1. Joel Embiid (foot/back) and Dario Saric (Croatia) were not drafted by the Sixers in order to lose more games in 2015-16.
2. Josh Harris and Sam Hinkie have always been incredibly candid about the timeline of their rebuild being 3 to 5 years.
Joel Embiid has the highest upside of any player in the 2014 NBA Draft. Like Nerlens Noel last year, Embiid slipped because of an injury and the Sixers rode up on horseback to rescue him from a less patient medical staff Dario Saric, some have argued, has one of the top five ceilings of this draft -- the one major drawback being a recently signed contract keeping him in Croatia for at least two seasons.
Those two players were not selected by the Sixers with a benefit being their likelihood (for Embiid) and certainty (for Saric) of missing the 2015-16 NBA season. They were only available at both #3 and #12 because of those restrictions, but they certainly weren't taken by the Sixers because of them.
Sam Hinkie picked Embiid and Saric because they were the best players available. Last year at this time, Hinkie gave us some insight into his thought process after he traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and the pick that ultimately turned into Dario Saric:
#Sixers Sam Hinkie: 'The goal is not to pick the best player in the past, but the best player in the future.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) June 28, 2013
Embiid happens to be the best player in the past as well, and clearly the Sixers think well enough about his medical results that they're comfortable spending the 3rd overall pick on him. Having not had access (or any requisite medical knowledge whatsoever) to Joel's records, I and we can only trust that the Sixers did their homework and feel confident that, with them monitoring his rehab, his feet and his back won't prevent him from reaching his full potential.
The Philadelphia 76ers, as you know, won 19 games last year. They were not the worst team in the league despite the fact that they played just one guy in MCW who you could call a building block for the future. Coming into this draft, they didn't need anything specific -- they needed everything specific. Sam Hinkie has turned over almost the entire roster since his arrival, and in starting from scratch, he needs real talent to build the team back up again.
That's why the Sixers do not prioritize winning in the short term. But as we've said over and over, there's a difference between putting W/L on the back burner (trying to pluck a keeper out of a slew of 10-day auditions over the course of the year) and losing on purpose, like telling your coach to play to lose or drafting players who specifically won't help this season. That's not with this is about. Losing games is a biproduct of the rebuild, but it's not the point of it.
Championships. Championships are the goal and without a bunch of really, really terrific players, they're not going to win anything. They think -- and both scouts and draft projection models agree -- that Embiid and Saric will become really, really terrific players. It's not going to happen next year, for the reasons outlined above, but that's okay! They've got the luxury of waiting the way other teams don't. This rebuild was never going to be rushed. Never.
Matt Carey wrote "I’m perfectly fine with the Sixers strategy of picking the best player every year regardless of anything" and that's truly the only way to think when you're a superstarless team drifting along in the unknown. Concerning yourself with fit or hurt feelings only prematurely caps the team's potential.
Is a Noel-Joel frontcourt perfect? As good as both guys could be, it's worth finding out. Can Saric play the 3 next to them? Don't know, don't yet care. They've got two plus years of other stuff to determine first. Hinkie will acquire the best players he can, and then we can talk about how it all fits together.
There will come a time when the Sixers can take a Nik Stauskas because he's the perfect compliment to MCW. We're not nearly there yet, and until we are, they'll keep selecting the best player available no matter what.
The Sixers will find themselves in the Lottery again next year. They will be bad, though for my money, I don't think quite as bad as this past season. No one will hold it against you if you're wary of another 60-loss campaign or annoyed by another top prospect benchridden for the season -- that's your prerogative as a fan, and this year was tougher to stomach for some.
But in the same token, you shouldn't hold it against the Sixers for taking the two best players available when they've been straightforward about the realities of this rebuild from the get-go. Let them be patient, it's the best chance the Sixers have at establishing something real here.