On draft day 2013, the Philadelphia 76ers made a big trade and an even bigger statement regarding the direction and plan for the franchise. It ultimately represented Phase 1 of a rebuilding process that was set in motion when general manager Sam Hinkie chose to deal his All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for the sixth pick (used on Nerlens Noel) and a 2014 first-round selection.
Phase 1-A then involved dealing Evan Turner, keeping Noel safe, developing Michael Carter-Williams and tanking the season in order to position themselves for Phase 2: the 2014 NBA draft.
The Sixers have the third pick, which they earned with a 19-63 record, followed by pick No. 10, which they got from New Orleans in the Holiday-Noel trade last summer. On top of that, the Sixers have gathered together five second-round picks, giving them a total of seven selections in what should be a deep draft loaded with talent.
Philadelphia will have the chance to add significant franchise building blocks, particularly with picks No. 3 and No. 10. And you've got to capitalize here if you're Sam Hinkie.
Philadelphia's Draft Board
Andrew Wiggins versus Jabari Parker
When Philadelphia drafted Michael Carter-Williams to run the point and Noel to patrol the paint, you'd like to imagine Hinkie envisioned adding a scorer from the 2014 draft pool to fit in between. Andrew Wiggins was probably the guy he had in mind about 11 months ago.
And I'd like to think that's still the case.
In terms of fit, there isn't a better one for either party. While Wiggins has his weaknesses, he still offers that two-way All-Star upside at a position of need in Philadelphia, where he can develop as a go-to option without the pressure or expectations to immediately produce.
Though Jabari Parker would be a great value pick at No. 3, he offers less potential long-term reward than Wiggins. And the Sixers are one of those teams that can afford to wait on high reward.
Wiggins' game and style also fit the identity of the team that's already in place. Between Carter-Williams, Noel and Wiggins, we could be talking about one of the most athletic lineups in the league, depending on how Hinkie fills out the rest of the roster.
The Sixers finished No. 1 in the NBA in pace this past season by playing a brand of run-and-gun ball that plays to Wiggins' strengths as a dynamite open-floor athlete.
Parker really wouldn't be such a bad consolation prize. He's the more pro-ready of the two, and while critics dog him for his defense, he's not exactly a stiff or killer liability. Besides, take a look around the league. Great offense outweighs mediocre-to-average defense. Plenty of the NBA's top players aren't solid defenders.
The Sixers need to find a guy who'll emerge as its go-to option on offense, and Parker projects as one now and in the future.
If I'm the Sixers, the top two prospects on my board are Wiggins at No. 1 and Parker at No. 2.
What happens if neither are available when the Sixers are up at No. 3?
How Should the Sixers Value Joel Embiid versus Noel?
This is tricky. With Wiggins and Parker off the board, the clear-cut best talent left will be center Joel Embiid, who plays the same position as Noel, who's yet to log an NBA minute.
Cue the annual draft debate: Do you take the best available player or the best fit for your franchise?
In this case, if you're thinking about passing on Embiid, it's probably because you question his durability or he refuses to take a physical. But it's also reasonable to ask whether pairing Embiid with Noel is a good idea for their development. Knowing both prospects' strengths when healthy, it's just hard to imagine Embiid and Noel playing together, given neither are capable of operating outside the paint.
Plus, it's only natural to hesitate on the idea of taking a center coming off a significant injury for the second consecutive year.
However, Noel, who's nearly 30 pounds lighter than Embiid and without an offensive game to go to (based on what we've seen), just isn't the same caliber prospect. And the fact that his resume is blank—Noel hasn't played in a game since February 2013—means his presence on the roster shouldn't hold as much weight.
You'd have to have a lot of faith in Noel and questions about Embiid to pass on him at No. 3.
If there was another obvious option, then it would be understandable, but there isn't an ideal alternative who offers the same potential reward as Embiid. I'd take him with a worry-about-it-later approach regarding the clash with Noel at center.
At the end of the day, the Sixers should be looking for the most valuable asset. And that's Embiid, assuming Philadelphia's doctors are able to clear him.
The only other acceptable option for the Sixers would be Australia's Dante Exum, which leads to a whole other discussion in itself.
Australia's Dante Exum is this year's wild card, considering the eye-opening upside he's flashed and the limited production he's got to show for it. But you can be sure Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, who coached Australia's Olympic team in the past, is familiar with Exum's talent.
Hinkie and Brown will have a few questions to ask with regard to Exum's fit in Philadelphia.
The first is whether or not they actually believe he's the real deal. Taking him over Embiid would be quite the statement.
The second question revolves around how they'd plan to use him with Carter-Williams. Exum has stated his preference is to play point guard, a position that's already occupied in Philadelphia. ESPN's Chad Ford recently noted that Philadelphia has "bounced around" (subscription required) the idea of trading Carter-Williams.
The Philadelphia 76ers are Exum fans as well, and if (Andrew) Wiggins is off the board, Exum will be in the mix. They think Exum and Carter-Williams could play together in the backcourt, although it would not be a very good shooting tandem. I think the more obvious fit comes if they trade Carter-Williams, an idea I'm told they have bounced around.
Trading Carter-Williams seems pretty unrealistic when you consider the promise he's shown, along with the lack of point guard needy teams that have the assets to deal for him.
I'm just spit-balling here, but the only teams that come to mind would be the Indiana Pacers, who could offer Lance Stephenson in a sign-and-trade; the Orlando Magic, who have the No. 4 pick, the No. 12 pick and Moe Harkless on the bench; or the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the No. 7 pick.
