From now until the NBA Draft on June 26, we'll be looking at the options of the teams picking based on their likely menu of choices, draft or trade. We continue today with the Philadelphia 76ers, and the third overall pick. After one of the most brutal tanking expeditions in sports history, the Sixers have to hope they can find their franchise cornerstone with the third pick in the draft.
If Joel Embiid slips: This gets tricky, in a hurry. Presumably, if Embiid falls, it's because the Cavaliers took Wiggins and then the Bucks took Parker. So the other two best options are off the board. Embiid is clearly BPA (Best Player Available). They would, in almost every scenario, take Embiid. You just don't pass on him.
You've got Nerlens Noel who has yet to play in an NBA game due to his ACL surgery. So now you're looking at starting effectively two raw, huge rookies with injury questions. Twin towers is a great idea in some respects, but it can also be really difficult to actually play in today's NBA with the perimeter game where it's at. You have glaring questions on the wing at the 2 and 3 spots if you're not playing Thaddeus Young at 3 (assuming you don't trade him before the deadline).
You can draft Embiid and trade Noel, but what kind of value are you going to get for someone who has yet to play a game who had to completely rework his shot over the year?
This gets really tricky for the Sixers.
Draft Andrew Wiggins: If the Bucks go Parker and Embiid is off the table, Wiggins is a no-brainer. If he's there, they take him. MCW-Wiggins is a shooting nightmare, but you're playing for three to four years down the line. Not now. And MCW's playmaking can set up Wiggins to work with his skillset. And defensively, you have Noel protecting the rim and MCW and Wiggins roaming the perimeter. You have a defensive trio that in four years can be elite together. And with the dearth of wing options the Sixers have at the No. 10 pick, they can draft a two-guard and play Wiggins at 3 or a small forward and play Wiggins at 2. It's a perfect fit.
Draft Jabari Parker: The most likely scenario based on most mock drafts, for whatever that's worth. Parker can play at the three with Thaddeus Young covering for him at the four spot. It gives the Sixers a player who can create his own shot, something big for them. A dual-post high-low game with Parker at the four next to Noel could be intriguing as well. Parker doesn't heave elite athleticism, which appears early on to be where GM Sam Hinkie leans with his decisions. But he does have a great skillset and would give a team with no true face of its franchise (despite MCW's Rookie of the Year award) a guy it can point to as "the man." If Parker can be hidden effectively defensively with the other talent on this team, they could make leaps in the first few years.
Draft Julius Randle: Randle over Parker would be surprising, but Randle's a bully in the post. Put him next to Noel with Noel's wingspan covering the glass off Randle's misses and you have a great combination. MCW and Randle can work in the pick and roll and pick and pop, and adding s wing on the perimeter with the tenth pick could help ease the double-teams on Randle... if he improves his passing.
But Randle isn't an elite athlete, outside of his strength. His wingspan is less of a drawback than it's been made out to be, but it is a factor, and Randle's not going to stretch the floor to any significant degree. If they believe he can be a focal point, though, he fits the mold and the team.
Draft Exum: Everyone has a polarizing take on Exum's shooting. I've heard everything from "tremendous scorer" to "struggles with this shot." If he can't shoot, putting him in a backcourt with MCW is too dangerous to do. You have to have someone in the backcourt who can spread the floor. It does give them a crazy amount of athleticism, however, and two guys who can get to the rim. It's also an insane defensive combo given Exum's size and MCW's length. This would be a pretty bold move, and unconventional. But if they think Exum's the guy, he's the guy.
Draft Vonleh: A super reach, but look at the options: Parker with defensive and athleticism questions. Randle with length and skillset questions, Exum at a position that isn't of need. Meanwhile, they can draft Vonleh, put him at stretch four, and block all of the shots in the world with Noel at his side. Vonleh can hit from the perimeter and guard in space effectively. He's limited in mobility, but Noel covers for a lot of that. You can play smallball with him at center and Thaddeus Young a power forward. There's a lot you can do with Vonleh. He's the most "raw upside" of the guys who aren't Wiggins.
Draft Aaron Gordon: This would be a crazy reach as most mocks have him slipping. But Gordon can play 3 or 4 next to Thaddeus Young, would be devastating in pick and rolls with MCW, and can run the floor like no one else. If you're building a defensive-centric team, putting Gordon next to MCW and Noel pretty much locks you down. This is an especially intriguing idea if...
Trade down: The Sixers already have No.10. But if they feel at 3 they're not going to get a difference maker in this draft, there's no reason to just take one. They can move down, snag Gordon, Vonleh, maybe even Marcus Smart and still get great talent, plus pick up another pick or a player.
Just please, no more second rounders. The Sixers already have 90 percent of them.
Trade up: Let's say you've decided that Joel Embiid is "the guy." You think he's the cornerstone for your franchise, despite the back issue. And you don't think he'll be there at three. If the Cavaliers can't trade the pick for Kevin Love, why not offer the No. 3 and Nerlens Noel for the No. 1? Giving up Noel would be a huge risk, but the guy has yet to play a game in the NBA... wait, neither has Embiid. Yeah, this is pretty tricky. But if the Sixers really want that No.1 pick this year, they have the long term assets to do it, especially if they can get involved in a three-way trade to send the Cavaliers a veteran to help now. This is pretty unlikely, based on the value of the No. 1 pick, but it's plausible.
Trade for a player: The Sixers are patient and have been waiting all year to get a cornerstone. There's no rush here. Trading the No.3 pick for a veteran makes zero sense. None. Now, if they can trade it for a veteran quality player and move down? That doesn't make my eyes bleed. But you're talking about only a few spots down. They need an impact player, and even if it's not Jabari Parker, they'll find someone they can talk themselves into that being, but it would have to be a top-five guy. And the Magic and Celtics are unlikely to give up a prospect to move up. The Jazz, however, might be able to be talked into it, and they have some young guys that could help Philadelphia.
I highly doubt they move the pick, but anything they do has to stay in the neighborhood of the top six.