With the NBA draft a week away, one Western Conference executive said the 76ers are at the mercy of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, is confident the Cleveland Cavaliers will use the first overall pick on Kansas center Joel Embiid, if they don't trade out. The Bucks are slated to pick second, followed by the Sixers.
He said Milwaukee will decide between Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins and Duke swingman Jabari Parker. That, he said, will force the Sixers to settle for the player the Bucks don't draft.
Milwaukee has also flirted with the prospect of drafting point guard Dante Exum of Australia. However, the executive is confident the Bucks will select Wiggins or Parker even though their position is filled by rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose superior athleticism rivals that of Wiggins.
"You say, 'Do you want best available or go by need?' " the executive said of the Bucks. "You think Wiggins can play the [two-guard position alongside Antetokounmpo]. I actually do think he can play the two.
"But Jabari Parker is most definitely a three."
Parker's reported desire to play in Milwaukee could lead the Bucks to select him. Going to Milwaukee means the 6-foot-8, 230-pounder would be 90 minutes away from his hometown of Chicago.
This could be a tough choice for the Bucks, as Parker is regarded as the most NBA-ready player in the draft, while the 6-8 Wiggins is considered to have NBA all-star potential.
The Sixers are targeting Wiggins, and might have to trade up to No. 1 to guarantee that they'll get him. But the Cavs have to be confident that Embiid will be around at No. 3 to make that trade. And that's not a certainty even with his back issues, according to the executive.
Embiid was said to be 100 percent over the stress fracture in his lower back that kept him out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. The 7-footer from Cameroon even wowed NBA executives and coaches in a private workout in Santa Monica, Calif., in late May.
But there were conflicting reports last week about the physical he took for the Cavs.
"Just because he's had a bad back injury that doesn't mean he's eventually not going to make it," the executive said. "People are comparing him to [Hall of Famer Hakeem] Olajuwon, one of the top centers of all time.
"You can find a great small forward every couple of years. You can find a great runner or leaper, explosive above-the-rim guy like Wiggins. But you can't find a once-in-a-generation center."
Despite this being regarded as a deep draft, the executive doesn't see Exum or former Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh climbing into the top three selections.
"Those three are locks," he said. "It's just what order does Embiid, Parker, and Wiggins go."