Exactly 20 Years Later, 76ers Once Again Faced with Franchise Altering Decision

May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown (right) poses with NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum after the 76ers receive the first pick in the 2016 NBA draft during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown (right) poses with NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum after the 76ers receive the first pick in the 2016 NBA draft during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

As the NBA Draft Approaches, the Philadelphia 76ers are faced with a decision that will impact the direction of the franchise for years to come.

On June 23, 2016, in Brooklyn, The Philadelphia 76ers will undoubtedly be faced with the most important draft choice in the franchise’s most recent history.

The last time the 76ers held the number one overall pick in the NBA draft, nearly two decades ago, the Sixers faced a lot of question marks for a team that seemed to be going nowhere. They needed an answer with that number one pick.

And an answer they got.

More from Philadelphia 76ers

When then commissioner David Stern came up to the podium on that June night back in 1996, the first words that came out of his mouth changed the Philadelphia 76ers franchise forever and propelled them back into NBA legitimacy.

“With the first pick in the 1996 NBA draft, The Philadelphia 76ers select…. Allen Iverson from Georgetown University”.

From then on, Iverson became a star, not only in Philadelphia but in the NBA, garnering multiple all star appearances, a rookie of the year award, a finals appearance in 2001 and an MVP in that same season. And soon, the NBA Hall of Fame will welcome Iverson to the highest honor possible in the NBA.

The decision made by the 76ers that night was one management needed to get right. And they hit it out of the park.

20 years later, general manager Bryan Colangelo and company face that same decision that will either send the Sixers out of the basement and back into relevancy or have the franchise in limbo for another couple of years.

For now, the first pick is either going to be LSU’s Ben Simmons, a point forward with superstar potential or Duke’s Brandon Ingram, a lanky wing with a scorers touch the Sixers severely lack.

Either pick will seem to work out, but with the first overall pick the Sixers need to make the choice on which player (Simmons or Ingram presumably) has a higher upside.

Let’s take a look a potentially the number one and two overall picks in the 2016 NBA draft.

Mar 12, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) controls the ball in the first half against the Texas A&M Aggies during the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Ben Simmons

The son of a former professional basketball player, Simmons, who will turn 20 in July, was talked about in basketball circles before he stepped onto LSU’s campus last year, Lofty comparisons have been thrown at Simmons for the past year, from LeBron James to Lamar Odom to even Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown saying that he sees a bit of Magic Johnson in the Aussie’s skill set. 

Simmons emerged early as the real deal as a freshman for LSU, posting a stat line of 19.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 4.8 APG, impressive numbers for a 6’10 forward. What sets Simmons apart from the rest of his draft class, besides his unlimited potential, is his ability to run an offense at that size.

The body of a forward with the ball skills of a guard, Simmons provides the 76ers with a plethora of options on the offensive side of the ball, as a matchup nightmare and presumably the primary ball handler on the offense for Philadelphia. Think a more athletic Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, a more fair comparison for the 19-year-old.

Now every prospect comes with their flaws, and Simmons is no exception. The biggest flaw to his game is well, to put bluntly, Simmons can’t shoot. In many games last year, there were times where opposing defenses would leave Simmons with much space around the perimeter forcing Simmons to take the shot (shot 33% from three) who pass up the shot.

The good thing, though, with Simmons is that the jump shot isn’t broken as it shows much room for improvement and with an NBA developmental staff, the 76ers should not be concerned with a prospect with a raw jump shot (see: Kawhi Leonard).

As great as Simmons play making ability is, there were many moments where he would pass up on critical moments and suddenly disappear. at times during crunch time. Some have questions Simmons’ heart for the game and whether or not he has it in him to take over a game as a superstar should.

I do think a lot of this has to do with his shot, with his below average jumper, Simmons probably lacked the confidence to have the ball in his hand late in the game. Building up that jumper and then his confidence will pay dividends for the 76ers who could very well pick the Aussie with the first overall pick.

March 24, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) reacts during the 82-68 loss against Oregon Ducks during the second half of the semifinal game in the West regional of the NCAA Tournament at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Brandon Ingram

Over a full year younger than Simmons, Ingram, who won’t turn 19 until September, is in the eyes of many NBA people a better prospect than Simmons and is more deserving of the first overall pick. With the first look at Brandon Ingram, his frame screams Kevin Durant as the Duke freshman is listed at 6’9 195, but could very well be skinnier than that.

One thing about his frame that counteracts his undersized frame, his freakish length which helps his game immensely both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. A long wingspan helps Ingram finish over defenders whether it be at the rim or on a pull up as well as helps him either convert steals or blocks on the other side of the ball.

Ingram’s greatest strength, which is perhaps Simmons greatest weakness is his shot. Averaging around 17 points per game his freshman year at Duke, Ingram has knack outside on the wing to create his own shot and convert it, something that was nowhere to be seen on the 76ers last year, Ingram has also shown up when his team needed him most, putting up a great showing in the NCAA tournament (Simmons and LSU did not appear).

Next: Why Should The Sixers Trade A Big Now?

Ingram looks, logically the best pick for the Sixers as his length and touch in the mid-range will fill huge holes for the Sixers as they get ready for the long-awaited debut of Joel Embiid and the also the arrival of Dario Saric from overseas. But, will Simmons’ transcendent talent potential have him as the number one pick for Philly.

We are nearly three weeks out Sixers fans, until Philadelphia, nearly 20 years later, awaits for another question to be answered.