Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, the brightest spot on the horizon for many 76ers fans is the 2014 NBA draft. The seven picks Philadelphia owns should go a long way towards filling some of the holes in our current roster, and also give us some solid insight into what the team might look like a few years from now.
The acquisition and dismissal of 20+ players since the season's start has revealed some interesting details about the criteria by which the 76ers front office selects new players. Take a look at our current roster, excluding the players who arrived with second round picks:
|Lorenzo Brown, PG||6-5||23||6-7|
|Elliot Williams, SG||6-5||24||???|
|Michael Carter-Williams, PG||6-6||22||6-7|
|James Anderson, SG||6-6||24||6-8|
|Tony Wroten, PG||6-6||20||6-9|
|Jason Richardson, SG||6-6||33||6-11|
|Hollis Thompson, SF||6-8||22||6-9|
|Thaddeus Young, PF/SF||6-8||25||6-11|
|Brandon Davies, PF||6-10||22||7-2|
|Arnett Moultrie, PF||6-10||23||7-2|
|Jarvis Varnado, PF||6-10||26||7-3|
|Nerlens Noel, PF/C||6-11||19||7-3|
Based on this information, it seems Hinkie's crew is interested in young, athletic players with elite size and length for their positions.
Considered to be one of the most promising names on the roster, Nerlens Noel is also one of the biggest question marks. Can he stay healthy? What position will he play? Based on scouting reports, Noel seems to most readily fit the profile of NBA power forward, à la Serge Ibaka or Anthony Davis-- elite shot blockers that are allowed to move around freely on help defense, because they are not relied on as primary rim protectors. Who can you start with Noel in the front-court, long-term? His offensive limitations will likely create the need for a center who can score reliably-- perhaps that's why Hinkie was rumored to have an actual interest in acquiring backup big man Byron Mullens.
While it will almost certainly help on the defensive end, Noel's return probably won't do much to relieve the 76ers shooting woes. Philadelphia's shooting has been atrocious this season, as evidenced by our .306 3PT% (30th in the league), 96.0 Offensive Efficiency rating (30th in the league), and 50.7 True Shooting percentage (also 30th in the league). The 76ers guards have done well attacking the rim, but the lack of scoring power on this team is compounded by their inability to space the floor properly.
Heading into the draft, the Sixers will likely be focused on filling the gaps in their starting lineup. Assuming Thad isn't a permanent part of the new team, we need to add three major pieces to our roster: a shooting guard and small forward, at least one of whom has potential to be a prolific scorer, and a center that can complement Nerlens. The famously deep 2014 draft becomes far less plentiful when only considering players with top-level size and athleticism who fit one of these slots.
Top ten 2014 draft prospects:
1. Joel Embiid, Kansas, C (7-0, 240lbs, 7-5 wingspan)
A true seven footer with remarkable length and athleticism, Embiid's ability to protect the rim, rebound, and score in a variety of ways makes him the perfect candidate to share the front-court with Noel. The shortage of players to fill this void in the Sixers' roster makes Embiid the most valuable prospect in this draft.
2. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, SG/SF (6-8, 197lbs, 7-0 wingspan)
The former number-one prospect shows potential to be a great two-way player. His physical tools and athleticism leave very little to be desired. Drawing many recent Tracy McGrady comparisons, Wiggins would undoubtedly be an excellent consolation prize for missing out on Embiid.
3. James Young, Kentucky, SG (6-7, 214lbs, 6-11 wingspan)
In an ideal draft-day scenario, the Sixers will be able to select Embiid with their own pick, and James Young with the other first-rounder. Young is a natural scorer with great shooting form, and a keen eye for open teammates. His size and athleticism help him to rebound well for his position, and to create shots over smaller defenders.
4. Dario Saric, International, SF (6-10, 225lbs, 6-10 wingspan)
With great size for a small forward, the ball-handling Croatian plays point forward for his Euroleague team. While he is not a natural shooter, he is a smart scorer who can create offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. Adding a player like Saric to the roster could help increase offensive efficiency and cut down on turnovers.
5. Rodney Hood, Duke, SG/SF (6-8, 201lbs, 6-8 wingspan)
Hood's excellent performance this year has been overshadowed by Parker's. Averaging 16ppg with .436 3PT% this season confirms the notion that Hood can score the ball. An average wingspan and concerns over whether he has the speed to guard NBA 2's keep Hood from being a little higher on the list, although the 76ers new fitness regimen could help improve his agility.
