With the NBA season suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's a strong possibility that the playoffs will begin immediately if play resumes. That would be good news for the Sixers in terms of the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Sixers do not have their own first-round pick in this year's draft. They included that pick in a package sent to the Clippers in the trade to acquire Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott.
Thanks to a 2016 trade that sent Jerami Grant to Oklahoma City for Ersan Ilyasova and a conditional future first-round pick, the Sixers owned the Thunder's first-rounder in 2020. They then traded it to Orlando to move up in the 2017 draft to select big man Anzejs Pasecniks before getting it back from the Magic in the Markelle Fultz trade. That pick is protected 1-20, but since the Thunder's pick is currently 21st, it would convey to the Sixers.
That should allow them to add a very good player to help the organization chase a championship in both the short and long term. It would also potentially give them the opportunity to reverse a trend that has developed in recent years.
In each of the last three drafts, the Sixers have passed on prospects from Villanova. They could change that by selecting Saddiq Bey.
In 2017, they drafted Fultz and Pasecniks before the Lakers selected Josh Hart with the 30th pick. In 2018, the Sixers drafted Mikal Bridges but traded him to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and a future first-round pick. In that same draft, they also passed on the opportunity to draft Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson. Then in 2019, they had several chances to draft Eric Paschall before the Warriors took him with the 41st pick.
Hart, Bridges, DiVincenzo, Brunson and Paschall were all key parts of a nucleus that led Villanova to two national championships in three years. The Sixers undoubtedly were familiar with all of them, given that Villanova plays half of its home games in the Wells Fargo Center.
Here's a look at how those Villanova guys have played this season:
Hart (Pelicans): 57 games, 27 minutes per game, 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds
Bridges (Suns): 65 games, 27 minutes per game, 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals
DiVincenzo (Bucks): 59 games, 23 minutes per game, 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals
Brunson (Mavericks): 57 games, 18 minutes per game, 8.2 points, 3.3 assists, 36 percent from three
Paschall (Warriors): 60 games, 28 minutes per game, 14.0 points, 4.6 rebounds
They have all developed into very solid NBA performers and a couple of them play valuable roles for playoff teams. They aren't stars, but they're all reliable rotation pieces. They all would have been helpful in the Sixers' ongoing quest to surround Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with an effective supporting cast.
The Sixers might have another opportunity to draft a Villanova player with that 21st pick. Bey hasn't officially declared for the NBA Draft, but is projected as a mid-to-late first round pick. Villanova head coach Jay Wright said on a video conference on Wednesday that he expects Bey will go through whatever pre-draft process the NBA has to offer given the league's uncertain timeline. At the end of that process, Bey would decide whether to remain in the draft or return to Villanova for his junior season.
Bey just wrapped up a breakout sophomore season, establishing himself as one of the best players in college basketball. He led Villanova with 16.1 points per game and a 45.1 three-point field goal percentage. He was named First Team All-Big East and is one of five finalists for the Julius Erving Award, given to the best small forward in the country.
At 6-foot-8, Bey has terrific size for an NBA wing player and is an outstanding defender capable of guarding multiple positions. Perhaps most importantly, he's still getting better. He's cut from the same cloth as previous Villanova NBA prospects - a team-first guy who wants to win.
Bey will be a good NBA player. If he decides to start his professional career this summer, the Sixers should take a long look at him with the 21st pick. They've passed on enough good Villanova players in recent years.
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Drafting Villanova's Saddiq Bey could reverse bad trend for Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia