The 76ers are looking to find someone similar to the prized possession they traded away.
They want to select someone with the qualities of Landry Shamet with the 24th pick of Thursday’s NBA draft at the Barclays Center.
“He’s always been an overcomer and mature and very, very self aware,” Vince Rozman, the Sixers’ senior director of scouting, said of Shamet, taken 26th overall by the team in last summer’s draft. “He knows who he is, both on the court and off the court.
"I think those are the guys that tend to make it in that range, because they know their role and they know what is going to be asked of them.”
Shamet fit in so well that the Sixers had to include him in a multiple-player trade to the Los Angeles Clippers to acquire the coveted Tobias Harris.
Shamet went to become a standout for the Clippers. But even before that trade, the former Wichita State star established himself as the steal of last year’s draft.
If available, Cam Johnson could have the same impact for the Sixers in this week’s draft. The former North Carolina swingman would fill a need.
But the Sixers will have some options. Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Louis King (Oregon), Eric Paschall (Villanova), Luka Samanic (Croatia), Grant Williams (Tennessee), and Dylan Windler (Belmont) could be among other candidates.
Like last season, the Sixers want to use their first-round pick on someone who fits in with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons along with Harris, Jimmy Butler, and JJ Redick, three soon-to-be free agents they hope to re-sign.
They want someone who can immediately contribute. And they want that player to be able to stretch the floor, bring a defensive mind-set, play hard and display a maturity that enables him to fit and know his role.
One can argue that Johnson fits that profile the best. The 6-foot-8 ½, 205-pounder is a lights-out shooter with great range. He’s a solid defender and a great character guy.
Johnson could drop to the Sixers because of his age. The Western Pennsylvania native turned 23 on March 3 and spent five years in college. These days, the top picks of the draft are often 19- and 20-year-olds who spend one or two seasons in college.
NBA teams like to draft younger players based on their potential. The thought is that older players have already peaked. But the Sixers are in a win-now mode and don’t have time to wait on young projects.
So Johnson’s age actually benefits them.
Johnson began his career at Pitt following a standout high school career at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Moon Township. He redshirted his freshman season after suffering a shoulder injury. He went on to graduate from Pitt in three years with a communications degree, which made him eligible to transfer without sitting out a year. After the Panthers initially refused to release him to a conference foe, Johnson transferred to UNC with two seasons of eligibility.
This past season, he established himself as one nation’s top college players with career highs of 16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals while starting all 36 games.
Johnson also shot a career-best 45.7 percent on three-pointers, which ranked seventh in the nation, and became the first Tar Heel to lead the conference in three-point shooting since Raymond Felton in 2005. He was at his best on the road in ACC games, averaging 20.8 points on 58.3 percent shooting, including 57.4 percent on three-pointers.
The Sixers have scouted several of his games. They’re also satisfied with their background checks and consultations with his former coaches. Those types of discussions with former coaches and meetings with draft prospects have just as much impact -- if not more -- than pre-draft workouts.
Rozman said the 50 or so conversations teams have with coaches before those workouts give them an idea of who the prospect is.
“So this just kind of confirms what you think you already know through those conversations, through the dinners and through the meetings with [general manager] Elton [Brand]," Rozman said. “We have a good sense of all of these guys.”