Sixers Draft Young Dirk Nowitzki in Second Round

Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images Gonzaga sophomore power forward Filip Petrusev

The Philadelphia 76ers defied all the reports of them trading away their picks in Thursday’s draft and took three players. One of them is hoping to be the next Dirk Nowitzki.

The Sixers took Filip Petrušev with the 50th overall pick, adding him to the rookie haul of Jaden Springer (28th overall) and Charles Bassey (53rd overall). Petrusev is a 6-foot-11 big man who earned West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors in 2020 at Gonzaga. He averaged 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in 33 games that year for the Zags. The natural inclination is to compare him to Nikola Jokic due his Serbian heritage, but he grew up idolizing future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.

The versatile center proved to be a valuable weapon in his two years at Gonzaga, mainly due to his sweet shooting stroke and ability to get to the charity stripe. Petrusev drew 7.8 fouls per 40 minutes, which was the third-most in the nation. His 228 free-throw attempts ranked as the second-most taken in the country.

Lila Bromberg of Sports Illustrated wrote the following about Petrusev:

That mindset was evident from the very first practice of the season, when Petrušev dazzled with a lights-out shooting performance, showing off his unique ability to let it fly from deep, mixing in a fair share of midrange floaters and fadeaway jumpers as well.

“I don’t think he missed a shot for like 10 minutes,” recalls Travis Knight, Gonzaga’s strength and conditioning coach. “You could see he was going to be an NBA player.”

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‘Stash Pick’ for Sixers, Staying Overseas

Petrusev will likely remain overseas in his native Belgrade, Serbia to further develop before the Sixers call him up. He opted out of the 2021 season and suited up for Mega Basket, a Serbian team in the Adriatic League. He won MVP of the league, averaging 23.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.

More significantly, the 21-year-old learned how to hit from deep. He could be lethal on pick-and-rolls with Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, or Ben Simmons assuming he sticks around Philly.

“The way I was used at Gonzaga, style-wise on the court, I feel like I needed to show more to eventually get where I want to be,” Petrusev said, via The Spokesman. “I do appreciate Gonzaga and everything they’ve done. I was probably the most productive player (last year) and because of that all of the recognition came, but the end game is to play in the NBA.”

Joel Embiid Not Heading for Surgery?

Meanwhile, Sixers big man Joel Embiid doesn’t appear headed to the operating table for offseason knee surgery despite dealing with a torn meniscus. The runner-up for MVP hinted at letting it heal naturally in his end-of-year comments and the thought process hasn’t changed. In fact, Embiid has been in the gym working out this summer.

“I would say on Joel, he’s been in the gym,”Sixers President Daryl Morey said. “He was in the gym today working on his game. He has a plan with our medical staff, and we feel good about it and we are not concerned about him medically at all.”

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