(Note: this was posted on my blog, http://thisyearisphillysyear.wordpress.com/ before the Draft lottery. But I think the analysis still holds true, regardless of the Sixers current draft position).
Before breaking down some of the Sixers targets, a comment on this draft class. The hype surrounding this class makes it hard to properly evaluate these prospects. Parker and Wiggins were talked up as generational talents, but we learned from watching them play that they have considerable asterisks associated with their games. Jerry West, one of the most respected talent evaluators of all-time, has gone on the record to say that he does not believe this class has a franchise caliber player. So it is fair to question whether any of these players are truly franchise caliber players—i.e., top 10 NBA talents. It could happen, but it’s not as much of a lock as previously thought.
Also, I am ranking these prospects according to their fit with the Sixers. Unlike the NFL, a team should not draft the best player available without considering how that prospect fits into your scheme, your needs, and your current talent. The NBA has only so many roster spots, and careers are much longer in the NBA than NFL. Roster turnover is therefore less of an issue. So while I might think that Dante Exum and Joel Embiid have higher ceilings than Jabari Parker, they don’t necessarily fit the Sixers as well.
Tier 1: I think there are four prospects in this draft that have the best chance – asterisks aside—of being perennial all-stars. But only two of them, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, fill the Sixers most pressing need – a wing scorer.
- Andrew Wiggins:
He is a physical freak and has the potential to be one of the best athletes in the NBA – next year. His father, Mitchell Wiggins, bounced around the NBA, including a stop at – you guessed it – your Philadelphia 76ers. His mother, Marita Wiggins, was an Olympic silver medalist sprinter, who still owns the records for the 200m and 400m races in Canada. Not bad blood lines. Which also helps to put this photo in context, which went viral earlier this week, showing Wiggins insane vertical.
Andrew Wiggins’ agent said this photo shows Wiggins nailing a 44 inch vertical, which is absurd. To put that into perspective, Blake Griffin has a 35.5 inch vertical. Let that marinate for a minute.
Wiggins has the chance to be a dominant two-way player: a prolific wing scorer with the ability to guard multiple positions. He is 6’8, but has a 7’0 wing span. His length and explosiveness can really cause problems on d. And he can make it to the basket from the three point line in one dribble. Those types of players do not come around often. He has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft, often draws comparisons to Tracy McGrady (Chad Ford) and Paul George (just about everyone else), and I would absolutely be OK with either of those.
However, there is a chance that he is nothing more than an uber athletic version of Harrison Barnes or Loul Deng. He has a tendency to drift in and out of games; losing focus and failing to assert his will. His handle leaves something to be desired, and despite his explosive first step, he settles for too many contested jumpers.
I’d be more concerned if Wiggins wasn’t, you know, 19. I think the hype leading up to the season was too much. Calling a player the best prospect since LeBron is becoming the equivalent of calling a player the "next MJ" back in the 90’s (Harold Minor, anyone?). Wiggins got off to a slow start, but was absolutely dynamic down the stretch, especially after Embiid was injured. He put up a dominant 41 point, 9 rebound, 5 steals and 4 blocks stat line against WVU. Then followed that up with a 30 pt, 8 reb, 3 ast and 3 stl stat line against Oklahoma State. He finished the season leading Kansas in scoring, with 17.1 ppg, 5.9 reb, 1.5 ast, 1 blk and 1.2 steals, with a slash line of 45/34/78%. Those are impressive numbers for most college prospects, let alone a true freshman that skipped his senior year of high school.
If we are operating under the presumption that Hinkine wants to swing for the fences, then Wiggins is likely their top choice. Below are some additional scouting reports on Wiggins if you want to read up more on him.
- Jabari Parker:
If you are a fan of comparisons, the comp I hear most often is a less-selfish form of Carmelo Anthony. I think that is too generous. He might be a slightly more athletic version of Paul Pierce, but I am not sure he will turn out to be as good as Pierce when things are said and done. Next to Marcus Smart, he is the most NBA ready player in this draft. Parker has the ability to impact the game immediately on the offensive side of the ball, with 25-point plus point potential. He doesn’t blow by guys, but uses a silky array of moves to create his own shot. He has an extremely high basketball IQ for his age. He is an above average passer with the potential to be great. He flashed potential at times to hit the three point shot consistently. And unlike Melo, he is an efficient player that looks to get his teammates involved as much as he looks for his own shot.
He lacks elite athleticism like Wiggins. His foot speed is average. And there are questions about whether he is a three or a four in the NBA. He is likely too slow to cover NBA threes and too small to cover fours. To put it nicely, his defensive ceiling ranges from "mildly competent" to "he will not kill you if you have enough other players around him."Which is why some talent evaluators and GMs question whether he can be a franchise caliber player.
