NBA Draft Preview Part II: Will Gonzaga Produce Sixers 2016 Draft Prospects?


Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; General view of the full first round draft board at the conclusion of the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft Preview  Part II: Will Gonzaga Produce Sixers 2016 Draft Prospects?

Yesterday we introduced the idea that its never too early to look to the upcoming NBA draft, especially when your team is the Philadelphia 76ers and you have general manager Sam Hinkie working the draft board like Boris Spassky worked a chess board.  (you can look him up on Google if he was before your time).  We also took the time to introduce you to an upcoming prospect in the 2016 NBA draft by the name of Domantos Sabonis.   Sabonis is the son of Lithuania basketball star Arvydas Sabonis, and needed only his freshman year to become one of the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball stars.   But he is not alone.   Today I’d like to review the second player in this three part mini-series:  Kyle Wiltjer

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Player Watch II:  Power Forward Kyle Wiltjer

In the NCAA, there are many stories of players which simply make for an entertaining read. He is a 6’10” powerhouse bookend, a symmetrical bookend to teammate Domantos Sabonis. Wiltjer averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on his way to becoming a consensus second-team All-American last season for a third-ranked Gonzaga team. He’s shoots almost 47 percent from beyond the arc.. This is the résumé of a player who would be a standout on any team, in any season.

ALSO ON THE SIXER SENSE:  Will Gonzaga Produce 2016 Draft Prospects For The Sixers: Part I

He opted to return to the Bulldogs for his senior year, and he was recently selected to participate in the 2015 Pan Am games.

But the part of this young man’s history that is completely captivating is the back story – he played for two years on the team he faced this year in the NCAA tournament, the University of Kentucky.     He explained his decision

"“I feel like in my basketball career I’m facing a make it or break it moment, and the primary factor in this decision is transforming my body.”"

Did he burn bridges? No. He thanked the school, the fans, his teammates and his coach in such an eloquent way that it brought forth one of the most touching responses I’ve seen from a coach in some time.

Following the media aftermath of the story, the pressure was now all on Wiltjer to either put up or shut up. As a Wildcat, his draft stock was falling rapidly. As a Gonzaga Bulldog, that all changed. Wiltjer averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on his way to becoming a consensus second-team All-American last season, as well as a first-team All-WCC member. He’s already in the discussions for national player of the year this year.

So what? Well, the Sixers need perimeter players. Three point land types. Wiltjer… step up and show your stuff:

The young man will be a coveted prospect in the 2016 NBA draft. As a rare senior, he will have the edge of maturity and the background of two very competitive college basketball programs to draw from. Already scoring 16.8 points per game (PPG) and 6.2 rebounds per game (RPG).  In 2015-16 season, he should up both of those number while giving Gonzaga the inside track at finishing deep amidst the NCAA tournament.

But even more importantly for his eventual NBA career, is to gain as much from his perimeter game as possible.  He’s big enough and strong enough to crash the boards and mix it up near the net.  But many NBA team, the Sixers included, won’t be shopping for the up close and personal types.    Get a player with some perimeter game going, and now you are talking.

Wiltjer has the potential to develop that perimeter game – at 46.6% accuracy for the Zags from three point land.  Get that to 50% accuracy, and we’ll be talking.  The NBA all time leader in three point accuracy was Steve Kerr at 45.4%.
Keep an eye on Wiltjer.    Whether you like the concept or not, you can bet Hinkie already knows this young man’s name.

Rightfully so, too.

Next: Does Sam Hinkie Need To Learn When To Hold Em?

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