NBA Mock Draft: Sixers Projected to Take Kristaps Porzingis


Could the Sixers take the Latvian big-man with the third pick?

Whether or not the Philadelphia 76ers will end up taking Kristaps Porzingis with the third pick in the NBA Draft is unknown, but there interest appears to be far from a smokescreen. There where whispers that the team liked him before he pulled out of the draft a season ago, so there’s little reason to think that they don’t like him even more a year later as he has fine-tuned his shooting stroke and intrigued teams with incredible pre-draft workouts.

In their latest NBA mock draft, Draft Express seemed to think that the Sixers’ interest in the Latvian four was so real that they projected them to take him with the third pick.

Courtesy of Draft Express, here’s a break-down of some of Prizingis’ strengths and weaknesses.

"Strengths: Porzingis is one of the most unique players in this draft class, showing an impressive combination of height, length, fluidity and skills. He’s very mobile for his size, capable of playing above the rim with ease and able to cover ground quickly moving from the perimeter to the paint.Besides his physical attributes, the most appealing part of Porzingis’ game revolves around his feathery touch from the perimeter. He has beautiful shooting mechanics, complete with deep range, a quick release, and the ability to make shots either coming off screens or as a floor-spacer with his feet set. It’s virtually impossible to contest his shot at over 7-feet with his high release point, and he’s hitting an outstanding 43% of his 136 catch and shoot attempts thus far this season, including 38% of his 3-pointers (33/87 in 38 games). If the defense closes out too aggressively, he can put the ball down in a straight line and make his way to the basket, sometimes for a very impressive finish.While Porzingis is still working on becoming a consistently accurate threat in game situations (he didn’t make a three-pointer in half of his games this year), he has a tantalizing stroke that can be honed into a dangerous weapon long term. His ability to space the floor at his size from the power forward position is exactly what many NBA teams are looking for right now, and there’s only one other player overWeaknesses: On the downside, Porzingis’ lack of strength and experience can be taken advantage of fairly easily by older and more physically mature players. His lower body in particular is underdeveloped, as he gets backed down fairly easily inside the paint, and is very foul prone at this stage at over 7 fouls per-40 minutes. He’s also a poor defensive rebounder at just 4.7 per-40, something he should be better at considering his length and athleticism.Porzingis isn’t the toughest guy you’ll find right now, which plays against him with his ability to finish effectively around the basket in traffic. He’s converted just 49% of his attempts around the rim this season, and doesn’t show any real resemblance of a post-game to take advantage of his superior size. He doesn’t get to the free throw line very often (2.2 times per-40) as he tends to avoid contact around the rim.As skilled as he might look in warmups and in occasional flashes he shows in games, Porzingis isn’t a terribly consistent shooter at this stage, making just 33% of his 3-point attempts and 58% of his free throws. He can get really hot at times, like he did at least year’s Nike International Junior Tournament, where he hit 13/27 (48%) from outside in five games, but he’ll need to keep working on this part of his game, particularly in terms of speeding up his release and avoiding dipping the ball substantially before he winds into his shot. He’ll almost certainly need to be effective with this part of his game to make up for his lack a back to the basket arsenal."

Over the weekend, ESPN NBA Draft Insider Chad Ford ranked Porzingis as the second best player in the draft and made it seem as though the Sixers’ interest in him with the third pick was very real. Ford hasn’t released an updated mock draft since making those statements, but his colleague Jeff Goodman’s latest still projected the Sixers to go with Ohio State point-guard D’Angelo Russell.

"This is where the draft could truly get interesting — largely due to the fact that the Tankmaster (aka Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie) is on the clock. It comes down to a choice between two point guards: Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, as well as skilled 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis. Russell does well by the analytics, and he’s also ready to come in and make an immediate impact, while the other two will take more time to adjust."

Of course, a subtle shot at Sam Hinkie is an integral part of every mock draft.

Most scouting reports seem to project Porzingis as the type of player that will need a few years to develop, something that probably wouldn’t scare away Sam Hinkie. Not only has Joel Embiid’s set-back possibly pushed back the Sixers’ ‘this starts now’ mindset back a year or two, but Hinkie probably was prepared to take the player that he believed was the best long-term fit anyway.

Next: Could LeBron James Have Made the Sixers' Elite?

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