But Carter-Williams is most likely not going anywhere. Besides, at 6'6" and with a potent scoring attack, Exum should be able to slide off the ball and interchange with M.C.W. Together, they could end up forming the biggest, longest backcourt in the league.
Personally, I wouldn't pass on Embiid at No. 3, but Exum is the only other reasonable option if Wiggins and Parker are off the board.
The No. 10 Pick
The Sixers should have a number of attractive options to choose from at No. 10, from shooting guards and wings to versatile forwards.
Assuming Indiana's Noah Vonleh, Kentucky's Julius Randle and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart are off the board, here are the six best options Philadelphia should be looking at with its second lottery selection:
|James Young, Kentucky||SG/SF|
|Nik Stauskas, Michigan||SG|
|Dario Saric, Croatia||SF/PF|
|Aaron Gordon, Arizona||PF|
|Doug McDermott, Creighton||SF|
|Gary Harris, Michigan State||SG|
|Zach LaVine, UCLA||SG|
If the Sixers get Wiggins, Parker or Embiid, they could essentially go with any of the prospects listed above.
Arizona's Aaron Gordon stands out due to his two-way versatility and offensive upside. He's the top athlete amongst the bigs, and at just 18 years old, he offers the most long-term reward if he's able to hit his NBA stride.
Gordon would be No. 1 on my priority list for Philadelphia at No. 10. If Gordon is gone and Hinkie was looking to take another home run swing, he'll likely have his eyes on Croatia's Dario Saric and UCLA's Zach LaVine.
Saric, who's just crushing it overseas, might end up choosing to stay there to develop for a season or two. Considering the Sixers are in no rush for wins, this shouldn't bother them too much.
LaVine has as much talent as any 2-guard in the field. He has that showtime athleticism, lethal shot-making ability and a handle that allows him to generate offense on demand. At only 180 pounds and without much to offer defensively, his NBA-ready timetable is a bit longer than most. But in terms of future upside, he's certainly worth a look with a second lottery pick.
On the safer side, the attention shifts to Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Kentucky's James Young and Michigan State's Gary Harris, who should each fill a need at the 2-guard position.
Stauskas gives you elite three-point shooting, great size for the position, underrated passing and a high IQ presence. Young gives you the most upside as a 6'7", 18-year-old who can shoot, slash, score and put points on the board in bunches. Harris gives you the most balance between offense and defense, along with promising complementary scoring strengths.
Creighton's Doug McDermott is a safe pick anywhere late in the lotto, given his shooting accuracy and ability to get himself open and score without the ball.
All six of these guys are pretty darn good options at No. 10—especially if paired with either Wiggins, Parker or Embiid.
For what it's worth, here's my draft board for Philadelphia's second lotto pick:
1. Aaron Gordon
2. Dario Saric
3. James Young
4. Zach LaVine
5. Nik Stauskas
6. Gary Harris
7. Doug McDermott
The best-case scenario for the Sixers, in my opinion, would be if they came away with Wiggins at No. 3 and Gordon at No. 10, which would give them an incredibly athletic front line and potentially one of the top defensive trios with Noel at the 5, Gordon at the 4 and Wiggins at the 3.
Regardless, Wiggins, Parker, Embiid or Exum paired with any of the previously mentioned options at No. 10 will likely result in an "A" grade and a successful 2014 draft.
The Second Round
The Sixers have five second-round picks, including one at No. 32, a spot where they can still likely steal some leftover first-round talent.
In the second round, only the playoff teams looking for specialists or NBA-ready skills should be picking and choosing based on needs. The Sixers should be operating in best-player-available mode with each pick they get.
They could also package two or three of these second-round picks in an attempt to land another first-round pick in the 20s. Playoff teams drafting late—teams that don't feel anyone left can contribute right away—might be inclined to trade their first-round pick to avoid paying a guaranteed deal.
But assuming the Sixers do make a couple of selections in the second round, here are some guys who could be offering great value from 31-60.
|Jordan Adams, UCLA||SG||20-35|
|Glenn Robinson, Michigan||SF||20-40|
|Mitch McGary, Michigan||PF||20-35|
|Cleanthony Early, Wichita State||SF||20-40|
|Jordan Clarkson, Missouri||PG/SG||25-40|
|Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Greece||SF||25-50|
|Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee||PF||30-45|
|Isaiah Austin, Baylor||PF/C||30-45|
|Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia||SG/SF||25-50|
Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10", SF/PF, 1994
Saric just continues to put up some wild numbers over in the Croatian League, where he's averaging 24.4 points and 9.4 rebounds over his last four games.
Saric's decision on whether or not to come right over to the NBA will likely hinge on where he gets selected. David Pick of Eurobasket.com reported that the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are two teams Saric would be willing to play for right away:
Dario Saric, I'm told, has let it be known he plans to go to NBA next season if drafted by Celtics or Lakers.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) May 29, 2014
Boston and L.A. have high picks with Celtics at 6 and Lakers at 7. Both high on Dario Saric's wish list.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) May 29, 2014
If guys like Randle, Smart or Vonleh fail to make a convincing impression in workouts or interviews, they better watch out for Saric. He's as intriguing as any of them.
|7||Marcus Smart||Oklahoma State||PG/SG||Sophomore|
|15||Gary Harris||Michigan State||SG||Sophomore|
|16||Adreian Payne||Michigan State||PF||Senior|
|21||P.J. Hairston||Texas Legends (D-League)||SG||(Junior)|
|26||T.J. Warren||North Carolina State||SF||Sophomore|
|27||Glenn Robinson III||Michigan||SF||Sophomore|
|29||Cleanthony Early||Wichita State||SF||Senior|