As the 76ers head into July’s Summer Leagues, the team’s projected regular season roster remains filled with holes. The recently-passed 2015 NBA Draft may have actually provided more questions than answers regarding the rebuild.
The organization’s selection of Jahlil Okafor with the third overall pick added to the team’s overall talent pool and frontcourt depth, but it did not address its overall lack of reliable perimeter play. Okafor has monster potential, and was probably the right choice given the circumstances, as the team remains far from formed; he has a real chance to blossom into an All-Star in Philly. But, while the team has now established considerable depth amongst its big men, there remains a dearth of guard play.
Early projections would likely have the team’s best long-distance threat, Robert Covington and the ever-improving Nerlens Noel slotted as the starting forwards, while newcomer Okafor holds down the center spot. But what about the backcourt spots?
Sure, these areas could be addressed in free agency, but it seems unlikely that the team would able to, or be interested in signing a player worthy of a starting spot this summer. With so much young talent still in need of development, it feels as though any major free agent acquisitions remain at least a year away.
One player poised to establish himself, and maybe even step into a starting spot with the Sixers this season at shooting guard is Jordan McRae.
McRae, who was acquired by the Sixers on draft night in 2014, is coming off of extremely successful stints in both the National Basketball League in Australia and the NBA’s D-League, and he is eager to prove that his success can carry over to the league. During his year with the Melbourne Tigers, McRae was the NBL’s second-leading scorer, posting an impressive average of 19.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He was his team’s best offensive option, and he consistently demonstrated the ability to space the floor and also create for himself. Back stateside with the 87ers, McRae continued his offensive onslaught, averaging 18.9 points per throughout his 13 games with the team.
The former Tennessee Volunteer will be suiting up for the Sixers in Summer League, where a solid performance could make him an early favorite to land the starting shooting guard spot. McRae is a prototypical two guard. At 6’6’ he has solid size for the position, while his length and athleticism provide him the potential to be a very decent defender. He can shoot the ball from the perimeter, thus opening up the floor for others, like say Jahlil Okafor. He can also put the ball on the floor and create for himself if the situation calls for it. Additionally, back in early June McRae told my Philadunkia colleague C. Smith that he continues to work on becoming “a lock down defender”. So in theory McRae has the potential to be a very good, two-way player, which are becoming increasingly coveted in today’s NBA.
While there are plenty of areas in need of improvement in McRae’s game, catch and shoot as well as the defensive end, he is only 24, and his skill set could mesh very well with what the Sixers are trying to establish. With no incumbent, or clear heir to the Sixers starting shooting guard spot, Jordan McRae has an excellent opportunity to establish himself as a part of the franchise’s future.
Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikeKB.
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