We’re six weeks away from the 2020 NBA draft, which was pushed back to Nov. 18 because of COVID-19. Barring any trades prior to draft day, the Sixers will have five picks – No. 21, 34, 36, 49 and 58.
In this Sixers-only mock draft, the team gets a talented shot creator with its first pick and then trades back into the first round to get a young forward with two-way potential.
21. RJ Hampton – G – New Zealand Breakers (NBL)
A consensus top-five recruit in the high school class of 2019, Hampton elected to play professionally in the NBL (the same league where LaMelo Ball played) rather than play college basketball.
His numbers in the NBL (averages of 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 20.6 minutes per game, 40.7 percent shooting from the floor and 29.5 percent from three-point range) don’t jump off the page, but it’s important to provide context. Unlike Ball, Hampton was not given the keys to the offense and allowed to freelance however he liked. He was expected to play a role on a winning team as a secondary ball handler, shot creator and defender.
When viewed through that lens, there was a lot to like from Hampton’s NBL performance. The first thing that stands out is Hampton’s speed. He has a quick first step in the half court and he’s a jet in transition, whether he’s leading the break or filling the wing. A bouncy 6-foot-5, Hampton is an excellent rebounder for a guard and has the potential to be an athletic, switchable defender, though he needs to get stronger.
Right now, Hampton looks to me like Tyler Herro without the consistent jump shot (if he had Herro’s jumper right now, he’d be a lock for the top ten). He’s a smooth ball handler, gets where he wants on the floor and displays a high basketball IQ. He’s a willing passer and will give up a decent shot to create a better shot for a teammate.
If Hampton’s jump shot comes around, he has the chance to be an outstanding starter in an NBA backcourt. At the very least, he projects to be a secondary shot creator off the bench right away with enough athleticism to hold his own defensively.
TRADE – Sixers send No. 34 & 36 to Celtics for No. 30. Sixers select DePaul PF Paul Reed at No. 30
What would an NBA draft be without a Sixers-Celtics trade? This one makes a ton of sense, because the Celtics don’t need three first-round picks (they also have No. 14 and 26) and the Sixers could package their two highest second-round picks to get one player they really want.
An athletic, 6-foot-9 power forward, Reed became an analytics darling as a sophomore at DePaul, stuffing stat sheets with 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.9 steals per game.
Defensively, Reed reminds me of a slightly thicker Nerlens Noel, with the ability to blow up pick-and-rolls and act as a help-side shot blocker. He’s particularly adept at closing out to three-point shooters. He projects as one of those forwards who can switch at the top of the key and still get back to the basket to disrupt plays at the rim. That’s a skill set that’s important in today’s NBA.
Reed has a hitch in his jumper, but I don’t think it’s a fatal flaw. He shot 74 percent from the free throw line as a sophomore, so the shot isn’t totally broken. He can finish with either hand around the rim and is a decent face-up ball handler at this stage. On the offensive end, he feels like a cross between Clint Capela and a young Paul Millsap, though I doubt he’s ever the 20-point scorer that Millsap became in his prime. Still, there’s potential for Reed to be a small-ball center when Joel Embiid is off the floor and an energy guy who crashes the offensive boards and defends like crazy while playing alongside Embiid.
49. Cassius Stanley – Wing – Duke
This is a pure potential pick, which makes sense in the back half of the second round. Stanley is one of the top athletes in the draft, a player who can jump out of the gym but might not find anyone to pass to while he’s in the gym – which explains why he could be available with the 49th pick.
Stanley’s athleticism could help him stick on an NBA roster, because he has the lateral quickness to become an excellent on-ball defender, though he’s not especially long at 6-foot-6. On the offensive end, he’s a major work in progress, but there are tools. He shot 36 percent from three-point range in his lone season at Duke and scored in the 93rd percentile on catch-and-shoot jumpers in the half court, per Synergy Sports.
Stanley isn’t much of an off-the-dribble scorer or playmaker at this stage, with 30 assists and 55 turnovers in 29 games at Duke, but he doesn’t necessarily have to be. The potential is here for a 3-and-D rotation player if everything works out.
58. Sam Merrill – Guard – Utah State
The Luka Doncic of the Mountain West Conference, the 6-foot-5 Merrill was one of the best scorers in college basketball, shooting 42 percent from the three-point line and 89 percent from the free throw line in his four seasons at Utah State.
Merrill is already 24 years old, so there are legitimate questions about his NBA upside. He’s also not an NBA-level athlete, but he knows how to play to his strengths and limit his weaknesses. The shooting ability gives him a chance, which is all you’re hoping for with the 58th pick in the draft.