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Looking back at the Sixers’ 5 best and worst drafts of all time

There have been some great nights ... and some not-so-great nights.

Allen Iverson (L) holds Philadelphia 76ers’ jersey Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

With the 2023 NBA Drraft rapidly approaching, the NBA offseason is in full swing. The league has already wasted no time with blockbuster trades, as it’s been reported that three-time All-Star Bradley Beal will be headed to the Phoenix Suns and Kristaps Porzingis is Boston bound.

With most teams scrambling to rework their rosters before the new CBA kicks in, there will be no shortage of trade slop for fans to eat up this summer. As it currently stands, however, the Philadelphia 76ers have no draft picks to make Thursday night.

While that certainly doesn’t rule out them making a move, it means that Daryl Morey and the front office will have to be creative to alter the roster Thursday night. For now, we are looking back the five best and worst draft nights in Sixers history.


No. 5: 2010

The franchise was in a pretty grim state in 2010, winning the second pick in the lottery after winning only 27 games the year prior. There wasn’t much excitement for the second pick this year, as most of the hype in this draft went to Kentucky guard John Wall, who was selected first overall by the Washington Wizards.

With the next pick, the Sixers selected Evan Turner, a wing out of Ohio State. Turner’s junior year in college he averaged 20.4 points per game, shooting 51.9 percent from the field. The Sixers hoped they had found someone to pair with Jrue Holiday, who they drafted the year prior, but Turner was never an effective scorer at the NBA level.

He averaged 12.2 points per game in four and a half seasons in Philly before being traded in Sam Hinkie’s first season with the team. While Turner going at No. 2 didn’t surprise anyone at the time, it’s easy to blame the Sixers for taking him over future All-Stars like Demarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward and Paul George, who all went in the top 10 of that draft.

No. 4: 1993

The team was in similar spot as they were in 2010, holding the second pick in what turned out to be a pretty weak draft class. The Sixers had just finished their first season in the post-Barkley era and liked the 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley to be the new franchise cornerstone. While Philly didn’t miss out on as many All-Stars as they did in 2010, the very next pick after Bradley was one Penny Hardaway.

It was evident very quickly that Bradley was not the star to usher in a new era of Sixers basketball and he was traded to the Nets just 12 games into his third season in the league. Bradley averaged 10.5 points per game as a Sixer.

No. 3: 1997

The first of many failed attempts to build a respectable roster around Allen Iverson. Once again the Sixers were drafting from the No. 2 spot, and once again, they missed out on several All-Stars.

And to make matters worse: a guy by the name of Tim Duncan went first overall to the Spurs.

Before trading the pick, Philly selected Keith Van Horn second overall, one pick ahead of Chauncey Billups and seven picks ahead of Tracy MacGrady.

The Sixers sent him to the Nets in exchange for Tim Thomas and Anthony (not Tony) Parker. Thomas averaged 11 points per game as a Sixer before being traded just 17 games into his second season. Van Horn had a solid career, averaging 16 points per game as a 44 percent shooter while finding his way back to the Sixers for one season.

No. 2: 2018

This Sixers’ draft could be the dictionary definition of “death by a thousand cuts.” It’s been well documented how the team took hometown kid Mikal Bridges, but didn’t even wait an hour before trading him for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-round pick.

Bridges has exceeded all expectations for him in the NBA, becoming the centerpiece in a Kevin Durant trade, while Smith had his career immediately derailed because of a broken foot and a peanut allergy.

The Sixers turned the 2021 first and Landry Shamet, who they took at 26, into Tobias Harris, another polarizing Sixers’ tenure. What the team walked away with this night wasn’t horrible, but what the team could have had this night will haunt them forever.

Bridges would have fit this team team like a glove, but there was a lot of talent in this first round the Sixers missed out on. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was taken with the very next pick after Bridges. The 2018 first round was loaded with guard and wing talent such as Anfernee Simons, Lonnie Walker, Kevin Huerter, Michael Porter Jr. and Donte DiVencenzo.

No. 1: 2017

There have been busts on this lists and there have been poor trades on this list, but this draft takes the cake in both of those categories. The Sixers traded from the No. 3 pick in this draft, swapping with the Boston Celtics, up to No. 1 to draft Markelle Fultz.

