Could ‘deep draft class' change Elton Brand, Sixers' draft strategy?


While none of the four major sports are currently playing games because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL held its 2020 draft a couple weeks ago.

No matter what happens with the rest of the NBA season, the league will still need to hold a draft. While it was set to take place in June, it will most likely be moved. Both the draft lottery and combine that were supposed to happen in May were indefinitely postponed. 

Since we don’t know when or even if the season will resume, teams are forced to expedite their draft process virtually. The Sixers seem to think they’re ahead of the game.

“[Vice president of scouting] Vince Rozman, I give him a lot of credit,” GM Elton Brand said in a conference call with reporters last Tuesday. “He ran our pre-draft process last year. He's doing a great job again this year. Done a lot of deep dives, a lot of film work. I've been talking to agents, players, families — actually have some calls today. But with potentially five picks, we think this is a deep draft. I'm excited. We're one of the first teams to actually pull our scouts from the road, so we could get to video just in case it did get to a point where we are today.”

Going into last year’s draft, Brand said on more than one occasion that he was eyeing an older player with experience. 

Little did we know at the time that Brand was targeting a specific player in 22-year-old Matisse Thybulle, who spent four seasons at Washington. Even in the second round, Brand selected Marial Shayok, who spent three years at Virginia, then spent a year off because of transfer rules before playing at Iowa State. 

If the NBA regular season standings don’t change, the Sixers will hold the Thunder’s first-round pick — acquired in the Markelle Fultz trade — at No. 22. In that range, a player with Thybulle-like experience and maturity may not be available.

So will Brand be open to taking a more projectable player?

We’re going to keep all options open,” Brand said. “We’ve got as many as five picks. We’re fortunate to have a great core to build around, and I think this is a deep draft class. But we’re going to explore all the options and try to add some youth and depth to our program that fits our identity — versatility, dynamic, committed to defense. There are going to hopefully be some gems that we can pick during our draft. But it’s going to be more broad. We might take some flyers on players with potential and we’ll see — there might be some players that can help us right now. But we’re going to look at the full scope.

Brand made it a point to mention how deep the draft class was and that the team could have as many as five picks. Despite having the potential to draft that many players in 2019, Brand only made two selections with the trade up for Thybulle and drafting of Shayok 54th overall. He used pick No. 33 to move up for Thybulle and then essentially sold his other two picks.

Perhaps Brand is having more of an open mind this season — or maybe he’s being coy after it appeared the Celtics were on to his desire to select Thybulle and got a second-round pick out of him.

In any case, Brand and his staff are using the time to evaluate players, which includes plenty of virtual 1-on-1 conversations.

“I actually have another one today,” Brand said. “I’ve spoken to parents, spoken to agents. The draft is a multi-year thing — it’s a buildup. The draft night is a culmination of that. We know who the prospects are, we do deep, deep dives. But there’s little things you can pick up 1-on-1 in person talking to a potential prospect. It’s much different interviewing someone on Zoom and not having them come to your court for a workout. Sometimes you can get blown away by a workout and that can skew your thoughts on a player. But we know a lot about them and it’s good to at least be able to talk to them, through video conference or in person.”

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