Are Sixers eying Arkansas sharpshooter Isaiah Joe to be their next Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Landry Shamet? | Keith Pompey
League sources said Joe was high on the Sixers' radar before Daryl Morey was hired as president of basketball operations, and they intended to use a draft pick on him.
The 76ers need shooters and ballhandlers.
Will they address that by selecting a player in the NBA draft Wednesday, with a draft-day trade, and/or once free agency begins at 6 p.m. Nov. 20?
The Sixers have options.
But if history is any indication, they’ll probably part ways with a couple of their second-round picks in the draft.
Typically, a late first-rounder and a second-round pick won’t give the Sixers the instant boost they’ll need to contend for the Eastern Conference title. Instead, teams usually hope to find an unheralded player who fills a need as a quality rotation player.
Guards Cole Anthony (North Carolina), Tyrell Terry (Stanford), Nico Mannion (Arizona), Josh Green (Arizona), Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama), and Malachi Flynn (San Diego State) and small forward Saddiq Bey (Villanova) are being mentioned among possible Sixers draft acquisitions.
But what about Isaiah Joe?
The former Arkansas shooting guard is one of the sleepers of the draft. According to sources, he was high on the Sixers' radar before Daryl Morey was hired as the president of basketball operations two weeks ago.
One source said the expectation was that the Sixers intended to select the sharpshooter in the draft. While picking him at 21 might be considered a reach, the belief is it would happen early in the second round.
Mock drafts must feel the same way.
The Sixers are projected to snag him at No. 34 in ESPN’s mock draft. Sports Illustrated has them taking him two spots later.
Who knows what will happen, especially with Morey now in charge.
Joe raised a few eyebrows when he reentered the NBA draft on Aug. 17, two and a half weeks after announcing he would return to Arkansas for his junior season. He reentered despite, at the time, being ranked the 69th best player available and 13th-ranked shooting guard in the 60-player draft, according to ESPN. The Athletic draft analyst Sam Vecenie had Joe as No. 68 on July 29.
“My announcement on Aug. 1 to return to school for another season as a Razorback was made with whole-hearted excitement and sincerity,” Joe wrote on Twitter on Aug. 17. “But a lot has happened in a short period of time since then to increase the uncertainty that college sports will be played this season.”
Despite his explanation, some NBA executives speculated his change of mind was prompted by a team’s guaranteeing to draft him if available.
Perhaps it was coincidental, but the Sixers came to mind with a few teams. The team proved last summer that it’s not against making promises. The Sixers came through on their promise to draft Matisse Thybulle late in the first round. Like Thybulle, Joe would fit in perfectly with the Sixers at a bargain.
So, did he reenter the draft with the belief that the Sixers will at worst use their early second-round pick on him? The 6-foot-5, 180-pounder is projected to go anywhere from Nos. 34 to 38.
We’ll find out Wednesday.
“The 76ers are showing a lot of interest,” Bart Reid, one of Joe’s basketball trainers, told the Southwest Times Record of Fort Smith, Ark., back in late June.
Reid also mentioned the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors as being among at least six or seven teams that were vetting Joe.
“But I know the 76ers have reached out several different times,” Reid said, "and that’s a team when I look without knowing anything on the inside, they can use a shooter. ... Everybody can use a shooter, but when you’ve got a center like Joel Embiid, a knockdown shooter comes in really handy.”
And knocking down shots is what the Fort Smith native is known for.
The shooting guard was the Southeastern Conference’s top three-point shooter the last two seasons in both shots made (207) and attempts (548). He was one of the nation’s top volume three-point-shooters with 3.45 made and 9.13 attempts per game at Arkansas.
Joe shot 44% from beyond the NBA three-point distance this past season.
He missed six games because of arthroscopic right knee surgery and was limited in five more before the surgery. In 26 games, Joe averaged 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists and shot 34.2 % on three-pointers. Playing with the injury affected his three-point shooting. But he made 41.4% of his threes as a freshman, and he’s healthy now.
“I think right off the bat, my shooting will bring a lot to a team,” Joe said during his media day Sept. 30. “Being able to stretch the floor and keep movement, keep space out, occupy a defender, things like that right off the bat is something that teams can utilize from me.”
Just like the Sixers were able to use some solid late-first-round and second-round pieces in the last two drafts.
In 2018, the Sixers made a surprising move by using the 26th overall pick on Landry Shamet, a point guard out of Wichita State. At that time, Shamet had a second-round grade. (The Sixers added him to the trade package needed to acquire Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers in February 2019.)
The Sixers acquired the 54th pick of the 2018 draft from the Dallas Mavericks to select another point guard, Shake Milton, out of Southern Methodist University.
In the draft in 2019, the Sixers traded up four post to select Thybulle with the 20th pick. They had promised to select the former Washington wing at No. 24.
Thybulle, a stellar defender, and the sharpshooting Milton have emerged as two of the Sixers' key pieces.
Joe could become another.