The Sixers will select 23rd overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. While there are several glaring holes in the roster, I’m not sure center is actually one of them. With Paul Reed’s breakout and the looming upside of Charles Bassey, it would probably behoove the Sixers to look elsewhere in the first round.
That said, Doc Rivers clearly prioritizes traditional rim protecting bigs when he’s able to. DeAndre Jordan couldn’t cut it when the rubber met the road, but it would be borderline naive to sit here and type “Doc Rivers fully and completely trusts Paul Reed.” So maybe, if the Sixers have a center prospect rated highly who is available at 23, that’s who the team picks.
If the Sixers use the pick on a big man (although they probably shouldn’t), that center will either need to be rock-solid defensively (which is rare for rookie bigs) or display some unique level of versatility, so that he can perhaps share the court with Joel Embiid or Paul Reed.
Sixers Draft: 3 center prospects to consider with 23rd pick
Walker Kessler, Auburn
Walker Kessler was the most dominant rim protector in college basketball last season. He’s 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and 256 pounds of good old-fashioned bulk. He’s massive, and after playing sparingly at North Carolina as a freshman, he found immediate success upon his arrival at Auburn.
He’s the type of center Doc Rivers would, in theory, like to have behind Embiid. He’s going to swat a ton of shots at the rim and force guards to think twice about venturing all the way inside. He plays almost exclusively drop coverage, but he’s nimble enough to stay on the court against faster opponents.
Kessler does the traditional big man things at an exceptionally high level. He boxes out and grabs rebounds. He knows when to rotate and when to stay home. He finishes at a high level inside, with polished footwork and soft touch around the rim. He’s not a crazy athlete — he’s pretty much your standard run-of-the-mill 7-footer who plays in the paint — but he’s a very good version of that.
The Sixers do not expressly need a player like Kessler, but he’s going to be a quality rotation big for a long time. He could theoretically share the floor with Reed, who is as much a power forward as a center, and he would certainly have a better chance of winning over Doc Rivers with his strong grasp of fundamentals.