As any pro hoops fan can attest to, owning a late first-round pick in the NBA Draft is rarely cause for excitement. Lottery picks are a hit-or-miss proposition as it is; the hit rate of late first-rounders is exceptionally worse. So, in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, actually making good on a selection in the back-end of Round 1 would be an important development for their future prospects.
Given the fact that Philly is a franchise with nearly $100 million committed to its core players in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobais Harris, the team’s options for filling open roster spots are incredibly limited. Bucking the odds in the draft and finding a serviceable player would put the Sixers ahead of the game.
To that end, one former Sixers scout believes that a potential difference-maker could still be available when the team is on the clock at No. 28 overall.
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Former Sixers Scout: Chris Duarte Could Slip to No. 28
Although he has transitioned to an advisory role with CoachTube, an educational service for athletes and coaches, Michael VandeGarde continues to pay close attention to the NBA Draft. And after spending 18 years with the Sixers as a scout, he has a particular interest in Philly’s draft-night prospects.
So, when he says the team has a chance at landing a high-profile player currently projected to land in the middle of the first round, there’s cause for excitement.
On Friday, USA Today’s Sixers Wire posted an interview with VandeGarde in which he gave his thoughts on a myriad of draft prospects. In doing so, he indicated that Oregon star Chris Duarte, who won the 2021 Jerry West Award as college basketball’s best shooting guard, could slip to the Sixers at No. 28.
“I absolutely think he’s got a chance to be there at 28,” he said, “Now that’s not saying he will be there, but I’d be very surprised if he gets drafted in the teens.”
The 6-foot-6, 190-pound Duarte currently ranks as the 23rd-best prospect overall on ESPN’s NBA Draft big board. So, picking him at the end of the first round could be a major win for Philly.
According to VandeGarde, Duarte’s age could work against him in the draft process. “I think one of the biggest reasons for that is he’s 24 years old,” he said.
“There have been a couple of kids that have gone through college and are older kids that are having some success. So maybe that’ll take some of the stigma off of that, but he’s 24 years old. Guys that are 24 years old just don’t have some of the upside that other guys have.”
Duarte Showed Out as a Senior at Oregon
After two years of JUCO ball at Northwest Florida State, Duarte was a key cog at Oregon over his final two seasons of collegiate action. However, he saved his best for last, averaging 17.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals per contest as a senior. Along the way, he knocked down 42.4% of his three-point shots.
In addition to the aforementioned West Award, he was recognized by the Associated Press as the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a third-team All-American.
His upside may be limited relative to younger players in his draft class, but he should enter the NBA with ready-made scoring chops, heightened awareness on the court and a nose for the ball.
If the Sixers can acquire somebody with a late first-round pick that has any ability whatsoever to play regular minutes, that’s a major win for the team. And Duarte could be that guy.
“I like his game, I like his size, I think he could really help the Sixers,” said VandeGarde. “He fits the timeframe of the Sixers.”