Almost an entire calendar year has passed since Philadelphia 76ers’ GM Sam Hinkie made the draft day trade that sent Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for two first round picks. One ended up being the player the Pelicans picked at number six, Nerlens Noel, who was regarded as the number one overall pick when Chad Ford sent out his first of 1234513895 mock drafts last year, but then tumbled down draft boards after shredding his ACL in February. The other pick in the trade was the Pelicans’ first rounder in this Thursday’s draft (the pick was top-five protected and wound up being number 10).
It’s no secret that Hinkie robbed Pelicans’ GM Dell Demps in broad daylight. Holiday is a nice player, but he’s just a little bit above average at a position (PG) that is currently in the best state it has ever been in, but the Pelicans brass was and still is desperate to make sure Anthony Davis doesn’t develop Kevin Love syndrome. So instead of holding onto Noel or drafting a different player in potentially the worst rookie class in the history of the league and holding onto their pick in one of the most intriguing drafts in the history of the league, Demps panicked and Hinkie’s Frankenstein like plan to rebuild the Sixers started to fall into place.
The philosophy of the Sixers rebuild revolved around filling out a roster that featured four blue-chip prospects. The first two players to fill in those slots were Noel and 2013 Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams. The other two slots looked like they were going to be determined in this week’s NBA draft and they still might be, but there are plenty of reasons why Hinkie’s plan doesn’t seem as shiny as it once did:
1.) Sixers failed to land one of the top two picks in the draft. It’s not so much failing as it is bad luck, but whatever you want to call it, Philly is on the outside looking in when it comes to drafting either Andrew Wiggins (the Sixers prized possession), or Jabari Parker (which would put the Sixers at pretty good odds of being the first team since the mid-70s’ Buffalo Braves to have back-to-back rookie of the year winners on the same team).
Immediately after the Draft Lottery it seemed like the Sixers were guaranteed to land one of the two prized small forwards, but the unfortunate news of Joel Embiid’s broken navicular bone in his right foot has changed the entire shape of potentially the first eight to ten picks in the draft.
If you want to say the Sixers lost 26 games in a row for nothing, I’m not going to argue with you. It’s hard to imagine a team going through a stretch like the Sixers did and not receiving the first overall pick, but the lottery system is in place for a reason. Yes, Philly still wound up with a top three pick in potentially one of the most talent filled drafts ever, but it feels like they’re missing out on the grand prizes (even though they might not be).
Why does it feel that way?
2.) Because we don’t know enough about Dante Exum to be properly excited about him. This is simply a product of Exum being tucked away in Australia and missing out on the exposure the college game could have given to him. If you’re not familiar with Exum, he’s a 6’ 6” “point guard” who is silky smooth with the ball, has an incredible basketball IQ and can use his 6’ 9.5’ wingspan to guard much bigger players. The quickness of his first step and then subsequent glide like drive to the rim will make you yell “WHY AREN’T WE TALKING MORE ABOUT THIS KID?”
I get the sense you’re wondering why point guard is in quotation marks. Exum has all of the abilities you would expect from a point guard, but his size makes him feel like he’s a shooting guard who has the ability to handle point duties when warranted. Bill Simmons coined him as a zero guard, which is essentially a combo guard with better attributes. Odds are he’s going to mainly run point in the NBA, but it obviously depends on the situation he gets drafted into.
The main problem with getting excited about seeing your team take Exum is that the unknown outweighs the handful of Youtube clips we can watch of him, but the upside is just tremendous. The idea of an Exum-MCW supersize backcourt is FACSINATING.
And I’ll just leave this here, Exum is going to turn 19 in July.
3.) Will Carter-Williams still be on the Sixers roster after the draft? This has to be the most trade talk surrounding a rookie of the year in the history of the league right? While it may seem crazy to trade away someone who just took home the award as the best rookie in the league, think about the buzz surrounding Carter-Williams entering the draft last year.
While you wait let’s watch some Exum tape:
Ahh, goes down easy doesn’t it? If you couldn’t recall the buzz surrounding MCW last year, it’s because there wasn’t any. No one had any idea Carter-Williams would abuse the Brett Brown system of inflated stats to become the front runner and eventual winner of the award. He constantly gambled on defense for steals. For the most part, his shooting went into the toilet from January on.
Let’s play a game called where would Michael Carter-Williams go in this year’s draft. He wouldn’t go in front of Exum or Marcus Smart. I think we would be having an who is better debate between him and Elfrid Payton and then quickly discovering that Payton is the much better player and wondering why anyone had MCW in front of him. Odds are he would be taken later than he was last year (11), which is why these Lakers-Sixers trade talks are really interesting. A package containing Thaddeus Young and Carter-Williams for the seventh overall pick really helps both teams. It gives the Lakers actual NBA level players, which is kinda-sorta important and trade would obviously benefit the Sixers as it would give them a third top-10 pick in a talent rich draft.
Once again, Hinkie’s plan isn’t to win a title this year, or to make the playoffs this year, or to actually win NBA games this year. It’s really quite easy to envision a Sixers team that rolls out four rookies (Noel included) once you get over the fact that MCW is easily available at the right price.
4.) Just take Embiid and get it over with. Seven footers with footwork and body control like Embiid only come around once in a talent cycle. He would easily be the number one overall pick in the draft if only his body would cooperate. Whoever takes a shot on him doesn’t need to justify taking the injured big man because if he can fully recover from his foot surgery and his back problems, he’s a franchise changing player and I’m not sure that can be said about anyone else in this draft.
There could be seven, eight or nine future All-Stars in this draft, but Embiid is the only one that I would feel safe putting money on being a super-star (next would be Wiggins). But can Hinkie really justify taking Embiid, going through the same process Noel went through last year and then pair the two of them together in the frontcourt? If Noel can show flashes of hitting a 15 footer this season it’ll look a tad bit better, but spacing could easily be an issue with these two on the floor together.
It just doesn’t seem to make sense to pair them together (though an MCW-Embiid-Noel fast-break would be effing incredible), but Hinkie is all about collecting assets and figuring out when to cash said assets in for a better prize. Basically Hinkie is the guy who figures out how to walk away with the seemingly unwinnable prize at an arcade, he just keeps collecting tickets.
But at what point will those tickets be cashed in for wins?
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