On the Beat: Simmons, 6 Other Prospects Visit Tuesday
PHILADELPHIA - Two days before what figures to be a seminal moment in franchise history, the 76ers proceeded with their due diligence, and then some.
President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo revealed to reporters that early Tuesday morning, the franchise hosted Ben Simmons for a private workout at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The session marked the only team-specific workout to date for the LSU forward.
"Looks like we’re pretty close to the finish line with respect to our preparations for the draft," said Colangelo. "This morning, we did have an opportunity very early to have Ben Simmons come in, and work out in front of our coaches, and have a chance to also be here in front of Josh Harris and David Blitzer of ownership. It was a chance to kind of put a platform out there for anyone that we might be considering at number one to have a final opportunity to see."
Simmons, per analysts and experts, is widely regarded as the top player available in this Thursday's draft.
"It was important for us, and we were excited to be able to get the opportunity," Colangelo said of the Sixers bringing in Simmons for Tuesday's visit.
According to Colangelo, Simmons' workout was similar in structure to the ones the Sixers formatted for Duke swingman Brandon Ingram, and Cal forward Jaylen Brown, both of whom travelled to Philadelphia last week. Colangelo added that he believes Simmons has the size and definable NBA skills necessary to make a quick impact on the professional level.
Following Simmons' workout, the Sixers evaluated a deep six-man prospect pool consisting of Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis, Penn State's Brandon Taylor, Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins, Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku, Oregon State’s Gary Payton II, and France’s Guerschon Yabusele.
Listed at just 5’10” tall and 149 pounds, Ulis showed last season that - at the collegiate level, at least - his size was no issue. As a sophomore at Kentucky, he exploded for 17.3 points and 7.0 assists per game. Those figures were sixth-best in the Southeastern Conference and seventh-best in the nation, respectively. Not only was Ulis named the SEC Player of the Year at season’s end, he was also tabbed the conference’s top defensive player. The only other SEC player to ever receive both awards in the same year was New Orleans Pelicans All-Star big man Anthony Davis. Of note, Ulis sported a number “3” jersey during his Wildcats’ career. According to Kentucky’s website, he chose the number because of his appreciation for Allen Iverson.
At Penn State, Taylor provided a consistent front court presence. He saved his strongest season for last, tallying 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Taylor grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey, and attended Trenton Catholic. Basketball runs in his family's bloodline, as his cousin enjoyed a stint in the WNBA. His uncle is Terence Stansbury, who played at Temple before a having a brief career in the NBA.
Throughout his four years with Oklahoma, Isaiah Cousins gradually added layers to his game. After tallying 48 total three-point field goals between his first two campaigns, the guard proceeded to knock down over 60 treys in both his junior and senior seasons. His 40.7 career three-point percentage is seventh-best in the Sooner record book. Last season, as a senior, Cousins showed that he could facilitate as well, handing out a personal-best 4.5 assists per game. He had averaged no more than 2.2 helpers per tilt in each of his first three years.
In two years at Louisville, Chinanu Onuaku made strides. Logging about seven more minutes per game as a sophomore than he did as a freshman, Onuaku increased his scoring and rebounding averages by nearly 10.0 points and 4.0 boards, respectively. A 6’10” tall, 245 pound big man, the Maryland native swatted aside 104 shots in 66 career games.
Gary Payton II followed in his Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame father’s footsteps by attending Oregon State, and, like Gary Sr., the younger Payton had a positive impact on the program. Last year, Payton manufactured the versatile line of 16.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.5 steals per game, all while helping the Beavers qualify for the NCAA Tournament. It was a first since 1990, when his dad was a senior. Following each of Payton II’s two seasons in Corvallis, he was selected as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the league’s first player to earn the honor twice. Payton II began his college career at Salt Lake Community College.
Guerschon Yabusele has spent the previous three years playing in France, alternating between the top two tiers of the country’s professional circuit. With SPO Rouen Basket of the National Basketball League in 2015-2016, the small forward appeared in 36 contests, and achieved personal-best averages of 11.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.
From the second workout group at PCOM Tuesday, all but Taylor and Yabusele attended the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.