But I think the concerns over his defensive prowess, or lack thereof, are overblown. Some of these issues will be mitigated by better conditioning. Coupled with proper dieting, he could likely replace about 15 pounds of fat with lean muscle mass. Team him up with Noel, MCW and Thaddeus Young – all plus defenders – and his defensive issues will not be nearly as pronounced.
Also, do you hear Golden State fans complaining about Steph Curry, or Minnesota about Kevin Love? While you would like to get a dominate two-way player, let’s not kid ourselves here. There are only so many players alive that can average 25 plus points per game, and that pool is limited even further when that player scores efficiently. Parker has that potential, so do not be disappointed if this is the player the Sixers end up drafting.
Here are some additional links for Parker:
- Joel Embiid:
He is a potential game changing 7-footer on both ends of the court. With freakish lateral quickness for a man his size, which he uses to both create his own shot and alter the shots of others with uncanny ease. The scariest part? He has only played basketball for a few years now, so he can be just scratching the surface of his talent. His ceiling is fairly ridiculous, as he has drawn (probably unfairly) comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon (which is completely unfair at this point in his career.
But the following four words would at least make me pause to consider whether I would draft him: big man, injury problems. Just ask any Portland Trailblazers fan how that worked out for them. Twice.
He is still the odds on favorite to go number one, regardless of the smoke screens you see out there. He is too big, too athletic, and provides too much of an impact on both ends of the floor for teams to pass up. But for the Sixers, I question the fit. Nerlens Noel will serve a similar function as Embiid, even though he offers less of an upside on the offensive side of the ball. Plus, put me in the minority, but I still believe a dominant wing player gives you a greater chance to win a title than a dominant big. The game has changed. It is predicated on floor spacing and ball movement more than ever. While you can also make use of an athletic big, that value has diminished, especially if the big doesn’t have the ability to stretch the floor like Embiid. I also question how he fits next to Noel. They both are defensive stoppers. And I am not sure that either can play the four without the ability to shoot consistently from 18 feet. While I think Embiid has a higher ceiling than Noel, I don’t see the utility in drafting him if we cannot get good return for Noel.
- Dante Exum
I put him here because, let’s face it, everyone puts him here. I have not seen him play, outside of some YouTube videos. And odds are, neither have you. And that’s because he is playing high school basketball in Australia. I am pretty sure I could ball in Australia if given the chance. So I am basically acting as a conduit of information which I read over the internet. I’m normally not a fan of the Bleacher Report, if only because I can only stomach so many "Top 10" Lists. But I thought this scouting report was extremely well done:
But, we already have a rangy, explosive point guard that is shooting deficient. So unless we trade MCW, I question how Exum fits. If there is a team positioned to trade a player like MCW – a relatively proven commodity – for an unknown in Exum, it is the Sixers. From what I’ve read, Exum has a higher ceiling than MCW. And the Sixers seemingly have an informational advantage over most of the league. Brett Brown coached in Australia, including a stint as the coach of the Australian national team, where he saw Exum up close and personal. I wouldn’t love the move – unless we already had Wiggins in the fold – but I could warm up to it.
- Julius Randle
He reminds me of a less fat version of Zac Randolph, which is pretty darn good for the number 5 spot. But I don’t think he has Randolph’s upside or skill set. Let me put it this way: the Sixers are guaranteed no worse than number 5 overall pick. If Randle happens to be the guy, we would still be getting a player that is better than last year’s number oneoverall pick, Anthony Bennett, who I think will end up being a "poor man’s version" of Julius Randle when all is said and done. We know Randle is a beast down low and has the range to hit the long j. He’s a great athlete – with his 35.5 inch vertical being identical to Blake Griffin, Amare Stoudemire and Derrick Favors. With a 7’0 wing span, and an aggressive personality, he is almost a lock for a 20/10 stat line as a pro, with 6-7 all-star appearances.
With that said, I don’t want Randle. I don’t want Randle almost as bad as I want Wiggins. He is an undersized power forward that is bothered by rangy defenders. He is temperamental, and needs an offense to be run through him to be able to meaningfully contribute. He’s not a great defender. Check that. He’s a bad defender. And considering the ceilings of the other four prospects, ending up with Randle would make this season seem like a waste. Just know that if the Sixers end up with the 5th overall pick, I will likely be found crying in a corner, curled up in a ball.
Some additional reading material for Randle, if you are so inclined:
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