Not only did Fultz’s Sixers career go about as poorly and bizarrely as possible, they handed a perennial All-Star to their biggest rival. The Celtics ended up with Jayson Tatum, the player they wanted from the start, and a 2019 first for their troubles. While Fultz is only now turning his career around in Orlando, Tatum has made four All-Star teams and eliminated the Sixers three different times in the playoffs.

Philly missed out on Tatum that night and they nearly missed out on their chance to have Tyrese Maxey. They used a future first they had, 2020 first from the Thunder to be exact, to trade back into the end of the first round.

There was plenty of talent that would have helped the team such as Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Dillon Brooks, but the Sixers selected Anzejs Pasecniks. Pasecniks played 28 games in the NBA, none of them for the Sixers. Luckily the franchise was able to re-acquire that 2020 first when they sent Fultz to Orlando, or else this disastrous night would look even that much worse.


No. 5: 1975

It felt right to include at least one draft from this era of Sixers basketball, so the 1975 draft makes it onto this list as it saw Philadelphia acquire both Daryl Dawkins and World B. Free. Dawkins was drafted fifth overall and spent the first seven years of his career in Philadelphia. He earned the nickname “Chocolate Thunder” for his backboard-shattering dunks and averaged 1.4 blocks per game in his career.

World B. Free averaged 13.4 points per game in Philly before he was traded to the Clippers after just three seasons. The pick the Sixers received was the No. 5 pick in the 1984 draft. That pick was used to select Charles Barkley, who also turned out to be a pretty good player.

No. 4: 2016

It is though.

Even with everything that has happened, there is still an argument to be made that the Sixers made the right decision taking Ben Simmons No. 1 overall over Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown. After going 10-72 the year prior, the Sixers won the No. 1 pick to take Simmons, one of the most hyped prospects of the last 20 years.

It obviously ended disastrously for Simmons, but the Sixers still got three All-Star appearances and perennial 50-win seasons from selecting him. They were also able to flip him for a top-75 player of all time in James Harden.

On top of Simmons, Philly also ended up with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz. While neither could be classified as a “hit”, the team got two seasons out of Korkmaz as a rotation player. Not a bad day at the office.

No. 3: 2020

This was genuinely a franchise-saving night. In Daryl Morey’s first act as the president of this team, he completely overhauled a roster that was one of the clunkiest in the league the year prior. He turned Josh Richardson into Seth Curry, a player who gelled much better with Joel Embiid, but was also used as a piece in the Harden trade.

Morey was not only able to get off the albatross that was Al Horford’s contract, but he was also able to get back a good rotation player in Danny Green.

He absolutely nailed the selections as well, walking away with Tyrese Maxey in the first round and Isaiah Joe and Paul Reed in the second. Maxey has already turned into the steal of the draft at pick 21, already a 20 point per game scorer and 40 percent three-point shooter.

Reed has been the only backup center of the Embiid-era who doesn’t leak points away like he’s on the Titanic. Joe also looks like he has the makings of a solid rotation player, though he didn’t really get the opportunity to prove that until he was waived by the Sixers and picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

No. 2: 2014

Does anyone else remember the #WinlessForWiggins campaign? Despite missing out on the first pick in the 2014 lottery, the Sixers came away with a franchise player and future MVP when they took Joel Embiid third.

Taking Embiid is the defining moment of The Process, landing Sam Hinkie the franchise cornerstone he tore down the team in search of. The selection of Embiid was enough to get this draft this high on the list, but Hinkie wasn’t done there. He traded Elfrid Payton for Dario Saric, who did in fact, come over. With Embiid missing his first two years due to injury, it was probably for the best that Saric also waited a couple of seasons before coming to the NBA. The team also took a couple of interesting swings in the second round, nabbing K.J. McDaniels at 32 and Jerami Grant at 39.

No. 1: 1996

As if there would be any other answer. The state of the franchise was in a truly retched state in the 90s. They went almost the entire decade without cracking 40 wins in one season. After winning 18 games in the 1995-96, the team won the draft lottery for one of the most stacked drafts in league history.

There have been plenty of arguments that the Sixers would have been better off if they took Kobe Bryant here, or Steve Nash, or even Ray Allen, but Allen Iverson was the one to turn this franchise around. He was ready for the league from his first game, scoring 30 points in his debut, averaging 23.5 points per game as rookie and bringing home Rookie of the Year.

Iverson improved as a scorer each year, culminating in his 2001 MVP and a Finals appearance, the last time the Sixers have made it that far. He was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, making him the only Hall of Famer on this list (so far), which made it only right that he claims the top spot.

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