The absolute best possible outcome for the Philadelphia 76ers could involve a blockbuster trade-up.
The NBA will almost certainly push back the 2020 NBA Draft date, which creates a lot of ambiguity around the pre-draft process. Adam Silver still hasn’t decided how (or when) to finish the season, and the current trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic could prevent a definitive decision on the issue for many weeks. Maybe even months.
With that in mind, the Philadelphia 76ers should use to spare time to evaluate different options in the 2020 NBA Draft — something they are undoubtedly doing. Elton Brand has doubled down on the Sixers’ desire for defense, but the main focus for the current roster should be an offensive punch — preferably in the form of a useful point guard.
Several viable options have been discussed both here at the site and elsewhere on the internet. The Sixers currently hold the No. 22 overall pick, courtesy of the overachieving Oklahoma City Thunder. Kira Lewis Jr., Tre Jones, Nico Mannion, and others have been mentioned in conjunction with the Sixers.
The Sixers’ ideal outcome, however, may involve a trade up from No. 22 with a specific target in mind. Credit goes to @JPesquera on Twitter, who planted the seed for this idea. He produces some great draft content and is worth a follow.
He mentioned a distinct possibility — one the Sixers should fervently monitor. If Cole Anthony slips on draft night due to his inefficiencies in college, should the Sixers move up and grab him?
The answer, in my book, is an emphatic yes.
Anthony entered the 2019-20 season as the No. 1 prospect on some boards. He not only had NBA pedigree as the son of Greg Anthony, but he checked a lot of boxes for the modern NBA. He’s a dynamic pull-up shooter, a quick-twitch athlete, and a versatile all-around scorer from the lead guard spot. He was older than his freshmen counterparts, but few seemed to care.
The season didn’t go as planned for Anthony. He was hampered by injuries and he struggled to find consistency when on the court. He averaged 18.5 points and 4.0 assists, but those promising numbers were undercut by abysmal 38 percent shooting. It was a rough campaign all-around.
While many expect Anthony to remain firmly in the lottery range, his struggles — coupled with an atypically deep point guard class — could drop Anthony to the tail end of the lottery. Pedigree can only take a prospect so far. If Anthony does indeed slip into the 10-14 range, the Sixers should prepare a sizable offer to move up.
Philadelphia has the No. 22 pick and five second-round picks to bargain with. Brand has shown an affinity for trading second-round picks, and the Sixers have a limited number of available roster spots looking ahead to 2020-21. Instead of shoveling picks into the abyss, Brand can instead package them together to invest in a more expensive asset — Anthony.
When a point guard shoots 38 percent in college, any and all red flags are warranted. Anthony has health concerns and he struggled as both a finisher and a shooter last season. He’s not the NBA-ready gunslinger many expected him to be.
It’s difficult to picture a better pairing for both the Sixers and for Anthony. Not only does he fill a need in the second unit, but Anthony wouldn’t be pressured into overextending himself as a rookie. There are benefits to being a bad player on a bad team — take Collin Sexton on the Cavs, for example — but for Anthony, unlimited shots may not serve as the best path forward.
The Sixers and Anthony can afford to take it slow. He would have the luxury of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who command significant attention and generate open looks on the perimeter. Anthony floundered under the volume and pressure at UNC, but the Sixers would dramatically decrease his workload.
I’m still high on Anthony. For all his troubles in college, he is still a dynamic creator suited to the modern NBA. He can create space on a dime, he’s an explosive athlete at 6-foot-3, and his shooting mechanics are better than his percentages indicate. If he’s given time to get his feet back underneath him, it’s not difficult to imagine a more convincing Anthony at the next level.
Anthony sits top-five on my personal board. He’s too talented and fills too important a niche to overlook. If teams are smart, he won’t drop anywhere near the Sixers. If he does slip, however, the Sixers should pounce. Adding a top-five prospect who can create his own shot, space the floor, and relieve Simmons from point guard duties long-term is an opportunity you don’t pass up.