In an offseason paramount to the progression of the Philadelphia 76ers, decisions and question marks abound. The first and most important of these decisions lies with their No. 3 draft pick. The 76ers should have one very specific goal.
Draft Andrew Wiggins.
A 19-63 team is not one player away from competing at a championship level, let alone a playoff level. The roster boasts only two players—Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel—who look to be in the franchise's long-term plans.
The 76ers currently own two lottery picks (No. 3 and No. 10) and five second-round picks. In addition, even with every potential player option on the team exercised, the 76ers are only committed to $30 million* in salary for the 2014-15 season.
There are plenty of moves to be made and strides to take for this team to grow.
Carter-Williams needs to show improvement in his outside shot and Noel needs to prove he can return with the same explosion he showed two years ago while at the University of Kentucky. General manager Sam Hinkie needs to decide if forward Thaddeus Young will be better served on the roster or as a trade chip.
But before all that, the 76ers will be on the clock with the third pick in the draft where Wiggins, and the team's future, will be staring Hinkie in the face.
How to Draft Andrew Wiggins
When the lottery balls bounced and landed the 76ers at No. 3, it put them in an advantageous position. No matter who falls to them, they will be able to draft a skilled player who should come in and develop with Carter-Williams and Noel. But as great as Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid might be, Andrew Wiggins is the guy.
Now how do the 76ers get him?
Obviously, the big question standing in Hinkie's way on draft night is do you stand pat and hope Wiggins falls to you at No. 3 or do you make a move up to secure him?
It's a crapshoot. There are no guarantees. ESPN Insider Chad Ford has Wiggins landing in the 76ers' lap in his latest mock draft (subscription required), as does Draft Express. It's certainly a possibility.
What should the 76ers do at No. 3?
After a rousing workout a few weeks back in which Joel Embiid looked strong and fluid with no signs of lingering back issues, he appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for the Cleveland Cavaliers' No. 1 overall pick. He's since visited with the Cavs and been examined by their team doctors.
It's becoming ever more prescient that Embiid will be a top-two selection. While the days of building around a dominant big man may no longer be modus operandi in today's NBA, it will be hard for Cleveland or the Milwaukee Bucks (who hold the No. 2 pick) to pass on a player like him.
This leaves Wiggins or Parker to fall to the 76ers.
Parker would be a heck of a consolation prize. His offensive game is refined. He's a polished scorer who can hurt you from anywhere on the court. He can attack you off the bounce, on the block and beyond the arc. Yes, he's very talented, but he's not the fit—Wiggins is.
The 76ers have called Cleveland about moving up to No. 1, according to an ESPN report (h/t Matt Moore of CBS Sports). If Hinkie ultimately decides to move up, the cost of doing business is uncertain.
There are many examples of draft night trades involving lottery players. In 1998, it cost Milwaukee the No. 9 (Dirk Nowitzki) and No. 19 (Pat Garrity) picks to move up to No. 6 (Robert Traylor).
In 1996, Minnesota sent its No. 5 pick (Ray Allen) and a future first-rounder to Milwaukee for the No. 4 selection (Stephon Marbury).
There are even various examples of one-for-one player swaps such as Antawn Jamison (No. 4) for Vince Carter (No. 5) in 1998 and Brandon Roy (No. 6) for Randy Foye (No. 7) in 2006.
A simple one-for-one swap will not be enough for the 76ers to trade with Cleveland for No. 1. Luckily for them they have plenty of assets.
As you can see by these very unique examples, there's no exact formula for trading lottery picks. Aside from their own pick (No. 3), the 76ers' best trade chip is their No. 10 selection they received from the New Orleans Pelicans via the Jrue Holiday/Nerlens Noel trade last year, an asset Hinkie prefers not to include in a potential trade.
Moving two lottery picks for one in a deep draft isn't the ideal scenario, especially when you're a team with glaring holes. Expect the 76ers to offer a package including the No. 3 pick, Thaddeus Young and some combination of second-round picks before including No. 10. They could offer a future first-rounder if they are unwilling to part with that second lottery pick also.
Hinkie values draft picks as much as anyone, but he would be willing to part with the right package to get the right guy, and he should.
Why you Draft Andrew Wiggins
When you think about Andrew Wiggins, you think about one thing: his off-the-charts upside.
In his Grantland article featuring commentary from three real scouts, ESPN's Ryen Russillo talked about why Wiggins' upside trumps other factors:
It’s why the Parker-Wiggins debate is frustrating for people. “If Parker is better, why take Wiggins?” It’s easy. Every front office will ask themselves the same question on draft night: “Can this guy grow, become an All-Star in our league?” If the answer is even close to a yes, the team will go for it. Role players aren’t winning you anything.
From a basketball perspective, Wiggins is a prototypical wing in today's NBA. He's blessed with a gazelle sprint and a pterodactyl wingspan. His athleticism is off the charts. Just a picture of his out-of-this-world vertical went viral and stole the shine from every prospect at the NBA combine (which he did not attend).
That provides him with a tremendous catch radius, making him nearly unstoppable around the bucket on fast breaks and alley-oops. But more importantly, those skills translate perfectly to the defensive side of the ball.
He has all the tools to be a defensive stopper at the next level. His lateral quickness is superb, his hands are active and he can lock down an opponent in isolation. A defense consisting of Wiggins, Carter-Williams and Noel would cause fits for opposing teams due to their length.
The biggest knocks on him are his erratic shooting, his ball skills and his reluctance to take over games, none of which should be ignored.
His shooting technique is not perfect but when he steps into it, there's a sense of fluidity. His mechanics are solid. He shot 34 percent from three-point range in college but he'll be much better served attacking the basket in the pros.
He's not great at dribbling through traffic but he tended to finish over bigs strictly due to his athleticism. He still finished third in the Big 12 Conference with 176 free throws. That ability to create contact and go to the line is something all elite scorers possess at the next level.
His perceived lack of a killer instinct isn't a red flag. Ask West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Iowa State if he doesn't have the ability to take over games. He had to share the ball while at Kansas and still averaged 17 points per game (first on the team, sixth in Big 12).
Wiggins is a name. He's been on the tip of every basketball person's tongue for over a year and even the most casual fan has at least heard of him.
The 76ers haven't had a notable name that drove attendance since Allen Iverson. Wiggins has the potential to be the next star that can not only fill the stat sheet, but also sell tickets and move merchandise. That's important for a team that hasn't cracked the top 10 in league attendance since 2005, per ESPN.com.
Do the 76ers Draft Andrew Wiggins?
For Hinkie, if Wiggins is his guy like multiple reports have stated in recent weeks, then he will do whatever is necessary to land him. 76ers beat writer Christopher Vito of the Delaware County Daily Times echoed these sentiments on Thursday:
But what those fingers-crossed hypotheses cannot grant the Sixers is something Hinkie wants more than anything: his guy. It would be in the Sixers’ best interest to do whatever it takes to trade for the draft’s top pick. If that means bundling any combination of the No. 3 pick, a few others and Thaddeus Young, a good-soldier veteran who deserves more than the promise of a rebuild, so be it.
The NBA is a league full of stars and without one you're lost, perpetually stuck in the middle of the road, never being good enough to compete for a championship and never being bad enough to draft a young, budding star. This is the 76ers' chance to grab one and build a future contender. Wiggins is Hinkie's guy and he'll make sure he gets him.
*The 76ers have $30,462,396 committed in salary next season with all player options exercised.