One day away from draft night and it can't come soon enough. This last week has been excruciating, with countless rumors constantly contradicting themselves as teams and agents tell their stories to the ever growing NBA media. If we were to believe everything we hear our favorite team will be shipping multiple assets to get the top pick, #7, even more to move up from #10, and so on.
At the center of most of these rumors are two prevailing thoughts; that the Sixers are DESPERATE for Andrew Wiggins and Sam Hinkie is capable of anything. So let's take a glance at some of the stories currently being presented and look at the various options that may present themselves to the Sixers on Thursday night.
1) Trading up? Nothing shows the power of narrative and group-think than the NBA Draft. Months ago a few people started floating the idea of Andrew Wiggins being the ultimate goal of the Sixers rebuild. This made some sense given he plays a position of need, seemed to fit the style (if the Sixers have truly settled on one), and possesses the greatest physical traits of the potential top picks. Fans of course were drawn to the moments when Wiggins dominates and the dream of what could be in Philly if everything comes together in his game (completely understandable and entirely possible BTW).
But as soon as the Draft previews started and the Lottery rolled around the idea that this was a Wiggins or bust situation has gotten way out of hand. As someone who reads WAY too much draft material, I can attest to this notion showing up across multiple sites and platforms. It is almost as though it mandatory to mention the Sixers and Wiggins, especially when you are projecting them to draft someone else. Where is all this coming from? Are we to believe suddenly Sam Hinkie's plans have come to light? That there are a couple of members of the Front Office that just can't help themselves? That the Sixers have ditched all their research (both in prospect evaluation and draft strategy) just because WIGGINS?
I'm a skeptical man by nature so the more I hear these reports the less I believe them. The Sixers may have been very excited about the idea of Wiggins being on the board at 3, but I have trouble thinking that they would be willing to give up multiple assets to insure they draft him. The separation between the top prospects has never been great enough to make the move up, especially considering the state of the franchise. Nothing about Sam Hinkie strikes me as desperate so unless the package to move up ends up becoming way less expensive (second round picks, taking on salary) I just don't see this happening.
2) Who's the pick at 3? This becomes the next guessing game and I'll admit there are no easy conclusions. Obviously, everything depends on the actions of the two teams picking in front of the Sixers. You almost can't have this conversation without some guess work so if the draft starts with Parker and Wiggins at 1 and 2 the Sixers would be choosing between players like Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, the PF trio, and Marcus Smart.
This seems like a good time to mention how silly consensus draft boards are and how dangerous they can be if we accept them for gospel. The Front Office has some players ranked higher than we think they should be and we should accept that now (Having an opinion on the rankings of prospects is fine, bit a quick look at last year's draft thread should be a reminder of how wrong everyone can be). There is a lot of deep thinking and statistical analysis going on at the Wells Fargo and although I am sure their models differ from some of the ones floating around the internet, (hopefully it's more predictive with the ability to measure defense!) studying some of these might give us a glimpse into their thoughts.
So which way do they go? 3 possibilities. I don't think that Sam Hinkie will let public perception stop him from drafting Embiid if he believes in the medicals. I really think Sixers fans should prepare themselves for this to happen. Before the injury news Embiid was certainly the best combination of skills and statistics and to my eyes in a tier by himself in this draft class. If their doctors give the green light, the choice is probably made. If Hinkie doesn't like the long term prognosis of his ailments then I think the options are trading down with a team that loves Embiid or drafting Dante Exum.
The trade down option hasn't been discussed much, mainly because the prize at the end of last year's tunnel has always been a top 3 pick. But sitting at that position with options like Exum and Jo-Jo might be an opportune place if a team sitting just below the Sixers is motivated to make a deal. We all know how patient this rebuild will truly be so picking up another pick in next years's draft or a similar asset in exchange for a few spots is a possibility.
If they stay at #3 I think we have seen how important size and athletic advantages are for young players and Exum has both. His lateral quickness and ball handling appear to be way above average, his ability to get where he wants and makes plays for others shows up on the limited tape. He is huge for either guard position (run through the starting 2 guards in the league as a comparison) and we have seen most of the best teams in the league play their best 5 regardless of position to close out games. The duo of MCW and Exum would allow a lot of flexibility, a sharing of the ball handling duties and in a few years hopefully a strong defensive presence. Everybody brings up shooting when questioning whether the pairing could work and no doubt it will ultimately be the biggest factor in the success of the experiment . But there will always be question marks and Exum's skill set seems like the best option at 3 if they pass on Embiid. Oh, and according to Chad Ford the Sixers have 36 games of Exum's on film, so they have definitely put in the work.
3)Trade MCW? The fit concern has led many, many, people to speculate on moving on from MCW if the Sixers indeed draft Exum. This issue has already been tackled by smarter people than I so I'll keep this short. I think MCW can be a positive contributor to a good team and NBA teams don't usually make a habit of trading good rookies after their first year. But I think the most rational view is to remove the ROY title and notion that he was the best thing about last year's team. Simply put, if Hinkie finds a spot in the draft where he likes a player more than MCW and another team thinks the opposite, I don't think he would hesitate to make a deal.
Now whether or not this scenario presents itself is the big question. The only rumor we have to go on is the one with the Lakers and this reeks of misinformation to me. Again, I'm not trying to put Hinkie on a pedestal but do we really believe that he would have to package a quality young player, his second best player, and take on salary to get the 7th pick in this draft? If we know it is Embiid or one of the PF's (I happen to be taken by Aaron Gordon but that is another story) then this becomes a bit more possible but the pieces don't add up for me here. Ultimately, trading MCW seems plausible ( I guess #8 to Sacramento makes some sense too) but probably not likely when you examine all of the teams in the top ten.
4) What happens at 10? The most fascinating part of the night will be what can be done when it is time for the Sixers to draft again. I, like most people, would assume there will be a lot of phone calls made to move the 10th pick up to the 6-8 range. As exciting as the DX and ESPN mocks have been lately, I find it hard to believe that one of Gordon, Randle, or Vonleh drops to the 10 spot. Moving up to the range of the second tier seems a bit tricky but some combination of Young, their cap space, and a second rounder of any teams choice could get you there. But it also would take a bit of luck so just in case this doesn't happen I'm sure Hinkie has some back up plans. And trading down from 10 seems like the logical move if one of the top 7 (I guess Smart would be off the table if the pick at 3 is Exum and no MCW trade goes down) isn't leftover.
The reason here takes us back to the possible Sixers draft board. None of the players that are currently in the 9-12 range of the media's consensus list seem likely to interest the Sixers at 10. Advance stats do not look too kindly at McDermott and Stauskas, Dario Saric's value has to drop a bit after the latest news, and while players like Gary Harris and Zach Lavine could be a target (as well as Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, who grade out better than the previously mentioned names) you would have to think they could be drafted a bit further down the order. With that in mind my best guess is a trade up or trade down from #10.
5) How about the next 4 hours? Not even trying to figure this out. The over/under for total trades on Thursday should be around 7.5. If last year is predicative of the activity of the Sixers we could see their hands on 70% of the second round picks. We have to assume there will be a few players stashed over seas and a couple of odd ball second rounders not listed on most sites. Trading back into the 1st and moving Thaddeus somewhere seems likely as well.
So almost 1800 words in and I almost scrapped this whole thing. I know most of what i wrote will be worthless tomorrow night. More fun than trying to guess what will happen will be sitting back and enjoying the show without any expectations. It's certain that at some point we will all be furiously trying to find info on a particular trade, waiting to find out if the player the Sixers drafted is really for them, and laughing at how silly all the guessing really was. One more day to go.