GM and mastermind Sam Hinkie of the Philadelphia 76ers made it clear that he wasn’t aiming to make the Sixers competitive next season after he expended his two lottery picks on guys who won’t get to see the Wells Fargo Center’s hardwood in 2014-15.
Joel Embiid will likely be held out for the entirety of the season in a Nerlens Noel-like fashion due to a stress fracture in his right foot, while Dario Saric is inked to a deal with his current Croatia squad for another two seasons. So tank 2.0 is in full effect and with an all but guaranteed spot for a top-three pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, it’s time for Hinkie to start paying very close attention to incoming freshman Stanley Johnson.
Although he’s yet to play a single minute in college for the Arizona Wildcats, Johnson has the eye-popping talent that will all but assure his first season in the NCAA will be his only one before taking an early exit to become a lottery pick.
So what is it about Johnson that should make him catch the talent and upside-driven eye of Hinkie?
Well, that’s a simple answer for anybody who has ever been able to witness any of Johnson’s countless offensive showcases from his high school days.
Although he’s listed as a small forward, Johnson has the skill-set to play both wing positions with ease and with the molding for what should be the Sixers’ starting lineup next season taking shape, the only question marks remaining come from the perimeter.
It’s as close to a guarantee as you can get that Noel and Embiid will be the frontcourt of the future in Philly and Michael Carter-Williams looks to have established himself as a point guard Hinkie can build around. But there’s still the unanswered questions surrounding the small forward and shooting guard positions with the Sixers’ first-round pick, Saric, remaining in Croatia for two more seasons. This leaves a world of opportunity for Johnson available at either wing, should Hinkie be fortunate enough to scoop him up in next year’s draft.
As a guard for the Sixers, Johnson would bring in tremendous NBA size at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds and an apparent athleticism that even if he were able to come straight out of high school, would allow Johnson to hit the ground running as a pro. There’s still no answer as to who will emerge as the Sixers’ scorer of the future and Johnson would fit the bill perfectly for Brett Brown’s team.
He’s a natural at filling the offensive stat sheet by way of his ability to create for himself from anywhere on the court, showing a lethal step-back jumper in addition to being an absolute brute force when he sets his mind on attacking the rim. His scoring ability would fill an immediate need in Philadelphia and his confidence in his ball-handling would be huge for taking some pressure off of MCW and helping open up opportunities for his teammates.
Outside of his unlimited offensive cache, Johnson already has the toughness and physicality on defense to become a stopper on the wing and by the time he dominates his way through his freshman season, he could possibly even defend smaller power forwards.
Don’t get me wrong, Johnson isn’t perfect by any means and could definitely tighten up his handle, continue to improve his range and become a much more willing passer, but he’s an absolute beast nonetheless.
Of course, the lottery chips would have to fall into the perfect place in order for Johnson to be wearing a Sixers jersey for the 2015-16 campaign, including another miserable tanking season, some luck in the draft lottery and Johnson deciding to leave college after only one season. But if it were to play out in this fashion, it would add even more talent and potential to what could become the starting lineup of the future.