Sixers Summer Signing Put on Hot Seat Ahead of Training Camp

Julian Champagnie, Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Julian Champagnie, formerly #2 of the St. John's Red Storm.

The Philadelphia 76ers might be in danger of ruining yet another feel-good story. When the team extended a contract to undrafted free agent Julian Champagnie, it was a chance for local talent to stay home.

Champagnie played college ball down the road from the Sixers at St. Johns. Over his three-year career, the Staten Island native put up terrific numbers, en route to earning multiple Big East First-Team honors. He also led the entire conference in scoring as a sophomore with 19.8 points per game.

Champagnie, listed as the No. 15 overall small forward coming out of college this year, was projected to go somewhere between the mid-first round and mid-second round in this summer’s draft. But instead of getting his dream shot to hear his name called, he waited. And waited. And waited. Until the final name was called and he was left without a partner.

Fortunately, the Sixers came and scooped him up shortly after the draft. But what happened to make Champagnie slide out of the draft altogether? A backslide in his numbers last season. After a monster sophomore year, his regression left teams worried.

And it’s the same regression that could keep Champagnie from landing a spot with the Sixers next season. Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers took a deep dive into Champagnie’s game and tabbed the Philadelphia local as a player in danger of losing it all if he doesn’t show out in training camp.

“Champagnie will likely need a strong camp to fend off the competition. He’ll need to rediscover the shot and scoring touch he flashed during his time at St. John’s,” Hudrick wrote on September 8.

The Sixers Have Other Compelling Young Players on the Roster

Two factors might hold Champagnie back from a roster spot. First is his lackluster play in the Summer League.

As Hudrick explained, “we didn’t see a whole lot of that come through during a rough summer league stint. In seven games, Champagnie averaged just three points a game on a paltry 22.7 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three. He didn’t do much to stand out on the defensive end either.”

The second factor is one that’s completely out of Champagnie’s hands. It’s a problem that plagues team-sport athletes year in and year out. Champagnie could be held back simply because the Sixers like some of their other youngsters.

“Though Champagnie currently has one of two two-way spots (Charlie Brown Jr. has the other), that doesn’t mean he’ll have it all season — or even by the end of camp. The Sixers have a pair of intriguing candidates in Trevelin Queen and Michael Foster Jr. Queen signed a partially guaranteed deal this summer, so if he’s waived and goes unclaimed by another team, he’d slot in nicely. Foster Jr. is intriguing as a 19-year-old big that spent last season with the G League Ignite and could easily be converted from an Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way deal. Isaiah Joe (non-guaranteed) and Charles Bassey (partial guarantee) could also be darkhorse candidates given their contracts,” Hudrick said.

Unfortunately, sometimes a team, coach, or front office just isn’t that into a player. Of course, if Champagnie lit it up at training camp, he would be giving the team a reason to keep him. But until then, Champagnie is very much on the hot seat.

Do the Sixers Have Another Mikal Bridges in the Making?

For some Sixers fans, the idea of letting a youngster who played college ball in Philadelphia go for nothing is at least a little bit triggering. That’s because the Sixers did the exact same thing in 2018 to then-Villanova star Mikal Bridges.

Bridges was taken at No. 10 by the Sixers, only to ship him off to the desert of Phoenix shortly after. But until that moment, the stars seemed to be aligning for the Philadelphia native. Bridges played his college ball under Jay Wright, winning two National Championships with Villanova. And his mother was a member of the Sixers’ staff, adding yet another layer of sentimentality.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Bridges has gone on to a stellar career in the NBA. He played in the Finals just one season ago and made First-Team All-Defense last season.

Julian Champagnie likely won’t have the same career trajectory, though. Bridges was a surefire lottery pick, while Champagnie slid from the first round to the second round to completely out of the draft altogether. Nonetheless, the parallels (on paper) are there and enough to send shivers down Sixers fans’ backs.

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