It's easy to see a prospect and immediately light up with joy over the chance of being able to select him. Unfortunately, taking that specific player might not be in the best interest of the team. It's the reason why players spend the first couple of years playing bad basketball with their first franchise, only to sign with a different one and play amazing.
There are a number of very talented men available in the 2014 draft. Only a select few will make Philadelphia better in ways that will lead toward a consistently successful future.
Philly has more picks than any other team and must use them effectively. The only way to do that is by understanding the team's biggest needs.
Here's a look at what those are.
There is no question about this being the first priority.
The Sixers statistically blew other teams away by averaging a league-leading 103.4 possessions per game. More possessions should ideally lead to more points, but Philadelphia managed to mess this concept up by failing to have a scorer. All that time with the ball did nothing in terms of scoring, as the 76ers ended the season with the league's worst offensive efficiency rating—points per 100 possessions—at 96.8. The next worst team was the Orlando Magic with a rating of 99.3.
Having two lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft couldn't have come at a better time.
There's quite a bit of a tossup as to who will land in Philadelphia's lap with the No. 3 pick. The majority of people are confident that Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will be the first three players taken, but the order remains a mystery.
The good news for Philadelphia is that any of these options would provide the Sixers with a much-needed scoring boost. It would just take place in different ways.
Embiid would give Philly a legitimate threat in the post. Ryen Russillo wrote an article for Grantland about how certain scouts viewed a number of prospects. Here's what "Scout 3" had to say about Embiid:
If the medical staff clears him, he should go no. 1, but people are still freaked out about Oden. Before the concerns about his back—which are real, by the way—I’d be very comfortable taking him one or two. Has all the ingredients: feet, hands, touch. I’ve watched him in practice, and he was automatic from 15 feet, which is something we didn’t see him use a lot at Kansas.
Adding him would immediately lead to more scoring. The major concern involves his back and if it's truly healthy and pain-free. If Embiid can get a medical green light saying that it won't be a problem in the future, then he'll be one of the NBA's most promising players for whoever drafts him.
We all know about the man known as Andrew Wiggins. There was an incredible amount of hype surrounding him coming out of high school, but a sudden falloff occurred once he hit the floor in Kansas. All of the athletic tools were there, yet the polish surrounding them was missing. His ball-handling was far from where you'd like to see, and his jumper wasn't close to being consistent enough. The most troubling part of his game was his attitude and mentality toward being a guy who could take over. He rarely ever displayed that trait.
The good news is that it looks like he might be tightening up his game in time for the draft. ESPN's Chad Ford was at one of Wiggins' recent workouts and tweeted this:
And finally, there's Parker. At first glance, it looks like he might be the weakest of the three as far as potential, but that might only be on the surface. There's no question about his offensive game. It wouldn't be surprising to see him come to a team like the Sixers and average 20 points per game as a rookie.
The worry about him has to do with how much better he can get from where he's currently at.
If we answer this based strictly off of where we think he's at athletically or physically, then he might not progress too much. But it's a whole different ballgame if we look at it from a work-ethic standpoint. Parker seems like he's done everything with what he has, but it appears as though there's an entirely different level that he is aiming for. A quick look at his draft workout video shows that he's currently doing things that we never saw him do at Duke.
The bottom line is that Philadelphia desperately needs a scorer, and any of the top three players in this draft will lead to plenty of points.
Fixing Philadelphia's defense is going to feel like putting together a puzzle. The Sixers took off the plastic wrapping and dumped out every piece onto a large table during the 2013-14 season. They clearly struggled to find any matches as they gave up a league-worst 109.9 points per game.
It's time for the Sixers to start putting together the border so that they're able to work their way to the middle and truly solve the defensive puzzle.
OK, enough with the poor analogies.
The first thing to remember when it comes to fixing a defense is that you have to begin from the inside and work your way out. Adding Nerlens Noel to the mix will instantly upgrade Philadelphia's interior defense, so that's definitely a great start. He lacks the strength of most big men but makes up for it with his athleticism, length and instincts. Expect Noel to be a shot-blocking machine from the moment he hits the floor.
With the paint covered, on-ball defense is next on the table. This is where the draft comes in handy.
The Sixers' first pick will be dedicated to the total package. Embiid and Wiggins are both great defenders so that's a bonus, but the selection will be largely dictated on who has the most overall potential. Luckily, Philly also has the No. 10 pick in the draft and the opportunity to bolster its defensive strength.
Expect the Sixers to take a real look at players who can guard opponents off the dribble and keep them from the paint. Two names to keep an eye on are Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas. Both are very skilled on the offensive end, but they also possess the athleticism to guard the ball.
Philadelphia can do a number of things with seven draft picks. It just needs to make sure that defense is one of the priorities.
When is the last time you heard of a team having five second-round draft picks in one draft?
Philadelphia has an amazing opportunity to utilize the picks in a way that fills certain holes within the roster. It's definitely possible to find a backup point guard, a big who specializes on the glass and another bench scorer in the second round.
It's important to remember that depth is a category by itself. Sure, it can be used to fill other needs like the ones mentioned above, but it's still unique in what it brings to the table.
Don't believe me? Look at the San Antonio Spurs. They're one of the older teams with an average age of 28.5 years old, but they led the NBA in bench scoring with 44.4 points per game. They have a number of great players on their roster, but the team's depth is what has kept them among the NBA's elite for so long.
Philadelphia is years away from turning into a title contender, and the organization needs to treat the draft as the starting point. Having two lottery picks is more than great, but the Sixers have an opportunity to make the second round of the draft matter as much as the first.
Adding depth is one of Philly's biggest priorities, and it'll be interesting to see how the Sixers go about doing it.
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