2017 NBA Draft: Top Five Point Guard Prospects for Sixers - NBC 10 Philadelphia

2017 NBA Draft: Top Five Point Guard Prospects for Sixers

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    2017 NBA Draft: Top Five Point Guard Prospects for Sixers
    CSNPhilly.com
    2017 NBA draft: Top five point guard prospects for Sixers

    It's no secret what the Sixers need to add in order to reach the next step: Guard play and shooting. 

    The team has three potential franchise cornerstones in Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, none of whom are under 6-foot-10. With Simmons' and Saric's versatility, all three can be played together, but that still leaves two roles to fill in the starting lineup. 

    This June's NBA draft gives the team a sterling opportunity to fill those future roles. The Sixers are near the top of arguably the most packed draft class since 2003, and point guards are aplenty with this group. Simmons will be a primary ballhandler for the Sixers as a point forward, yet that doesn't preclude adding a strong one-guard that can slot in and help facilitate the offense.

    With that in mind, here are breakdown of the top-five point guards available this draft.

    Markelle Fultz, Washington (6-4, 195)
    Fultz is the top talent in this draft. Watch a game or two from him at Washington and it's easy to see why. If you're not in the top two picks or can't trade up to there, he's likely unattainable.

    That's because he can do just about everything. Shoot off the dribble, drain threes, facilitate, physically or craftily get to the rim. All of that. And that's before you get into his size and frame that help him defend opposing one- and two-guards. He's the total package.

    A lot of people may be skeptical of Fultz because he played for an objectively bad team last season. But you can't penalize him for playing on a sub-par team. It's not as if his play was a contributing factor to the Huskies' losses. He was the only factor keeping them relevant. If anything, his time at Washington gives him experience with lack of floor spacing, which Sixers may deal with on Day 1 of a potential Fultz Era. He consistently found a way to the rim and would still finish despite a bevy of defenders swarming him.

    Fultz ultimately fits any team. His shot making and creating abilities are elite and he has the chance to be a real star. That's No.1 pick material.

    Lonzo Ball, UCLA (6-6/190)
    If there's one prospect on the tip of everyone's tongue right now, it's Ball. He's a flashy talent with likely the best court vision of any player in this draft. That can't be emphasized enough. He sees plays, particularly in transition, on another level and can make some truly great passes.

    He also has three-point range for days, but his motion is a concern. Pull it up on YouTube. It's funky and everyone including LeBron James has poked fun at it, but it works. At least for now. He could be a great catch-and-shoot foil for Simmons or Embiid in the future. 

    There's legitimate concern about his ability to create off the dribble consistently at the next level. He struggles to get by some top defenders and it can also lead to some issues shooting threes off the dribble. His 6-6 frame helps here in shooting over defenders. It also gives him defensive potential, although he needs to improve on that end.

    It's not worth mentioning his father by name, but let's just say he will (and has) made himself noticed. That shouldn't stop Sixers from drafting him if they're in the top 2-3. At the moment, he seems unlikely to fall beyond there, especially of the Lakers retain their pick. He can work well in Philadelphia though, becoming a devastating transition teammate with Simmons and co. in the best case scenario. 

    And unlike other prospects, he's already put out widely panned signature shoes, so maybe his dad's Steph Curry comparison is apt. 

    De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky (6-4/171)
    Athleticism is a word thrown around way too often with some questionable connotations, but if it truly applies to anyone in this class of point guards, it's Fox. He's a beast. 

    His ability to not only play fast but play fast and smart makes one think of John Wall. Like Wall, he comes into the NBA with need of fixes to his shot (and an Elite 8 loss under John Calipari). I don't think it's fair to make Wall the expectation for Fox's outcome, but it's a tantalizing possibility. If he adds more control offensively, he'll devastate defenders in the pick-and-roll.

    He also has the chance to be a menace defensively, although there's a lot of polish to add. He made Ball uncomfortable during their first two meetings and that could be why some see Fox ahead of Ball on some draft boards. His improvement in all facets from beginning of freshman year to the end was remarkable and one has to believe NBA coaching could unlock even more in his game.

    When 2017 started, he was just considered a lottery pick, but now he's a likely top 5 pick. It's not just his standout NCAA Tournament run: It's his body of work and general projectability. Again, another buzzword, but he has real tools to project out.

    Dennis Smith Jr., NC State (6-3/195)
    While the top three on this list have risen or stayed atop draft boards this year, Smith has fallen. He was once a potential top-three pick. Now, he's seen more on the back half of the top 10. 

    When you watch him, the first thing that pops out are his drives to the rim. His dunks are thunderous. His drives to the hole are unstoppable at times. And like, Fultz, he was able to do this despite a below-average power conference roster around him. He was able to average 18.1 points and 6.2 assists and surely would have had even more assists if he had better shooters receiving his passes. He's one of those players that we need to see have a full arsenal of NBA talent around. 

    I'm not too high on his shot. It's not all that smooth at times and he'll need to show off NBA range. His size could also make him easier to contain. Or at least it would if he weren't a freakish athlete with the chance to roll towards the rim.

    Watch the tape of his Duke game if you want to see his best, Florida State for his worst. The Blue Devils threw every potential defender on him and he was still able to score before sealing the game with a defensive stop and steal. FSU's size/zone gave him fits, the former which he'll see a lot of at the next level.

    His fit with the Sixers is tougher to define. He needs to have a full commitment on the defensive end to reach him potential, but his talent is tough to pass up if you're positioned later in the lottery.

    Frank Ntilikina, France (6-5/190)
    Of these five, Ntilikina is likely the player you've had the least opportunity to watch. That's because he's been playing in overseas and is all of 18 years old. Since you're wondering, his last name is pronounced nee-lee-kee-nah.

    Like the top three players on this list, he has the size that would have made him a shooting guard in the past, but now we see much taller players run the point than ever (Simmons a great example). He has a reported 7-foot wingspan, which makes him a defensive behemoth. While his offensive game needs plenty of work, his defense will keep him on the court in Year 1. He generates steals and stays in front of guards with ease. His size also gives him the chance to switch a lot of screens effectively.

    On offense, Ntilikina improved his shot and range in the last year. He can shoot from NBA range without fear. However, he has a long way to go in other facets. He makes some ill-advised passes and generates too many turnovers. He struggles to turn the corner and get by athletic defenders. He's a project, although his age and steady improvement make him better than the normal prospect referred to as a prospect.

    Ntilikina will probably be taken later in the lottery. He could be someone to trade down for or if the Sixers end up 5-6 and aren't enamored by the class of wings, they could take him in what would be viewed as a stretch.