Sizing up the Sixers' draft
AFTER suffering through a miserable NBA season, the Sixers looked ahead to this year's draft with hopes of building toward a brighter future. Five Daily News staffers give their assessment of how Sam Hinkie and Co. did on Thursday night:
If you are going to grade the 76ers on their draft looking solely at the upcoming season, then you would have to give them a D. If you are grading the 76ers on their draft looking toward the future, then I would have to give them a B.
The concern is that there are still so many questions. Can Joel Embiid come off his injury and be the type of player whom people forecast before he fractured his right foot?
Will Dario Saric be the type of player in the NBA he was in the Adriatic League? How much will two years of grooming overseas help him? And will he stay injury-free?
General manager Sam Hinkie did a great job of getting two draft picks from Orlando with Saric in exchange for Elfrid Payton, the point guard from Louisiana-Lafayette taken with the 10th pick. Again, that's a move for the future.
Quite simply, this draft cannot be judged or graded right now. This is one that depends on the future health of Embiid and how much his game translates to the NBA.
I do like their second-round picks, especially K.J. McDaniels out of Clemson. Most of their picks in the second round are long, athletic players who certainly will have a chance to prove themselves on a team that will give them ample playing time.
It might take three years, but this could be a watershed draft for the Sixers.
Center Joel Embiid is that far from being an effective NBA entity, and that assumes he plays half of this season, which assumes he will be fully recovered from his foot and back issues by January.
Croatian forward Dario Saric is two years, at least, from leaving the Adriatic League, and it will take him a season to adjust to the NBA style and schedule.
K.J. McDaniels might have a little bit of offensive game by then, and Jerami Grant might be able to play some defense by then, and Vasilije Micic might be a passable backup point guard by then, and Jordan McRae might have gained some weight. Who knows, little Pierre Jackson might even have a role.
What matters is they all learn together whatever mishmash, Rockets/Spurs system Brett Brown and Sam Hinkie decide to run, once their preferred pieces are in place.
Assuming Brown and Hinkie are still in place.
The Sixers might have had a great draft night. They might also have had a terrible draft night. Answers are going to come only with time, lots of time.
If Joel Embiid continues to improve in the next few years, as he did in his one season at Kansas, the Sixers have a potential All-Star big man, a rare commodity in today's NBA. Improvement, of course, can come only if he actually is able to get on the court and stay on the court.
I love the videos of Dario Saric. He also has a chance to be a very good NBA player, if and when he actually leaves Europe and comes to the NBA.
I would have gone for the sure thing with that second lottery pick - Creighton's Doug McDermott. It would have finally given the fans something tangible, something to get excited about it. Right now, the marketing people have no chance. You can sell "the future" for only so long.
I am a K.J. McDaniels fan. The Clemson forward is a sensational defender who had 100 blocked shots last season. I also love that his free-throw shooting went from 57.9 percent to 68.4 percent to 84.2 percent last season. That tells me he is working.
I was never quite sure of the Jerami Grant infatuation. I might be missing something, but I saw nothing that made him stand out at Syracuse.
I loved the Russ Smith pick. He scored 1,908 points and got better every season at Louisville. He got to the free-throw line nearly 500 times his last two seasons. He had nearly 250 steals his last three seasons. He shot 51.7 percent overall and 38.7 percent from the arc last season, suggesting his game had matured. Before I could get excited about Smith, the Sixers traded him to the Pelicans.
I know nothing about the two Serbian players the Sixers took in the second round.
Bottom line, none of us really knows much about this Sixers draft. There are simply too many unknowns.
The known is the Sixers in 2014-15. They will be really bad again, so this time next year we can all debate the 2015 draft.
It's not that Sixers czar of basketball matters Sam Hinkie took a chance with the No. 3 pick that center Joel Embiid eventually will get healthy and not have a career hampered by chronic injury.
The real possibility that the Sixers could come away with the best player in this draft was worth the risk.
It's not that Hinkie gambled the 10th overall pick in a trade with Orlando for 20-year-old Croatia forward Dario Saric, taken 12th by the Magic.
If Saric decides to come over from Europe in two years, the Sixers could have an international impact player along the lines of Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol or Serge Ibaka.
Taken separately, each is an aggressive move for a rebuilding franchise that needs to take calculated risks to return to prominence.
Doing both in a highly anticipated draft that many expected would yield the linchpin of the Sixers' rebirth, however, made for an unfulfilling night. If everything works out, Hinkie has hit the jackpot, but there is also a 50-50 chance he has crapped out.
The much-talked-about five second-round draft picks did little to excite in terms of acquiring assets.
Coming off a tank job, Hinkie gave Sixers fans desperately hoping for something big to make it all worth it little to look forward to for the 2014-15 season.
Down the road, this draft might be regarded as an A+ for the Sixers, but right now, it is an incomplete, with a lot of question marks for emphasis.
Even more so than last summer's, Sam Hinkie's 2014 draft class can't be properly judged until years down the road.
If injured Kansas center Joel Embiid, perhaps the top prospect in a stacked draft class, gets and stays healthy and pans out remotely close to the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons thrown his way, the 76ers will be looked back upon as winners in this draft. If not, and in three or four years Embiid has yet to prove himself down low playing next to Nerlens Noel, it's a big setback.
Croatian forward Dario Saric, it seems, won't play a game in the Wells Fargo Center until the 2016-17 season, so Sixers fans will have to wait even longer to gauge his play. With the sharpshooting Nik Stauskas and stretch forward Noah Vonleh off the board, it was a good value acquisition. If he comes over in two years, Saric will still be only 22, Michael Carter-Williams' age right now. Acquiring a future first-round pick in the process, an asset they lost in the Andrew Bynum trade, can't be overlooked, either.
Second-rounders K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant and Jordan McRae can each expect to join the fold right away, and if at least one of them pans out as a solid rotation player down the road, it's a successful second round, which is always the ultimate crapshoot. But also consider that McDaniels, a versatile and athletic forward from Clemson, would have been a first-round pick in your average, sans Wiggins/Parker/Embiid draft.
It's nearly impossible to grade the Sixers right now on this draft, but they clearly plan to find themselves in the lottery again next year. If they had picked more NBA-ready players last night and made the playoffs next season, they would risk losing their 2015 first-round pick as part of the 2012 draft-night trade for Arnett Moultrie.
Unfortunately for Hinkie & Co., next summer's is a draft that figures to be heavy on big men (incoming Duke center Jahlil Okafor could be the headliner), a position at which they are now well-equipped. But, as we know all too well, much can change between now and then.