6. Gary Harris, Michigan State, SG (6-5, 205lbs, 6-7 wingspan)
As the smallest player on this list, Michigan State's Gary Harris seems like a nice fit for the team in every way but size. He displays promise as a shooter, makes explosive drives to the hoop, and stays focused on defense. His upside may make it worth spending a pick, but only if both Young and Hood are off the board.
7. Wayne Selden, Kansas, SG (6-5, 223lbs, 6-10)
Selden is a great athlete, and talented shot creator. He consistently shows good hustle, and seems to have all the tools to be a nice compliment to MCW in Brett Brown's system. If he falls down the draft boards even a little bit more, the Sixers will be able to grab him with their own second-round pick.
8. Jerami Grant, Syracuse, SF (6-7, 217lbs, 7-2 wingspan)
Syracuse's Jerami Grant is the only player on this list who can't really shoot, but he seems to check every other box. An top-tier athlete with promising physical tools, Grant is very clever around the rim, and has potential to be a nice defensive-minded wing. Projected to go around the 18th overall, the 76ers do not currently have a pick in his area.
9. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky, SG (6-5, 210lbs, 6-8 wingspan)
Unlike his brother, Aaron doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. With his developing three-and-d skillset, Harrison could probably be an effective contributor for Philadelphia right away. Picking him up with an early second-round selection would be a great value.
10. P.J. Hairston, D-League, SG (6-5, 227lbs, 6-9 wingspan)
An adept offensive player with the ability to create shots and knock down open looks from anywhere, Hairston's draft stock took a hit when he was dismissed from UNC and refused to accept responsibility for the incident. As the 76ers have taken chances on similarly troubled youths (looking at you, Brandon Davies) they may be willing to spend an early second rounder on Hairston, but his ostensibly poor attitude certainly raises some concerns.
Honorable mentions/notable exceptions:
1. Jaabari Parker, Duke, SF/PF (6-8, 241lbs, 7-0 wingspan)
Despite possessing an unusually refined set of scoring skills, Parker has drawn repeated criticism for lacking energy on defense this season. Combined with questions about whether he has the quickness to play full-time SF in the NBA, Parker seems like a better match for a team that needs a stretch-4.
2. Dante Exum, International, PG (6-6, 185lbs, 6-10 wingspan)
Exum has a variety of desirable qualities, but spending a top draft pick on another guard who can't shoot seems like a misallocation of resources at this time. If Exum really is something special, Brett Brown will know it from his time coaching the Australian national team, and the Sixers will grab him.
3. Clint Capela, International, PF (6-10, 211lbs, 7-4 wingspan)
This 19-year-old from Switzerland has had a very impressive season for Élan Chalon of the French League, averaging 8ppg/6.5reb/2blk in only 20 minutes of play. His athleticism and lateral quickness are simply extraordinary, as are his rim-protecting and on-ball defensive abilities. He could conceivably play well with Noel, but who’s going box out Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan on a nightly basis?
4. Noah Vonleh, Indiana, PF (6-10, 242lbs, 7-4 wingspan)
Vonleh is another big man with impressive size, athleticism, and offensive game—his smooth shooting stroke will have a lot of teams interested. The same concerns about playing with Noel arise here and in Capela’s case, as Vonleh is undersized to play center on anything but a small-ball team. His high price tag will probably mean the Sixers have to pass.
5. Karl Towns, Kentucky, C (7-0, 243lbs, 7-3 wingspan)
Headlining the draft class of 2015, Towns is a nice prospect to fill the frontcourt void if we are unable to find a partner for Noel in the 2014 draft. Said to already possess NBA 3-point range, criticisms regarding a lack of willingness to get physical in the paint evoke nightmarish images of Spencer Hawes.
Standout second round prospects:
Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado, PG), Michael Qualls (SG, Arkansas), C.J. Wilcox (SG, Washington), Devyn Marble (SG, Iowa), Jordan McRae (SG, Tennessee), Jerian Grant (SG, Notre Dame), James Birsen (SF, International), Thanasis Antetokuonmpo (SF, D-League), Marcus Lee (PF, Kentucky), Phillip Neumann (PF, International), Norvel Pelle (PF, D-League).
Is it draft day yet?