The Draft Outlook for the Philadelphia 76ers
*Photo via USA Today
Alas, June 25th is fast approaching! As these well established, successful teams battle themselves into an oblivion (and injuries) in the playoffs, us fans of bottom feeding teams with perfectly healthy players anxiously await the coming of the draft. Today, Off the Glass examines the draft outlook for a team that has seemingly written the book on 'tanking', the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers own one coveted lottery pick, third overall and seemingly half the picks in the second round(actually five). A year from now it is absolutely likely that only their first rounder this year will be an active player on the roster and the rest of their picks they will treat as inexpensive individual assets to manipulate and potentially combine in a move to build a contender. To draw on Celtics' General Manager Danny Ainge: "you can never have too many draft picks because they're always tradeable"; this appears a plausible strategy, but it remains to be seen whether it will work.
The Sixers have their frontcourt of the future already in place in the oft-injured Nerlens Noel and the constantly injured Joel Embiid, so perhaps General Manager, Sam Hinkie should buck the trend and select a backcourt player without an injury history in D’Angelo Russell, a 6'5" freshman guard from Ohio State. Russell is a combo guard, who is possibly the best shot-creator in this draft from the perimeter, although he does not get to the rim as much as one would like from such a player and seems to do most his damage with jumpshots, floaters and his passing. As one would suspect from such an appraisal, Russell is probably the most skilled player in the draft, but his observed athleticism leaves much to be desired. The same was said in 2009 about league MVP Stephen Curry, so there’s some food for thought.
The alternative to Russell would be to swing for the fences as they say and select Emmanuel Mudiay, also a 6’5” guard who just finished his pro season in China. Mudiay forgoed attending college to play in an unflattering Chinese league so he could support his family, which quite frankly I’ am surprised more players don't do as it hasn’t appeared to have negatively affected Mudiay’s draft stock and thus his future compensation. Mudiay is coming off an injury and is not known for his shooting, but is capable of breaking down a defense and with his size at 6’5”. He can play either guard spot and even some three in the right matchups. There are plenty of players who are athletic, but not every one of them possesses a certain deftness and dexterity of finishing and gliding through the air, dodging defenders and switching hands. Mudiay has this trait in spades. Both Russell and Mudiay offer an immediate contributor and long-term potential to the 76ers at a position where there is a vacancy.
The Sixers own the 35th, 37th, 47th, 58th and 60th pick in the 2015 NBA draft. I'm not going to go through each potential player for each of these picks, but I will offer this: The NBA has a growing need for three-and-D, role players and these guys can be found in the second-round and developed into one. Last year in the deep 2014 draft, the Sixers struck gold in the second round with the since peddled K.J. Mcdaniels and Jerami Grant. Prior to the 2014 draft, Grant was considered a raw athlete with no shooting ability, but in the matter of a few months he turned into a capable shooter from the three-point line in the NBA with the help of the Sixers’ coaching staff. Teams are looking at the second round as an opportunity to find guys like this or to draft a player and then stash him in Europe and see if he develops. For this reason, you may see the Sixers use their bevy of second round picks too, over of the course of a long time-frame, throw darts at the wall until they hit a bullseye. They could simply attain the rights to so many players, stash them abroad, the D-league or wherever and see if one could eventually develop into a piece of this gigantic puzzle they are trying to put together, whilst the largest pieces are being found with their lottery picks.