Sam Hinkie and the 76ers front office have been known for playing things close to the vest since the new regime took over in 2013, but some things may be harder to conceal than others. Philadelphia has done their best to attempt to conceal their interest in the top prospects in the 2015 NBA Draft, but one player has been linked to the organization more curiously than any other: Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis.
Over the past several months, all the information available makes it seem like Porzingis is the favorite when Philadelphia is on the clock with the third overall pick. Let's look at a recent timeline of events connecting the Sixers with 'Staps:
March: DraftExpress reports the Sixers were one of two teams that attempted to convince Porzingis not to remove his name from the 2014 NBA Draft.
May: Derek Bodner mentions Philadelphia's interest in the center, noting that Sam Hinkie has traveled to Spain numerous times to watch him play.
June 10: DraftExpress' recent mock draft has the Sixers selecting Porzingis with the third pick.
June 12: Sam Hinkie attends Porzingis' workout at the ASM Sports Pro Day in Las Vegas.
On top of that, Liberty Ballers has received more confirmation on the Sixers interest in the 19-year-old. Word amongst higher up members of the Sixers front office is that Sam Hinkie is essentially head-over-heels for Porzingis, who played with Sevilla in the Spanish ACB this season.
This could be construed as some some sort of smokescreen, but the paper trail goes way too far back to view the Sixers interest in Porzingis as anything but legitimate. With Joel Embiid's health currently up in the air (nothing has been decided in regards to treatment, at least that's been made known publicly), pundits are starting to factor in the Latvian as a possibility for the Sixers over talents like D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, who the Sixers also are believed to be interested in (Mudiay works out today for the Sixers).
Frankly, it's silly to have ever counted Porzingis out as an option, regardless of whether or not Joel Embiid is suiting up this fall. Philadelphia is still in a position where they'll take the best player available on their draft board, and that could very well be another big man.
Embiid, Porzingis, and Nerlens Noel all play big, but that's the least of the Sixers' worries. Their goal is to identify and evaluate their drafted talent, and worry about a possible fit at a later time. Once the Sixers have found that talent, they've found their core to move forward with.
What seems to be worrying most people is who they're recognizing as premier talent and how long it will take to get there, especially if that guy is Kristaps Porzingis. If we've learned anything during this pre-draft process, it's that the stigma against European big men is so, so real. He's been referred to as the next Darko Milicic, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, and every other awkward foreigner to step foot in the NBA.
It's really a disservice to Porzingis, because in no way is he remotely similar to any of those guys. He's a much more fluid player, with an advanced outside shooting game unlike any other big man we've seen. Porzingis can very well be the generational talent the Sixers are looking for.
No matter who the Sixers take with the third overall pick, it'll be because they've evaluated that player as a premier talent in the draft, not because of how they fit. Under that ideology, and with the information we already know, it seems like Kristaps Porzingis fits that bill.