As difficult as it was to stomach watching the Cleveland Cavaliers, perhaps the most mismanaged professional sports franchise of the 21st century, collect their 3rd first overall pick in four years, the 76ers came out of Tuesday night’s event with their strategy in-tact and a green light to continue building their team the way the initially set out to. As much as the organization had its sights set on winning the 1st overall pick, the results of the lottery were as such that the team should still be able to select a player they see as part of the top-tier of the 2014 draft class. Additionally, with the Pelicans pick staying out of the top five, the 76ers will be the lone team in the draft with a pair of top-ten picks and still operate with aggression and flexibility come draft night. When he started out as general manager, Sam Hinkie gambled on the wealth of the 2014 Draft and did so in a manner that, pending the results, could handicap the franchise in a big way. While he may not have hit the jackpot, the 76ers’ architect is now equipped with one of the most desirable packages of picks he could have hoped for and in position to dominate draft night the way he did a year ago.
The nightmare scenarios were almost too daunting to imagine. As ridiculous as it is that Cleveland ended up with the top selection, there were far more foreboding mines to navigate as the ping-pong balls decided the fate of the draft class. The Celtics and Lakers were both prime candidates to move up into the top three the way the Cavaliers did. The 76ers could have ended up with the 4th or 5th pick. The Pelicans could have just as easily seen themselves swapping places with Cleveland and jumping up to the top spot and leaving the 76ers with just one first round pick. For the hours leading up to the draft, it was nearly impossible to think of the positive potential results given how mortifying the negatives could have been. The time for being greedy is behind us now that the picks are set. Now is the time for the 76ers, their coaching staff, and front office to prove they can make the 3rd overall pick more valuable than any of the picks ahead of whomever the selection is. Given who sits ahead of them, I like the 76ers odds.
Due to chronic mismanagement and unfavorable situations as far as their fanbase goes, the Bucks and Cavaliers have to take into account additional factors when making their pick. The Bucks have been unable to draw a crowd since the Ray Allen-‘Big Dog’ Robinson days and the Cavaliers fans have been beaten over their heads by mismanagement and general front-office stupidity so much that Cleveland cannot afford not to get their pick right. Cleveland could also be a candidate to trade out of the 1st overall spot in an attempt to bring in more established talent considering their inability to develop any of the high lottery picks they’ve managed to secure since the departure of LeBron James.
The Bucks are another organization in desperate need of a charge to the franchise. Unlike the 76ers, Milwaukee did not set out to turn in the worst season in all of the NBA in 2013-2014. However, injuries and instability quickly derailed what was a doomed season from the beginning and the losses started to mount. The franchise has a few promising pieces in Larry Sanders (if he’s healthy and sober) and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but appear even further from competing than the Cavaliers. Though I do believe the odds of Andrew Wiggins lasting to the 3rd overall selection for the 76ers, the two teams sitting ahead of them are as likely as any duo to go a different direction with their picks. The Cavaliers and Bucks cannot afford to miss on their selection. There were enough question marks regarding the uncertainty of Wiggins leading up to the lottery. Now that the order is set, one has to imagine the debate will only intensify.
The fact that Philadelphia is guaranteed one of the draft’s ‘Big Three’ is a win in and of itself. Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Wiggins are all light years ahead of most of the top prospects in last year’s draft and could probably hold their own over most classes over the last decade from a talent perspective. As far as what the team needs, Wiggins or Parker would probably be the direction to expect if the team had their pick of the litter. That being said, with seven picks over the course of the event and a guaranteed shot at one of the ‘elite’ prospects, Embiid would be a favorable consolation prize if his back checks out medically. One needs not to look any further than the heated debate over which one of the three has warranted first overall consideration. Sitting with the ‘leftover’ after the two teams ahead of them are forced to make a crucial decision is far from a disappointment. Should Milwaukee and Cleveland shy away from Jabari Parker and his drop-off in athleticism compared to the other two, Philadelphia would be thrilled to have their future primary scoring option fall into their laps without giving up any additional resources. Finally, though it is a longshot, all Wiggins did his freshman season was create questions over whether he is a safe option as the first overall selection. I struggle to see why either team would pass over Wiggins for his services, but I also wouldn’t have drafted Anthony Bennett in the top-ten of last year’s draft, let alone first overall.
The last thing to take away from the lottery as far as it pertains to the 76ers is how fortunate they were for the Pelicans to stay at their 10th slot. It may be an argument that cannot be quantified, but I would venture that the difference between the 12th and 10th best prospect is slightly greater than the 3rd and 1st. With a 10th overall pick in this draft, Philadelphia will be able to secure a legitimate talent at whatever vacancy that their first selection leaves behind. Common names attached to that slot are Gary Harris (SG-Michigan State), James Young (SF-Kentucky), Doug McDermott (SF-Creighton), and even Aaron Gordon (F-Arizona). The 76ers enter the draft with pressing needs all over the floor. By having two picks in the top ten, they can address these needs and still most likely be able to take the best player available. Though it is only three slots difference, a player selected 10th in this year’s class could end up making a whole lot of noise.
Tuesday night was not the party we had all hoped for. There are probably droves of 76ers fans who went to sleep frustrated with the take after the futility of the season leading up to it. The lottery Gods were not kind enough to grant us a month-long Andrew Wiggins love-fest to keep us from having to watch the Phillies. Yet while we all sulk over retaining the strongest position in the draft out of every team in the NBA, the Philadelphia front office is undoubtedly ramping up the preparation for June’s draft. General manager Sam Hinkie was given a great deal of control and power to manage any and all results of how Tuesday night turned out. Given how detailed a figure Hinkie is, one has to think collecting the 3rd overall and 10th overall picks had to rank high on his potential outcomes list. The time for daydreaming and getting greedy is behind us. Now starts the hard work, analysis, and maneuvering that is preparing for the 2014 NBA Draft. For the 76ers, even with Tuesday’s outcome, it is a draft that can still round out a young core that will rival any and all in the NBA.