PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Here. We. Go. Again.
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For the fourth straight year we’re entering March with our eyes on the NCAA Tournament’s key players, hoping the Sixers land “our guy.”
For me, it was Andrew Wiggins in 2014 (Sixers drafted Joel Embiid), Emmanuel Mudiay in 2015 (Sixers drafted Jahlil Okafor), and Ben Simmons last season (although he didn’t even play in the tournament).
Similar to Simmons last year, the 2017 top NBA prospect — Markelle Fultz of Washington — is also not playing in tournament. Either is potential top-five prospect Dennis Smith Jr. of NC State. But that’s OK.
Here are my top five potential future Sixers to keep an eye on entering this year’s NCAA Tournament.
5. Lonzo Ball
6-6, 190 pounds, 19-years-old
Ball is largely regarded as the No. 2 overall prospect in the draft and the top prospect playing in the tournament, but he’s fifth on my list because he scares me for a few reasons:
- His father is nuts
- His weird shooting style and bad shot selection
- I’m not sure he is an ideal fit alongside Ben Simmons
4. Jonathan Isaac
6-10, 210 pounds, 19-years-old
Isaac is longggg. According to DraftExpress.com, Isaac’s wingspan most recently measured at 7’1.3″.
And he can shoot. Isaac is averaging 11.9 points per game shooting 50%/35%/80%. He’s skinny and needs to develop his upper body strength, but Isaac is good and versatile defender averaging 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Isaac has struggled of late, failing to score 20 points or more in eight straight games, and he’s kind of flying under the radar. Look out for Isaac and Florida State to make an impact in the tournament.
3. Josh Jackson
6-8, 205 pounds, 20-years-old
Jackson is averaging 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks for Kansas as a freshman. He’s crazy athletic, explosive, and is willing to work hard. He has that blue-collar attitude on the court that Philly would love.
His weakness, however, is something the Sixers need — shooting. Jackson is shooting 54.5% from the field and 37.7% from three, but just under 60% from the line.
Jackson is certainly a capable shooter, but if he wants to become a star in the NBA he’ll have to work on this part of his game.
2. Malik Monk
6-3, 200 pounds, 19-years-old
Monk is probably the best pure scorer in the tournament and projects as an ideal NBA two-guard and a perfect compliment to a ball-dominant pass first Ben Simmons.
Monk is averaging 20.4 points per game and has scored in double figures in every game for Kentucky except two. He’s shooting at an elite 45.7%/40.3%/82.2% clip.
Monk is not the best on-ball defender and isn’t great running an offense, but as a scorer alongside Simmons, you could make the case he’s ideal.
1. Jayson Tatum
6-8, 205 pounds, 19-years-old
Jayson Tatum is flying up the draft boards thanks to his ridiculous ACC Tournament, where he led Duke to four wins in four days. Tatum was the best player on the court in every single game, averaging 22 points and 7.5 rebounds.
There is nothing Tatum doesn’t do well. He’s an elite, fluid, smooth athlete with the body of an NBA wing. He can stroke, he can beat you off the dribble, he can finish at the rim, he’s explosive in transition, and he can defend.
On the season, Tatum is averaging 16.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.3 steals shooting 45.3%/33.6%/86.6% (!!). Over his last 10 games, Tatum has really come on, averaging 19.0 points per game.
For my money, Tatum is the best player in the NCAA Tournament and you could make the case he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. If he leads Duke to the National Championship, he could land at the top of NBA big boards.
So basically, Sixers fans should be rooting for a Troy upset over Duke in round one.