Why the “doomsday scenario” might not be so bad.
The Sixers finished with the second-worst record, and thus have the second-best chance (19.9%) of landing the first pick. This, however, doesn’t guarantee they land in the top two. In fact, the most likely scenario has them with the No. 4 pick (31.9%) and there’s a 12.3% shot they drop to fifth.
But the good news for the Sixers — and one of the less talked about tanking perks — is that they can’t sink any further. The “doomsday scenario” — well, the one that doesn’t involve New Orleans sneaking into the top three (4%) — could still result in the Sixers landing a top win producer.
For example … Aaron Gordon.
Chad Ford’s Big Board has the PF trio of Gordon, Julius Randle, and Noah Vonleh as his 5-6-7. All three have their strengths and weaknesses, but if I’m Sam Hinkie, I’m going with the combo-forward from Arizona. He won’t step in and drop 20 points a game right away (or maybe ever), so in this Yay Points! world we live in, he won’t get the star treatment. But a reliable, versatile “role player” (see: Iguodala, Andre) can be just as valuable as a top scorer. Gordon, whose athleticism is Blake Griffin-esque, could be the perfect supporting player for a future centerpiece in the event the Sixers can’t nab “their guy” with this pick.
Former Suns scout and ESPN analyst Amin Elhassan described his strengths and limitations in a 360 Draft Profile with Kevin Pelton and Chad Ford.
Offensively, he’s a diamond in the rough, but has some very defined skills. He’s an excellent finisher around the rim, and extremely active on the offensive glass. Gordon does a great job of getting out on the break and finishing. Arizona didn’t run a lot of pick-and-rolls for him, a gross under-utilization for a top-shelf athlete with superior hand-eye coordination and footwork. It should be noted that he has an inconsistent release on his jumper, but it’s not totally broken. Plus, he shot at a decent clip from 3-point range (16-for-45), and improved throughout the season.
“Extremely active” on the offensive glass would be an understatement; 11.4 percent of his offensive inside the arc came from putbacks, of which he collected a whopping 54, per hoop-math.com.
Much has also been made of his horrendous work at the free-throw line, where he shot a dismal 42 percent this season. This is a red flag, but his respectable 3-point shooting (36% on 16-45 shooting this season) suggests that he has room to grow from the charity stripe. This isn’t the next Andre Drummond.
While his offense may take some time to develop, he could be an immediate contributor on the defensive. Let Elhassan explain:
… Gordon has impressive lateral ability and can move his feet and stay in front of opponents of any size. Also, if he gets beat he will fight to recover (often successfully). Gordon will use his length to bother, contest and often reject opponents’ shots while acting as an on-ball defender. Also, he has great defensive awareness of the weak side, is able to keep track of both his man and the ball and can close out quickly and effectively without conceding blow-bys.
He’s strong enough to stick bigger fours, and athletic enough to guard multiple positions. Advanced defensive metrics at the college level should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s really tough to overlook an 89.9 DRtg. That is damn impressive.
On the ball, Gordon’s ability to stay with his man and switch smoothly on pick-and-rolls is uncanny. Check this:
Chad Ford compares Gordon to Andrei Kirilenko, who at his best, was one of the top win producers in the NBA. The 6-9 forward was a shot-blocking steals machine who could stop the ball on the perimeter. Offensively, he never needed the ball, getting by as an average perimeter scorer and a high-effort, Thad-y guy. Kirilenko was never viewed as a “star,” but that’s probably more to do with our definition of the term than his on-court contributions.
Now, don’t get me wrong, falling to five isn’t ideal. But this isn’t a four-player draft; they could do worse than Gordon — or Dante Exum, Julius Randle, etc. — with their top selection.
They’ll also have another likely lottery pick, several second-rounders, and a healthy Nerlens Noel going into year two of a rebuilding project. The future is bright, even if the ping-pong balls don’t bounce their way..
May 20. Stay hydrated.