By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
The NBA draft is just a few weeks away and the majority of Sixers fans are rightfully focused on whether the team will take D’Angelo Russell with the third overall pick, or even what potential sleepers Sam Hinkie will go after in the second round. However, there is a even larger player pool out there than those guys who will go in the 2 rounds of the draft, and as players like Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, and JaKarr Sampson have shown, the Sixers are not averse to bringing in undrafted free agents to make their way onto the roster.
Another recent trend has been to throw out a training camp invitation to a players from one of the area schools. It makes sense as the Sixers would seemingly have the best opportunity to scout those guys over the years. Plus, it engenders goodwill and a bit of excitement for the local fan base. In 2013, we saw Temple’s Khalif Wyatt be one of the final cuts. He now plies his trade for Hapoel Eilat in the Israeli professional league. Mazel Tov to Khalif.
Last year, the Sixers brought in former Hawk Ronald Roberts, Jr. He spent much of the season on the 87ers, although he was brought up to the Sixers at one point but did not receive any game action before being sent down a few days late. He was later traded as part of a deal for Sean Kilpatrick and a 1st-round pick back in January (even in Delaware they’re all about collecting draft picks). He left the D-league to play 4 tournament games as an import player in the Philippines, but I’m sure we’ll see him back with some team in NBA summer league. The Sixers did miss out on Roberts’ former St. Joe’s teammate Langston Galloway, who went on the make the All-Rookie second team with the Knicks as an undrafted free agent.
So who might be the guy who receives a look from the Sixers this year? Here are 4 possibilities:
Will Cummings – Temple’s star point guard was invited to the Portsmouth Invitational which features the top 64 college seniors. Over the course of the 3 games there, Cummings was tied for 6th in assists at 4.3 per game, and tied for second in steals at 2.3 per game. However, he shot the ball poorly from the outside, which is the biggest concern about Cummings’ potential at the next level. If you’re going to make it at just 6’0″, you better be able to shoot the rock, and Cummings has never been able to do that consistently. Still, for a Sixers team that gave significant minutes to guys like Tim Frazier and Larry Drew II last season before landing on Ish Smith as a starter, they’re always looking for depth at point guard.
JayVaughn Pinkston – The Villanova forward had a very strong showing in Portsmouth, averaging 11.0 points (on 52.9% shooting) and 5.7 rebounds per game. Most crucially however, Pinkston shot 3-8 from three, a skill he rarely showed off during his years on the Main Line. If Pinkston is going to make it as an undersized forward, it’s imperative he develop some semblance of an outside jumper. Hitting a few in front of all the scouts during that tournament was a good start. The Brooklyn native will also work out with the Nets on Wednesday.
Darrun Hilliard – Pinkston’s teammate Darrun Hilliard certainly showed every ability to drain the long ball during his tenure with the Wildcats. Unfortunately, he did struggle with his shot up in Portsmouth, averaging 9.3 points but shooting 17.9% from the field over the 3 games. The Sixers are certainly in the hunt for more shooting though and Hilliard is expected to work out with the team this week, in addition to Brooklyn, Dallas, and Phoenix.
Jerrell Wright – The La Salle forward did not receive an invitation to Portsmouth, but he did work out with the Sixers on Thursday. Wright likened himself to Reggie Evans, saying he could bring a similar tenacity on the boards. At the very least, his beard game would need some work.
If I had to pick just one, I would saw Hilliard gets a look from the Sixers in training camp. The team sorely needs shooting on the wings and Hilliard could be a cheap source of it, as Hollis Thompson was a couple seasons ago. Whether or not one of these local guys get a shot with the team, we do know that Sam Hinkie is looking down every conceivable avenue for ways to improve the club. Undrafted diamonds in the rough are just another possibility.