It’s almost here.
After months of waiting to see what shape the Sixers’ direction would take, the NBA Draft, AKA The Most Important Night Of All Of Our Lives is almost here. OK, so maybe there’s a bit of hyperbole there, but for a fan base that willingly endured a horrid season, tomorrow night is the payoff. There was recently a special done on the 1984 NBA Draft on NBATV that showed an excellent illustration of how a loaded draft can alter the fortunes of so many franchises. That draft happened to feature numerous Hall of Famers at the top (Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley), a sleeper that became another Hall of Famer (John Stockton), and quite possibly the biggest mistake in the history of the draft (Portland taking Sam Bowie over Jordan with the #2 pick). Imagine how much the fates of the Trailblazers and Bulls changed with that one decision.
I truly believe that this 2014 NBA Draft has the potential to be another one that we are watching a special on 30 years from now. You’ve got highly touted talent at the top, a great deal of depth, mysterious yet tempting foreign players, and as of last week, one hell of a plot twist in the form of presumptive number 1 pick Joel Embiid’s injury, which pretty much blew up everything we thought we knew about the first few picks. And the cherry on top of it all is that your Philadelphia 76ers are one of, if not THE primary mover and shaker in this draft. They could literally pop in for a trade at any point tomorrow night. There really is no safe place for a bathroom break if you’re a Sixers fan.
At this point, the rumor mill is humming along at maximum velocity. We’ve already heard dozens of rumors and possible trades, and we’ll continue to hear about them right up until the start of the draft. Whatever you think will happen, you will probably end up being wrong. Did anybody see the Sixers trading Jrue Holiday for two first-round picks before last year’s draft? Nope. Team general manager Sam Hinkie doesn’t keep his cards close to the vest, he keeps them inside the vest. With all of this in mind, I’m going to quickly give some thoughts on players, assets, and potential scenarios that the Sixers could find themselves involved with on Thursday night.
Cap space – We start off not with a “who”, but with a “what”. One of the big stories this week is that both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have opted out of their contracts for free agency. This plays directly into the Sixers hands, as they are one of a number of teams with the salary cap space needed to take on another team’s bad contract, so that they can bid for James or Anthony. Many of us thought that Anthony would opt out, but for the best player in the NBA to do so as well makes that Sixers cap space so much more valuable. I fully expect the Sixers to sell some of their cap space in exchange for a first-round pick.
Andrew Wiggins – While Hinkie is secretive in terms of making moves, the worst-kept secret in the NBA is how much the Sixers covet Wiggins. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if that could be a potential smokescreen. Almost. I really do believe that he is the apple of Hinkie’s eye here, but Joel Embiid’s injury has really hurt the Sixers’ chances of getting their man. Cleveland is now expected to take Wiggins #1 overall, so Hinkie may have to make a deal to trade up to the first pick. The question is: what are you willing to give up? I would not trade the 3rd and 10th picks to move up to #1. I would trade the #3 and Thad Young in exchange for the #1 and one of Cleveland’s bad contracts, but that’s as far as I’d go. Otherwise, just stay at #3 and take whoever you like there.
Jabari Parker – Parker is almost not even worth talking about in my opinion, I legitimately think the Sixers have no shot at getting him (which means that of course now they will). I can easily see a scenario where Wiggins falls to the Sixers at #3, I have a hard time believing that this happens with Parker. Milwaukee (who picks second) likes him way too much. He’s in play at #1 for Cleveland as well. With Parker’s Mormon background, he’d be a perfect fit for Utah, who is trying to trade with Cleveland to get that first pick. I like Parker a lot, and certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Sixers uniform, but he just has too many suitors.
Dante Exum – I have been slowly talking myself into Exum at #3 for the Sixers. He has been labeled as this year’s mystery man since outside of a few camps and international showcases, he has mostly feasted on Australian high school competition. Despite the lack of exposure, most NBA GMs are enamored with him, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s a 6’6” point guard that is fast, athletic, a good decision-maker, and can get to any spot on the floor that he wants. The main drawback is an inconsistent long-range jumper. Sound like any reigning Rookie Of The Year you might know? Yes, Exum’s game is a carbon copy of Michael Carter-Williams’, but I think that they can absolutely co-exist in the same backcourt. What really piqued my interest was hearing what ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford had to say about Exum. Apparently, every front office that has had the chance to interview him raves about his makeup and demeanor. They love that he has leadership skills and an even-keeled demeanor, but also a fierce competitive fire and a step-on-your-throat killer instinct. Since there are not many 18-year-olds with an NBA jumper, I’m willing to gamble that he can develop this.
