Could the Sixers hit on another Kentucky guard in TyTy Washington?
The 2022 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 23. Since the Nets decided to defer the pick owed to them as part of the James Harden trade, the Sixers will select 23rd overall. Ahead of the draft, we’ll look at several prospects that could fit the Sixers and be realistic possibilities at No. 23.
Every year it feels like a Kentucky guard slips in the draft and then goes on to have a ton of success at the NBA level (see: Maxey, Tyrese). This year’s iteration could very well be TyTy Washington.
The 20-year-old was a five-star recruit and considered the 14th-best high school prospect by both ESPN and Rivals. Though the Wildcats’ season ended in disappointing fashion, Washington had a mostly successful season under John Calipari, being named Second Team All-SEC.
But if Washington falls to to 23, should the Sixers have interest? Let’s take a look.
The biggest strength for Washington is his passing. The 20-year-old seems to always have his eyes up and sometimes appears to have a set in the back of his head. In transition, he’s always looking for a teammate leaking out to set them up for an easy bucket. In the half court, he’s great in the pick-and-roll and delivers a ton of slick pocket passes. His feel is elite, knowing where everyone is on the floor and being able to deliver passes with the proper touch or velocity with both hands. With all that said, Washington also flashed ability to play off the ball with timely cuts and the ability to fly around screens.
Apparently in order to play for Kentucky, you need to have a floater. Like Maxey and Immanuel Quickley before him, Washington’s floater game is on point. He’s crafty around the rim, much like the two aforementioned former Wildcats. Washington shot the ball at a decent clip (35 percent from three, 75 percent from the line) and appears to have a decent foundation for his shot to translate at the next level.
Washington’s motor is also noticeable. He plays the game at a breakneck pace, but is still excellent in terms of taking care of the basketball, finishing 18th in the SEC in turnover percentage. That motor also shows up on the defense end, where he does well to use his length at 6-foot-3 to pester opposing point guards. His defense did seem to improve as the year went on and he felt more comfortable in Kentucky’s scheme.
Washington is more of a below-the-rim player. He’s not an explosive athlete, relying more on his feel and craftiness to create in the half court. Because of that, he doesn’t routinely blow by defenders. The floater is legit, but he relies on it partly because he did struggle to finish against length in college. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against NBA length, athleticism and physicality. He also didn’t get to the line much, averaging just 2.1 free throws a game.
While the shot is solid, the volume was low on threes and there will be an adjustment to NBA range. His release is a little low and slow. He flashed the ability to hit jumpers off the dribble in the midrange, but he’ll need to expand that to the three-point line to increase his effectiveness in the pick-and-roll.
The lack of elite athleticism will likely hurt him on the defensive end at the next level. At his size, he’s likely only going to be able to guard ones. Will he have enough lateral quickness defend some of the quicker point guards in the NBA?
Ideally, a 3-and-D wing that can contribute immediately would be the selection (if the Sixers even make one), but it’s not the only need the Sixers have. They could certainly use another ball handler to help Maxey and James Harden. A reliable third ball handler was lacking during the postseason.
The aspect of Washington’s game that could get him on the floor early in his career is his feel. There’s something to be said for players that simply know how to play the game and exhibit a high basketball IQ. And the Sixers always seem to lack those types of players, quite frankly.
There are some outlets that consider Washington a lottery lock and others that see him falling into the 20s. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks Washington 14th on his big board while The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has the guard at 30. Those are two of the better media evaluators that are split on Washington.
The athletic traits might not be where you want them to be for a first-rounder, but there are mental aspects of the game Washington excels in that also can’t be taught. There are other prospects that might fit the Sixers better, but Washington is the type of player worth taking if he falls into their range.