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WigginsWatch: A Quest For a New Northern Light

Andrew Wiggins was the original Canadian treasure Sixers fans had hoped would arrive in Philadelphia, but fear not, for a new northern-based hero has arrived.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In life, what you want isn't always what's necessarily best for you. You want a cheeseburger, even though that salad is probably healthier. You think skydiving might be fun, even though you're much safer keeping your two feet planted firmly to the ground. Realistically, you're a Sixers fan, that alone probably isn't healthy, you probably should have picked a different team.

Ben Simmons is, without question, the best prospect in the draft. His combination of size, agility, and court vision is a rare package that any team would be insane to pass up on. In fact, while I was writing this, Simmons went off against North Florida, which, you may be surprised to learn, is a college. The LSU forward notched 43 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks, 2 turtle doves, and one lone partridge in a pear tree. He's great.

If the Sixers have the top pick in the draft, they should pick Simmons. It's a no-brainer on the level of  "don't click on that Deadspin Sixers post, it's just going to piss you off" or "maybe you shouldn't put that marble up your nose."

I've qualified that point, right? Good. Now let's stop talking about him because, as the wise Greek philosophers Third Eye Blind once said, I want something else to get me through this.

Two and a half years ago, I began writing this column as a way to pass the time during the first season of what the historians will refer to as the "Trust the Process" era. The year was Two Thousand and Thirteen, and the Sixers trotted out starting lineups that included Daniel Orton, Arnett Moultrie, and worst of all, Evan Turner. You thought things were bad now?

WigginsWatch, however, also had a subtitle: The Quest for the Northern Light, a nod to Wiggins' Canadian heritage, and the idea that he would be the guiding light to lead the Sixers into the future.


OK, that one didn't exactly go as planned, but as the old saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, keep hammering away until a new Canadian superhero emerges.

I'm happy to report to you, the good people of Liberty Ballers, that, just two years later, such a hero has arrived. His name is Jamal Murray.

The 18-year old guard, now residing in Lexington, Kentucky, took a somewhat circuitous route to the 2016 draft. Earlier this year, Murray was thought to be a member of the 2016 collegiate recruiting class, along such names as Duke commits Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum and the uncommitted Josh Jackson, also known as the names you'll use to console yourselves when the Lakers stroll into the top 3 on lottery night.

However, 2015 was the year of Jamal Murray at almost every prep basketball event on the calendar. First, Murray showed up and impressed at the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in February, with DraftExpress calling him "arguably the top performer at the camp," a camp that included another potential high lottery pick in 7-foot Croatian forward Dragan Bender.

Next up on the Murray World Tour was the annual Nike Hoop Summit, traditionally the best event of the year for developing rigid blanket opinions on prospects until the NCAA Tournament begins.

Murray scored a game-high 30 points, playing effectively both with and without the ball, showcasing both his range as a shooter as well as his ability to finish at the rim. He was the best player on the floor in that game, and that includes his teammate on the World team, the aforementioned Simmons.

Measuring at 6'4.5", 207 pounds at the now annual Kentucky combine, Murray has great size for a point guard, and adequate size for an off guard. Murray isn't an athletic marvel, including a 6'6.5" wingspan, but posted a pretty strong 39.5" max vertical leap.

After the two strong showings, Murray reclassified to the Class of 2015 and committed to Kentucky. He then put himself on the map with an incredible showing for Team Canada at the Pan-American Games over the summer. The second youngest player in the tournament, Murray averaged 16 points a game on 46% shooting in leading Canada to a silver medal, including a come-from-behind win against the United States where Murray scored all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Murray shined in crunch time in this game, taking charge of Canada's offense both as a scorer and as a facilitator, making Anthony Bennett look like a killer.

Through a handful of games at Kentucky, Murray's been effective as a scoring guard, averaging 15 points per game while shooting 42%. It's early, but he's flashed many of the skills he showcased over the summer.

Murray's offensive potential is great. He's a polished, skilled player. Defensively, I'd classify him as average. His lack of elite athleticism hurts in that respect. He's not overly long, though he's long enough to guard most point guards. He's not particularly strong either, on either side of the ball, but that's something  that can be helped by a quality NBA strength program.

I also think that a lot of his issues on the defensive end are correctable, technique issues. He's a willing defender, he's not giving up on plays, and sometimes he actually makes some nice defensive stops. An average defender at the point guard position is something I can live with given the offensive potential.

Time to put all of my cards on the table. I love Jamal Murray. (Bookmark this to taunt me with in five years, go ahead, I'll wait.). Imagining a world with Jamal Murray on the Sixers gets me through the lean times. There's no fit issues. There's no spacing problems. There's no parts to move.

On my real big board, Ben Simmons is #1. I don't care. I want Jamal Murray. Irrationally, I want him even more than I want Simmons. Rationally, there's no situation where I'd have the #1 pick and not pick Simmons. If that doesn't make sense, well, love doesn't make sense sometimes.

If the Lakers pick conveys, Murray is it, provided he's still available, which seems like a stretch for a player as polished as Murray is, but I'll continue to hope for seven grueling months. I missed out on the Northern Light once, and now he's great. I don't want to miss out again. The quest starts here. Bring me Jamal Murray, Sam.

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