The Sixers' poor performance on the court this season at least assured the team of an opportunity to add some top incoming talent.
By finishing with the league’s second-worst record behind only the Milwaukee Bucks, the Sixers secured themselves a top-5 selection in the upcoming NBA Draft. While landing the top overall pick, which the Sixers have a 19.9% chance of doing, would be ideal, this draft is deep, and no matter where the Sixers’ selection ends up in the top 5, they’ll have a chance to add some true talent.
Kentucky’s Julius Randle announced his intentions to turn pro on Tuesday, and with that announcement, all of the heavily-hyped freshmen have officially declared for the draft; a good thing for the Sixers, who could be looking at two lottery picks.
Who the Sixers select with their first first-round pick will largely depend on where they land in the lotto, but let’s take a look at five potential picks, meaning that the 7-6 are at least guaranteed to get one of these guys.
Andrew Wiggins, G, Kansas: Everybody knows about Wiggins, the athletic freshman freak from Kansas. Wiggins has been arguably the most hyped pre-professional player since LeBron James, and he showed flashes of his potential throughout his freshman season. He possess elite athleticism, a sweet stroke, and solid size. If you haven’t seen ESPN’s Sports Science video on him, do yourself a favor and check it out here.
While his game is far from complete, and it may take a couple seasons of pro play before he blossoms completely, Wiggins has true superstar potential, and looks like he could turn into one of the league’s premier perimeter players. While Sam Hinkie’s MO has been to keep info in-house, a past report stated that Wiggins was the Sixers’ top target, and if he is still available when they pick, it may be hard for the Sixers to pass on his potential.
Jabari Parker, F, Duke: After some deliberation, Parker declared for the draft, and he could be in play for the Sixers pick. Throughout his freshman season at Duke, Parker drew comparisons to fellow one-and-doner Carmelo Anthony for his ability to score with his back to the basket and by facing up on opponents. Parker’s defensive deficiencies are a concern, especially after being benched by Coach K in the second half of a tournament game over it, but several still project him as the draft’s top pick.
His offensive upside is enormous, as he looks like he could develop into a go-to-guy at the next level. If Brett Brown believes that he could improve Parker’s play on the defensive side of the ball, he might fit very nicely on the Sixers’ wing, complimenting Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas: Embiid is clearly the best big in the draft, and many are expecting him to go first overall. As a seven-footer, Embiid is extremely athletic, and is an impact player at both ends of the floor. He is a paint protector on defense, and he possess an expanding offensive arsenal. Also, he has drawn comparisons to Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon, so there’s that.
Like with many big guys though, injuries are an issue, and a concern. Embiid has already dealt with knee and back issues, the latter causing him to miss his final college games. There’s no way to tell just how serious those injury issues are, but if they persist, a la Greg Oden, then that would be extremely unfortunate, for the franchise and for Embiid. What if Embiid is selected over say Wiggins or Parker, and it develops into another Oden/Kevin Durant situation, with the Sixers stuck thinking what if?
With Embiid, the talent, and room to grow is there. He could develop into a dominant player, but his situation screams: ‘draft with caution!’ The Sixers don’t need any more bench-ridden bigs.
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky: Randle had a solid season for the ‘Cats of Kentucky, and might have been the most consistent of the heavily-hyped freshman. Randle is extremely strong around the basket, is a good finisher, and a solid rebounder. He has developed a decent mid-range game that has helped make him more difficult to defend, and his ball handling is very good for someone of his stature.
At 6-foot-9, Randle is slightly undersized for an NBA four, and he isn’t polished enough for purely perimeter play. He will have to make up for his size deficiency by hard play, effort, and expanding the range on his jump shot. The Sixers would probably prefer a perimeter player, but if Wiggins and Parker are unavailable, Randle might make for a solid selection. A pairing of Randle and Noel could potentially form the franchise’s frontcourt of the future.
Dante Exum, G, Australia: Not everyone has been exposed to the Australian Exum since he didn’t play in the NCAA, but the kid can ball. Exum is probably the best ball-handler in the draft class, and he can get wherever he wants on the court. He is extremely smooth, while still being explosive and athletic; think Russell Westbrook or Penny Hardaway. Exum can get to the rim and to the line, with ease, and is able to finish very well. He is extremely quick as well, which would fit well with Brett Brown’s track-meet pace.
His shot is not yet the most consistent, but it is improving. An issue with Exum however, is his similarity to Carter-Williams; both are long, lanky guards who can make plays with the ball in their hands, but neither are incredibly consistent shooters. It is feasible however, especially if they are each able to improve upon their shooting, that they play in the backcourt together, allowing the Sixers to ignite the fast break even faster, as either could bring the ball down. Exum isn’t the Sixers top target, and he reportedly wants to play for the Lakers, but he could be an excellent addition nonetheless.