Draft?
Taking a look at the current roster, the 76ers will be returning nine players next season who totaled over 1100 minutes in 2021-2022 — given that James Harden is on the team next year, of course. If it’s to be expected that Jaden Springer will join the rotation or General Manager Daryl Morey will add some kind of impactful veteran in free agency, Philly will have a legitimately 10-deep rotation regardless of who they acquire with the 23rd-overall pick.
In 2020, the Philadelphia 76ers struck gold and the perfect balance when they drafted Tyrese Maxey out of the University of Kentucky. Maxey was consistently mocked a few spots before Philadelphia’s 21st pick that year, but his talents as an offensively-gifted combo guard made him the ideal target for them in that range.
The 76ers might have the chance to sneak into that sweet spot again in this upcoming draft. Several prospects might fall into the Sixers’ hands that could also happen to fill their needs of perimeter shot creation, defensive versatility, and consistent deep shooting. Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr., Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams, LSU’s Tari Eason, and even Kansas’s Ochai Agabji have all been mocked in Philly’s range, would fill multiple needs, and each holds the potential to be the best player available when the Philadelphia 76ers are on the clock.
If the 23rd pick rolls around and the greatest remaining talent happens to be a scoring guard or even a center, though, Philadelphia shouldn’t balk at the idea of adding a redundancy. The 76ers are already chock full of role players and should only gain additional depth in free agency. Head Coach Doc Rivers already tends to leave rookies on the bench, so it’s highly unlikely that their rookie sees the floor very often anyways.
Instead of taking a high-floor, low-ceiling player like Jake LaRavia from Wake Forest or Christian Braun from Kansas, Philly should take a chance with the BPA. Even if it’s an offensive-minded guard like Harden and Maxey or a true center like Joel Embiid, nabbing the top talent remaining will give the 76ers the rookie most likely to crack the rotation, the best chance at acquiring a player who can take the team over the hump, and the most valuable asset to be used in a trade down the road.
As the 2022 NBA Draft commences, keep an eye on the BPA or Best Player Available countdown on ESPN and hope that the Philadelphia 76ers take the top name on that board when the 23rd pick comes around.