One week ago, Joel Embiid sat in front of a national audience as the results of the 2017 NBA Draft lottery were pulled. He waited eagerly, as Philadelphia held the fourth best odds at the number one pick in the upcoming draft. After hearing 11 other teams called, Embiid celebrated as the deputy commissioner read the Philadelphia 76ers name for the third pick in the draft.
It’s evident that the Sixers are one of the NBA’s most exciting young teams to watch. Between the Sixers, Suns, Timberwolves, and Nuggets, the NBA has several sure-fire dynasties in the making.
Despite only winning 28 games and finishing second to last in the East (behind the awful Brooklyn Nets), Philadelphia showed many signs of a future dynasty. Joel Embiid set the basketball world on fire, averaging 20.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 2.5 blocks per game despite playing limited minutes in less than half the season. Dario Saric proved to be a reliable scorer as he finished the season on a tear, which landed him in the top three finalists for the Rookie of the Year award. The team has showed major interest in signing Kyle Lowry, which would be a great All-Star addition to the roster. Ben Simmons will be ready to play next season and will add scoring, rebounding, and unparalleled court vision to the roster.
The one piece that is truly missing in the 76ers’ equation to create a team that’s ready to take the league by storm is an explosive scoring wing. The Sixers are currently relying on Robert Covington, an at best mediocre scorer, and Gerald Henderson, who was generally unproductive and didn’t add much to the table, as they’re wings. Ben Simmons will evidently play the role of a stretch-forward, but his three-point shot is still underdeveloped, which is detrimental to any wing player’s scoring ability in the modern NBA. This puts a wing player that can slash to the hoop, shoot from all over the half-court, and defend the perimeter and the post at the top of Philly’s wishlist for next month’s NBA draft.
The one player that truly satisfies this need is Kansas’ Josh Jackson.
Jackson was one of the most highly anticipated players coming out of high school in the class of 2016, as he was ranked second in the class behind Duke’s Harry Giles, and was named to both the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic, two of high school basketball’s most prestigious showcases.
Jackson’s success in high school translated well into Bill Self’s system at Kansas. He thrived in the Big 12 along side National Player of the Year Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and Landen Lucas, as the Jayhawks cruised to their 13th consecutive Big 12 titles, as well as a deep NCAA tournament run that was ended abruptly by the Oregon Ducks in the Elite Eight. Jackson was named to the Big 12’s First Team and was named Newcomer of the Year in the conference.
Jackson played well in Kansas’ full court offense. He was an able perimeter defender, racking up 1.7 steals per game, while also being efficient on the boards, grabbing 7.4 rebounds per game. Jackson’s best ability as demonstrated in his freshman season is his versatile scoring abilities. He notched 16.3 points per game on a 51.3% clip, a true testament to his efficient shot-taking decision. He also connected on 37.8% of his three-pointers, an exceptional rate for a college freshman that is looking to make the jump to the NBA. It’s hard to leave out his monstrous blocks and effortless slams, which left fans all over the country in disbelief.
Jackson is by far the best prospect that will most likely be available at the three spot in the draft. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will almost certainly be taken by the time the Sixers are on the clock. Many mock drafts have the Sixers taking former Kentucky Wildcat scoring machine Malik Monk at the three spot. While Monk is an explosive scorer that is lethal from anywhere in the half-court, he lacks height at his natural position of shooting guard. At just 6’3, it will be hard for Monk to defend other shooting guards like DeMar DeRozan who is four inches taller than Monk. Monk has also proven to be a streaky shooter, as his cold streaks can last for games, which would hurt a Sixers team that lacks scoring at the wing position.
There has also been speculation of the Sixers targeting Duke’s Jayson Tatum at the three spot. Tatum would certainly be a better fit than Monk, but his game still isn’t what Philadelphia needs to take the next step. Tatum is a gifted scorer from within the arc, as his footwork on the block and in the midrange is beyond his years. He has a soft touch around the rim and is an able finisher. He doesn’t have amazing perimeter defense skills, but his rebounding is on par. However, Tatum lacks the three-point consistency that Jackson has, shooting 3% worse on fewer attempts than Jackson. Tatum also does not have the floor speed that Jackson, making him a possible liability on Philadelphia’s young roster that will be looking to up their pace next year with all of their core players healthy.
We’ve been trusting the process for three years with the 76ers. Last season has shown that there is promise and truth behind Joel Embiid’s coined phrase and hashtag. With Ben Simmons coming into next season in full health, Dario Saric continuing to prove himself as a scoring and rebounding threat, and Joel Embiid tearing up the paint, Philadelphia fans can look forward to a future perennial playoff team. The last piece needed to secure the future potential dynasty is a scoring wing, which comes in the form of Kansas’ Josh Jackson.