Philadelphia 76ers: 2017 NBA Draft Grades

Post-Draft reaction to Philadelphia 76ers’ 2017 selections of Markelle Fultz, Anzejs Pasecniks, Jonah Bolden and Mathias Lessort.

The Philadelphia 76ers were already a major winner entering draft night after securing the no. 1 overall pick a few days before from the Boston Celtics. With last year’s number 1 overall selection Ben Simmons and Internet legend Joel Embiid already rostered, Philly acquiring the rights to draft top prospect Markelle Fultz created more intrigue for an already exciting future.

Coming into Thursday night’s draft, Fultz was already almost guaranteed to be the pick. However, Philly also had multiple other picks that the team hopes become core pieces to a title contending team in the (somewhat) near future.

Markelle Fultz (1st overall), Point Guard, Washington

Grade: A

Stats: 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 47.6 field goal percentage, 41.3 three-point percentage

Analysis: Trying to find a fit with Simmons and Embiid, the Sixers may have not been happy with who they could have gotten with the third pick. They pushed all their chips in for Fultz, and it was 100 percent the right move. The 2018 Lakers’ or 2019 Kings’ first round picks are tough assets to lose, but you take the stud when you can. Especially when that stud plays at a position you desperately need to fill.

Fultz’s ability to score from, well, everywhere makes him a very tough guard and makes things easier for his teammates. That’s a great guy to have, especially when those teammates are Simmons and Embiid. Making those guys’ jobs easier means good basketball things happen.

Fit: The Sixers’ number one need this draft was a good third wheel to Simmons and Embiid, and the hope was for it to be a guard. Fultz fills both of those needs.

With his all-around offensive skill and defensive upside, Fultz can fit with any player in the league. He’ll have no problem fitting in with the Sixers, and should be able to make a contribution that helps the Sixers win a lot more games than they are accustomed to next season.

Anzejs Pasecniks (25th overall), Center, Gran Canaria (Latvia)

Grade: B

Stats: 7.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.7 blocks

Analysis: Pasecniks was a bit of a head-scratching pick, simply because of Philly’s crowded frontcourt. But the Colangelo Crew clearly thought he was the best player on the board as they traded two future picks in order to take him.

There is a possibility the Sixers leave Pasecniks overseas for at least a year, allowing him to develop while also potentially trying to figure out where he fits in on the team’s roster. Pasecniks is currently 21 — which is fairly old for an NBA prospect — but not necessarily for a European prospect. He should have time to develop overseas before stepping foot onto an NBA floor.

Part of the intrigue with Pasecniks is his potential fit in the NBA. He has shown some ability to shoot — 47.1 percent from three on 17 attempts for Gran Canaria this season — though his form could use some work before he pulls up on the regular. Possibly Pasecniks’ best-developed offensive skill is finishing, especially off of pick-and-rolls. He’s also very fluid running the floor.

He doesn’t project to be a great rebounder nor rim protector, but has shown some ability at defending the perimeter.

Fit: Pasecniks doesn’t fit on the current roster with all of Simmons, Embiid, Dario Saric, Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor. But there’s no telling when he comes over, and by the time that he does, there shouldbe a spot carved out for Pasecniks.

Jonah Bolden (36th overall), Forward, Radnicki Basket (Australia)

Grade: A

Stats: 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.3 steals, 39.7 three-point percentage

Analysis: After a not-so-great year at UCLA in 2015–16, Bolden decided to take his talents to Australia to play in the Adriatic League — the same league now teammate Dario Saric and Denver’s Nikola Jokic played in.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bolden would be picked — at the latest — in the mid-20s had he stayed at UCLA and played under Lonzo Ball’s spotlight. His draft stock may have been hurt from leaving the US, but there were surely benefits to playing in a respected foreign league with professionals that Bolden may reap in his rookie season.

Bolden is a do-it-all type from the power forward position. He’s got good size at 6-foot-10, 227 pounds, but is very light on his feet and good with the ball. He’s a solid shooter — almost 40 percent on 135 attempts with Radnicki Basket — and has shown potential to being a good playmaker at his position. He’s also an explosive athlete in space.

He physically looks strong but is rather soft when driving to the rim as well as when defending bigger players. His size, (unofficial) 7-foot-3 wingspan and athleticism may allow him to become a solid rebounder and defender down the line, but he needs to get stronger and make those priorities first.

Fit: Like Pasecniks, Bolden fits really well in today’s game but there isn’t much space on the Sixers’ roster for him to get a bunch of time early on. Assuming he plays power forward and Brett Brown doesn’t try him at small forward, he’s going to be behind Simmons and Saric on the depth chart. He may spend some significant time down in the G-League with the Delaware 87ers early on in his career.

Mathias Lessort (50th overall), Center, Nanterre (France)

Grade: D

Stats: 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

Analysis: I’m too nice to give the Sixers an F here, and it is a late second round after all. But I am not a fan of this pick. Lessort is a good athlete, rim runner, rebounder and rim protector. Those are good things to have as a center in the NBA, but Lessort is incredibly raw in the rest of his game. He can’t really move with the ball and makes a ton of mistakes while trying to pass the ball — two things that severely limit him offensively. He is also only 6-foot-9.

There is a chance Lessort improves and eventually comes over to the league, but he likely stays overseas and probably never gets an NBA shot. He’s only 21, though, so he has time to prove me wrong.

Fit: The fit is another reason I gave the Sixers a poor grade here. Pasecniks and Bolden have a ton of upside and it is possible they find a niche with the Sixers a few years down the line. But Lessort just has so much improving to do, and if he ever does that, will there be space for him on the Sixers roster?

Overall, the Sixers had a really solid draft. Taking Fultz alone gets them a draft grade of ‘A’ from me, but adding in the future potential of Pasecniks and Bolden makes it even better. And as a late second round pick, Lessort isn’t a terrible guy to have rights on for the future.

Having four second round picks before they acquired the first rounder that became Pasecniks, the Sixers had to move some picks. It’s just too bad that the picks they moved ended up being Jawun Evans (Clippers) and Sterling Brown (Bucks). Evans is a small, quick guard that would have been fun to see grow with the Sixers’ current core. Brown is a guy that, depending on what the team does in free agency, could potentially be starting next to Fultz in the backcourt next season. He’s a relentless defender and solid shooter — a perfect fit with what Philly already has. The deals are done, though, so I’ll just have to dream about them in Sixers jerseys.

The Sixers arguably have the best young core in the league moving forward and will be incredibly fun to track. They could be a serious contender down the line assuming healthy, and Thursday’s selections could play a big part in that.