The 2022 NBA Draft is one month away on June 23. While we’re ticking off the days until the next group enters the Association, let’s take a look back at how a (somewhat) recent draft went down for the Philadelphia 76ers. The year is 2014. The Avengers had only assembled once to date, the general public was still years away from learning about Nick Foles’ great hands or size-extra-large jock strap, and The Process was still just a concept, not an individual.
Over the weekend, Vasilije Micić won his second straight EuroLeague Final Four MVP award.
I bring this up on a blog dedicated to covering a team in a different league on a different continent because Micić was the 52nd overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Still yet to make his NBA debut, the rights to Micić were later traded to Oklahoma City in December 2020 as part of the Danny Green-Al Horford trade. Whether the now-28-year-old Serbian wants to cross the pond and play NBA basketball is unknown, but teams have registered interest, per Marc Stein.
This Micić walk down memory lane serves as a reminder for this: Sam Hinkie absolutely crushed the 2014 NBA Draft.
The former Sixers general manager started his night by setting Philadelphia up with a franchise-altering talent for the next decade-plus, selecting Joel Embiid with the third overall pick. Although it took a while for Embiid to make his NBA debut due to injuries, he has now been an All-Star starter in five consecutive seasons and the MVP runner-up the last two years. I know I’m catering to the eye-test crowd here after the MVP debate, and this advanced statistic is far from perfect, but Joel’s 20.4 VORP is second from the 2014 draft class, well ahead of Clint Capela in third and well behind Nikola Jokic in first (Denver also crushed the 2014 draft by virtue of their single pick at 41st overall). Let’s remember a time when the Sixers’ playoffs were fun.
JOEL EMBIID HITS THE THREE TO WIN GAME 3 IN TORONTO pic.twitter.com/Zn2xSzvBzp— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) April 21, 2022
Anyway, there are countless articles on this website about how good Joel Embiid is. Great pick, moving on.
The next pick might make for an even better story just for the sheer boldness on the part of Hinkie. He took Elfrid Payton at 10th overall, knowing Orlando really, really wanted him with the 12th overall pick, thereby establishing a high-stakes game of chicken. First, though, we were treated to Michael Carter-Williams being asked in the moment if his team selecting another point guard meant he was being moved.
But the line had been cast, and the Magic took the bait, getting Payton in exchange for the 12th pick, their own 2015 second-rounder, and a future first-round pick. Hinkie ended up getting the guy he wanted (Dario Saric), and some terrific additional draft assets, because he sniffed out how desperately Orlando wanted Payton — basically, a reverse Elton Brand. Could things have gone better? Sure, Zach LaVine went 13th overall to Minnesota. But it was still a legendary move.
Moving on to the second round, the Sixers had five (count ‘em, five) picks to work with. Understandably, they weren’t all hits. K.J. McDaniels was drafted at 32nd overall. Not happy about a Hinkie Special contract offer, he only signed a one-year deal before moving on to Houston. He only spent three years total in the league. The Sixers traded the 47th overall pick (Russ Smith) to New Orleans for Pierre Jackson (aka Pappy Jack). Jackson was a lovable G League/Summer League guy who has appeared in only eight career NBA games. The 54th overall pick (Nemanja Dangubić) was sent to San Antonio for Jordan McRae. McRae never appeared in a game for the Sixers before his release in 2015. He bounced around the league as an end-of-bench-type for a few years, even getting a ring with Cleveland in 2016.
However, there were also a couple of big connections by Hinkie in the second round. Micić, as mentioned, is still a coveted asset in the league. I don’t know if he’ll ever come over (still waiting on Dario as well), but there’s still real trade value for a player that was taken in the 50s. That’s a good selection. Finally, we have Jerami Grant, drafted at 39th overall. Grant’s game didn’t really have a chance to flourish until after he left Philadelphia (he was sent to Oklahoma City in 2016), but the talent was undeniably there. He’s currently making over $20 million per year for the Pistons, and getting back to VORP statistic from the 2014 draft class, Grant is now 13th on the list. That’s an excellent value proposition for a mid-second-round pick.
Looking back at the 2014 draft, Hinkie’s talent evaluation yielded either the first or second-best player in the draft and someone who is a top-five player in the world right now, a solid starter, a rotation player while trading down two spots to pick up a future first and a future second, and a still highly coveted overseas stash player. Not at all bad for a night’s work.