Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Philadelphia 76ers
Strapped with the No. 3 and No. 10 picks, plus five more second-rounders, it was evident that the 76ers and general manager Sam Hinkie would add a few more assets to their young roster, taking a major step forward in the process.
At No. 3, with consensus top picks Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker off the board, Hinkie pulled the trigger on Joel Embiid, the man most thought would have been the No. 1 overall pick if not for his injury concerns. With the team's second lottery pick, Hinkie drafted University of Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton, whom he promptly shipped to Orlando for 6'10" Croatian forward Dario Saric and future draft picks.
I know what you're thinking. Another year with an injured franchise center. Another season of painstaking tanking talk. Another year of waiting.
With free agency still days away, the roster currently resembles last season's 19-win club—a bunch of young, unproven guys and some major question marks for key players.
Here's what the depth chart looks like based on who's under contract, who just got drafted and who's likely to re-sign at each position.
1. Point Guard
A few weeks ago, it was a foregone conclusion that the two pieces the 76ers would build around would be center Nerlens Noel and Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.
However, in the days leading up to the draft, many members of the media, including ESPN Radio's Ryen Russillo, circulated the rumor that Carter-Williams would be moved for an additional lottery pick. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings were being tossed around as potential landing spots, with the prevailing theory being that Philly would select Dante Exum at No. 3—thus rendering Carter-Williams expendable.
The Sixers ultimately selected Joel Embiid at No. 3, but Carter-Williams wasn't out of the woods just yet. In a surprise move, they selected Elfrid Payton at No. 10. After a few minutes of MCW fielding awkward questions at the Barclays Center regarding his place with the team and sweating about his future in Philly, Payton was shipped to Orlando in a package including Dario Saric and future draft picks.
So, after all that, we're right back to where we were before, with Carter-Williams steering the 76ers ship.
After him, there is exciting D-League and Baylor alumnus Pierre Jackson, who is best known for scoring a record 58 points in a game last season. He was actually drafted by Philadelphia last year, then included in the Jrue Holiday trade to New Orleans and subsequently re-acquired when the 76ers swapped Russ Smith for him this year. It's been a long road for Jackson, but it looks like he'll have ample opportunities to get NBA minutes with this roster.
The 76ers also drafted Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic in the second round. Expect him to spend some time refining his game overseas before threatening anyone for playing time.
2. Shooting Guard
I have Hollis Thompson slotted as the starting 2-guard today, with Tony Wroten being the first man off the bench.
Thompson is one of the rare guys on the team who can actually stretch the floor a bit. He shot over 40 percent from three-point range last year in 41 starts. His shooting is necessary for this crew.
Wroten, while wildly erratic at times, was also productive in spots. The lefty averaged 13 points, three rebounds and three assists per game. His energy and streaky scoring will be a necessary boost off the bench, which is currently bombed out and depleted.
Jason Richardson—remember him?—has exercised his $6.6 million option for last season and will don a 76ers uniform for the first time in more than a year. It's unclear how much he'll see the floor, since he really doesn't fit in the long-term plans.
I suspect his expiring contract will find its way onto another team by season's end.
The 76ers acquired Tennessee guard Jordan McRae late in the second round of Thursday night's draft. Assuming he makes the team, he will be in the mix for playing time. Elliot Williams and James Anderson could be brought back. Both have nonguaranteed minimum contracts and saw significant time last season.
3. Small Forward
Once the 76ers whiffed on their trade attempts for Cleveland's No. 1 pick—presumably to draft Andrew Wiggins—you got the sense that they would address the need for an athletic wing at some point during the draft.
At pick No. 32, they grabbed K.J. McDaniels, the freak athlete from Clemson, and I immediately penciled him in as the starting small forward looking ahead to next season.
The 6'6" forward scored 17 points per game last season in the ACC. He also averaged 2.8 blocks per game, which is very impressive for a perimeter player. He showed tremendous athleticism at the draft combine, posting a max vertical of 37 inches and 3.1-second three-quarter sprint (fastest recorded time).
Seven picks later, the 76ers selected Syracuse's Jerami Grant. He's a bit of a tweener coming off the bench who lacks an offensive repertoire, but he'll be able to see some minutes due to the lack of depth at this spot. McDaniels and Grant will get plenty of opportunities.
There will be certain situations, especially once Joel Embiid gets healthy and plays alongside Noel, when Thaddeus Young will slide down into this spot. Overall, expect the small forward position to be occupied by the 76ers' rookies, who will play tough defense and push the pace on the fast break.
4. Power Forward
No one thought Thaddeus Young would still be on the roster by the end of the draft, but it turns out the longest-tenured 76er is going to hang around a little bit longer.
Philly fans know what they have in Young. He's a team leader who is versatile offensively with an improved outside shot. He averaged more than 34 minutes per game last year, and I don't see that changing this season with the roster as presently constituted.
The 76ers have a lot of bigs. Henry Sims will likely be brought back. He was a solid rebounder and defender in limited time last season. Brandon Davies was underwhelming in his 51 games last year, and it's unclear what his future holds. Both have nonguaranteed contracts.
The 76ers' second first-round pick from Thursday was Croatian Dario Saric, whom they acquired in a trade with Orlando for the draft rights to Elfrid Payton. Saric just signed a three-year deal with Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes, per ESPN's Chad Ford.
According to the report, that deal will essentially prohibit him from playing in the NBA for a minimum of two years. While he won't be on the depth chart this season, he's someone to keep in mind for the future, as he looks to be a valuable asset in the rebuilding effort.
One thing that we know for sure about the upcoming season is we will get to witness the debut of Nerlens Noel. The exciting center is written in as the starter this year, especially considering rookie Joel Embiid's uncertain future.
Once Embiid returns, the 76ers will have an enviable dilemma: What to do with two stud 7-footers? It's too early at this point to speculate who will play center and who will play power forward, but with the amount of money and high draft picks invested in these two guys, expect to see them both start and play a ton of minutes together. Henry Sims should see some time at center as well.
For now, we'll have Noel as the starter and Embiid coming off the bench if or when he returns this season. He underwent a procedure that inserted two screws into his foot's navicular bone. USA Today's Paul Myerberg reported that the surgery should sideline him for four to six months, but as we saw with Noel last year, don't be surprised if Embiid sits out all of Year 1.
After a year's worth of historic losing, the 76ers embark on next season not much different from where they left off the last one. Their two big pieces from this draft, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, will be largely invisible for the foreseeable future.
General manager Sam Hinkie has a plan, certainly, and it's going to require patience to see it through—not just from the front office and coaching staff but from the fans as well. And if everyone gets healthy and all these picks reach their potential, Philly could be something special. There's still a long way to go.
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