Like anyone reading this, I have read roughly 759 assessments of the top 10 players in the upcoming draft and can say with certainty the following:
- Wiggins has no handle and can’t finish at the rim.
- Parker doesn't play defense. At all. Not even a little bit.
- Embiid IS Oden.
- We hardly know anything about Exum so he mostly gets a free pass.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we Sixers fans have the lessons of the draft still fresh in our minds. Let me take you back...John Wall was a lock at #1 and at #2 the Sixers were essentially down to Boogie Cousins, Evan Turner or Derrick Favors. For downside, Evan Turner is searching for a job and his hype was that he would be Brandon Roy crossed with Paul Pierce. For upside, Boogie Cousins is one of the 5 most talented big men in the league and his squad still lost 54 games last year (remember, he came into the combine (that’s an athletic job interview) overweight which no doubt made him untouchable at 2). Somewhere in the NBA aether of Utah, Derrick Favors finally got the minutes this year that his potential deserved and he showed that he still has an undeveloped shooting and offensive game (he even shot 66% from the free throw line up from 63% in college...i'm guessing not a gym rat) just like he did when he came out of Georgia Tech. And, his team lost 57 games. This is hardly just a matter of picking the best player available. This is complicated by circumstance and opportunity.
There are 2 players currently in the league that are without question dominant, outstanding, flawless players, Lebron and Durant. Then, there are a series of players that are phenomenons: CP3, Noah, Westbrook (pick your own favorites, it doesn’t matter for this discussion). CP3 is unquestionably the best PG in the league (after an impressive challenge from Deron Williams for a short time) but he can’t guard Westbrook, who he could see in the playoffs (and in his sleep) for the rest of his career. Noah is a nice player who was becoming Bill Walton by some accounts, but he can’t score. Westbrook is exactly the type athlete that makes people say that a player is freakishly athletic, but he’s also out of control, and can’t stretch the defense. The Sixers could draft a talent in the Lebron/Durant category, but that isn't likely given everything that we know about the players in this years draft.
What I know from 759 player assessments is that you are going to find flaws in anyone’s game entering the draft and those players have to either resolve those issues or end up like the players that Wiggins is most often compared to: Rudy Gay, Harrison Barnes and Tracy McGrady. Fortunate for this discussion, draftexpress.com keeps up their profile pages for these players. In terms of comparable players, Gay was thought of as a best case Shawn Marion and a worst case Travis Outlaw (I dare you to try to remember which Outlaw we’re talking about here). Harrison Barnes was a best case Luol Deng and a worst case 6-8 Arron Afflalo. Mercifully, TMac was drafted either so long ago or was so confounding as a high schooler that there are no comps listed. Also, there are no championship rings and many trades represented by those names (get ready for the Harrison Barnes carousel as the Warriors remaining trade piece and, incidentally i’m assuming that the Sixers have dialed 1-800-warrior a number of times to see if Barnes can replace Hollis cheaply).
The best player named in the last paragraph was Shawn Marion (pour a little out for TMac) not only because he has the best nickname since "Iceman" or the "Round Mound of Rebound" but also because he got it done from everywhere on the court on a high-pace team and was efficient at the same time. By some transitive property of comparisons, maybe Wiggins is going to be Shawn Marion and most Sixer fans would be very satisfied with that comparison. Not me. You can get that type of player towards the end of the lottery or possibly later (Marion, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard), which brings me to the biggest issue with Wiggins. He’s unquestionably talented, but there’s nothing getting you Embiid’s ceiling in 2015, 2016…2017.
Don’t talk about back problems. Go find your favorite Embiid highlight video on YouTube. I can’t imagine what that kid does WITHOUT back problems and more than 4 years of playing basketball. Draft Embiid. Then, go get Harrison Barnes or Gordon Hayward to substitute for 99% of Wiggins production on offense and good enough defense in front of Noel and Embiid not to matter (Wiggins will be an Iggy type perimeter defender and that’s his performance floor) if you want, but it hardly matters because Hollis can do shoot and play D just fine. In all the complicated reviews, discussions, comps and stats…this isn’t that complicated. Go get Embiid. Then, fill in the 2 and 3 spot with the available talent (see the "pimp my prospect" features for options at the 3: Early, KJ, Thanasis) that each team needs to find and get on with winning rings.