Joel Embiid – Speaking of gambles…here we have the player whose injury status has completely reshuffled the top of this draft. If healthy, there is no doubt that Embiid would have been the first overall pick. The development of his game in just a few short years is almost unheard of. You see the size, skills, and footwork and realize that those Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons are 100% legitimate. Unfortunately, the back injury, the fractured navicular bone, and the history of injury-prone centers taken just before elite players all conspire to work against him, which is a shame. This same injury to the navicular bone in the foot has either ended or altered the careers of centers such as Bill Walton, Yao Ming, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. As we all know, the bigger the body, the more susceptible it is to injury. I love Embiid’s game and fully recognize that any team that passes on him could end up kicking themselves if he lives up to his vast potential, but I just can’t risk it at the #3 pick. The risk is just too great. If he’s there at #10 (he won’t be), I’d happily take him. The Sixers got their hands on his medical reports today, what they see may just sway their decision.
Noah Vonleh – Vonleh represents the last possible pick for the Sixers at #3. A large part of the appeal is that his game seems to mesh perfectly with that of Nerlens Noel. Vonleh has a big body (6’10”, 247 lbs) and apparently has massive hands. He can score inside and outside, with the ability to draw his defender out to the perimeter to open up the middle. He’s also young (not even 19 yet), a good rebounder, and scores highly in a lot of the metrics that the analytics community values. With all this going for him, I feel like he should have been more productive in his one year in Indiana, but that could just be the system.
Trades – Rest assured, the Sixers will be making moves during this draft. Thad Young is absolutely getting moved, it’s just a matter of whether Hinkie uses him in a package at the top of the draft or whether he puts Young in a deal to move into the latter half of the first round. The Sixers are rumored to move into a number of spots, including #7 (LA Lakers), #8 (Sacramento), #16 and/or 19 (Chicago), #18 or 27 (Phoenix), and #21 or 29 (Oklahoma City). I have heard the rumor about trading both MCW and Thad to the Lakers for #7 and the last year of Steve Nash’s bad contract. While it would give them 3 of the first 10 picks, that is way too much for the Sixers to give up. They may do that deal with just MCW (especially if they take Exum at #3), but they’ll throw Thad into a different deal; there’s no way the Lakers are getting both of them.
I’m getting older and more uncool by the day, so internet slang is not something I’m totally up on. Just this week, I finally learned that “tl;dr” means “too long; didn’t read”. In the interest of keeping this post from getting any more tl;dr than it already is, I’m going to go through some other names lightning-round style:
Julius Randle – Would love to have him. If the Sixers take Exum at #3, I think he’s the pick if the Sixers make that deal for #7.
Marcus Smart – Can’t shoot, but I like him a lot. He seems like a winner, but has had a few behavioral outbursts. I wonder how that would play in Philly. If the Sixers go big at #3 and do that Lakers deal, I think he’s the guy.
Aaron Gordon – Dirty work player who seems to know his role and play to his strengths. He’d be a great get at #10.
Nik Stauskas – Great shooter, decent ball handler, more athletic than people give him credit for, and apparently has a little bit of villain to him. Sign me up for that at #10.
Gary Harris – I’m not as high on Harris as I once was, but I do like that he’s a strong defensive presence in addition to his shooting. I prefer Stauskas at this point, but wouldn’t be upset with Harris.
Doug McDermott – I think he’s in the NBA for at least 10 years. Elite shooter, not a total stiff athletically. I like him, but #10 seems a little high.
Zach LaVine – He’s not ready for the NBA yet, but the Sixers would be a good spot for him since they won’t be a contender for a few years anyway. Great athleticism. He’ll either be a total bust or a star, I don’t see any in-between.
Dario Saric – Now that he signed a deal to stay in Europe for a few more years, there’s no way I’d take him at #10. If the Sixers can get #16 from Chicago, however…
Adreian Payne – I love the potential fit of Payne on this Sixers roster. He’s another guy I’d like to see the Sixers snag if they get one of the Bulls’ picks.
Rodney Hood – Not sure if he’s an NBA starter, but I like him as one of your first few guys off the bench. Another player in the range with one of those Bulls picks.
The following guys are players I’d be very interested in seeing the Sixers get in the 2nd round (they have picks 32, 39, 47, 52, & 54): Cleanthony Early, Glenn Robinson III, Spencer Dinwiddie, CJ Wilcox, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Markel Brown, Sean Kilpatrick.
The following guys are foreign players I’d like to see the Sixers draft & stash overseas for development. If the Sixers keep all their picks, I expect them to take at least 2 “draft & stash” guys: Damien Inglis, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nikola Jokic, Vasilije Micic.
Just a reminder for you all…I’ll be live-tweeting during the draft, so if you’d like to share your thoughts on what’s happening, you can find me @PhiladelphiaPST. Enjoy, I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about next week.