76ers mock draft: Philly targets experience on the wing

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) shoots under pressure from Kansas State forward Jerrell Colbert (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Lawrence, Kan.
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The NBA Draft is less than three weeks away, and while much of the offseason dialog has surrounded the Philadelphia 76ers targeting another star, there is still plenty of reason to be abuzz about this year’s class.

While there have been plenty of knocks on this draft class, that’s primarily due to the absence of a clear top player and a perceived lack of All-Star potential. There’s the potential for plenty of quality role players from the top of this draft into even the second round. For a team like Philadelphia, who boasts picks 16 and 41, it’s a solid hand to hold heading into this draft.

The question that remains is who the team will select. While that cannot be known as it also can’t be known who will be selected ahead of 16, there are plenty of tools to simulate draft day and, from there, make an educated guess based on who’s available.

ESPN’s Mock Draft Simulator follows the player rankings of Jonathan Givony, who founded Draft Express and is now an ESPN draft analyst. Of course, mock drafts and simulators are imperfect art, not a science. That being said, ESPN’s simulator, backed by Givony’s big board, is a respectable, solid vehicle for creating mock drafts, hence the reason it will drive our discussion today.

With the 16th pick, the Philadelphia 76ers select: Tristan da Silva

Florida State forward Jamir Watkins, left, is fouled by Colorado forward Tristan da Silva (23) while going up for a shot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, in Daytona Beach, Fla.AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

At 23 years of age, it’s fair to question Tristan da Silva’s ceiling in the NBA, but whatever he lacks in perceived potential, he makes up for in projected NBA readiness. Averaging 16 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in his senior season for the Colorado Buffaloes, da Silva displayed the tools necessary to be a useful offensive cog at the next level.

As a shooter, da Silva truly stands out. Capable off the catch, pulling up, or off DHOs (dribble handoffs), he can fit nearly every offense thanks to the versatility of his shot profile from deep.

Defensively, da Silva is no slouch either, offering versatility in both on and off-ball situations. He utilizes his IQ to make up for his lack of speed and plus-athleticism. Mucking up passing lanes and sniffing out opportunities to block shots, da Silva utilizes his wingspan well to frustrate his opponent.

Where da Silva could stand to improve is as a ballhandler. He finished his college career with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio but saw legitimate improvement between his junior and senior seasons. He simply has to continue to progress in that area to truly carve out a role for himself.

Player comparison: The love child of Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Georges Niang

With the 41st pick, the Philadelphia 76ers select: Kevin McCullar Jr.

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) celebrates a score against Duke during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Indianapolis.AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Philadelphia acquired the 41st pick after trading defensive-minded guard Jaden Springer to the Bostons Celtics in February at the NBA’s trade deadline. After being forced to forfeit their own second-round selection as punishment for a tampering violation that proved anything but worthwhile, acquiring this pick gave the Sixers a second opportunity to do what good teams are supposed to do, what the Sixers themselves have done, find underappreciated talent in the second round.

Not every player will reach the ranks of Manu Ginobli, Khris Middleton, and certainly not Nikola Jokic, but every year, there are contributors drafted in the second round, and with a pick just outside the top ten of the second round, the 76ers have the chance to find just that.

The Indiana Pacers found Andrew Nembhard, and the Magic found Jaden Hardy in the second round; both contributed significantly to this year’s postseason. Aaron Wiggins, Ayo Dosunmu, Miles McBride, and even Herb Jones were all selected in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Even in this past draft, the Warriors found Trayce Jackson-Davis, and the Grizzlies found GG Jackson. Second-round picks are not the worthless commodities they were once thought to be. They never were.

This brings the Sixers to the 41st pick in a draft with a plethora of players with the potential to play a legitimate role in a successful NBA. In this case, Kansas forward Kevin McCullar Jr. fell to Philadelphia and was simply too rich of a talent to pass up.

Had it not been for McCullar measuring smaller than expected and, more importantly, a knee injury that required a minor procedure and caused him to miss both the NCAA tournament and the workout portion of the NBA Draft Combine, McCullar would be and, if the right team believes in him, still could be a first-round selection. As a fifth-year senior for Kansas, McCullar averaged 18.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while racking up 1.5 steals per game.

Production was no stranger to McCullar in college, but last season, he certainly made a leap for the Jayhawks. The dirty work is the name of the game for McCullar, thriving as a defender, and as a rebounder. His IQ and commitment to those aspects of the game make him a rare breed in the modern NBA, a type of player who, as recently as this current postseason, proved valuable to a potential contender.

Make no mistake, he is not like perimeter defensive studs the Sixers have seen in recent years. Although he’s similarly not a knock-down shooter, and he doesn’t have the ball skills to contribute as a playmaker, McCullar’s willingness and ability to move off-ball makes him a capable role player offensively, one who would be able to play alongside Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and whoever else the 76ers decide to add to their currently bare cupboard.

Player comparison: Josh Hart