Philadelphia 76ers: Does Daryl Morey even want to draft a player at 28?

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

As things presently stand, the Philadelphia 76ers have two picks in the 2021 NBA Draft; pick number 28 and pick number 50.

Could that change? Most definitely. Daryl Morey was notorious for not using his draft picks during his tenure in Houston, and that worked out pretty darn well for the Rockets over his decade-plus with the team. But in Philly? South Philly? Morey’s first draft went fairly typically when compared to Elton Brand‘s run of things the year prior.

21st overall? Tyrese Maxey. 49th overall? Isaiah Joe. Heck, Morey even struck gold on Paul Reed with the pen-penultimate pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, who went on to win basically every award the G-League had to offer.

The only sort of available picks the Sixers didn’t use on draft night were the 34th overall selection, which was shipped out in the Danny Green-Al Horford trade, and the 36th overall pick, which was included alongside Josh Richardson to steal Seth Curry away from the Dallas Mavericks.

But honestly, does anyone expect that trend to roll into 2021’s iteration of the most exciting pre-season night of the NBA calendar? Personally, I wouldn’t put money on it.

Daryl Morey should utilize pick 28 to make the Philadelphia 76ers better, period.

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What can the 28th overall pick get you really? Well, in the last five drafts, it’s garnered teams Jaden McDaniels, Jordan Poole, Jacob Evans, Skal Labissière, and our old pal Tony Bradley, all of whom are still in the league but aren’t exactly stars by any identifiable metric.

Is that a bit misleading? Sure. For every Bradley drafted 28th, you’ll get a Derrick White picked 29th, or a Josh Hart picked 30th overall. But in said last five drafts, you won’t find a single All-Star selected outside of the top-27, with Malcolm Brogdon probably serving as the highest-touted player among the 165 eligible players.

No, to find an All-Star drafted outside of that range, one has to go all the way back to 2014, when the anomaly known in China as Fat Cola (Nikola Jokic) was drafted 41st overall out of Sombor, Serbia.

Could the Sixers get lucky and land the next Joker? I mean sure, anything possible – why not add a little cola to the Sherley Temple cabinet? – but if recent history is of any indication, the final 33 picks of any given draft are best served to land quality role players who top out at the fourth-starter on a good team sort of level if they fully pan out.

That, my friends, is a tough ask for a team looking to win now, especially in a draft as unusual as 2021’s offering.

What isn’t quite so tough is to trade said pick for an established player(s) that, for one reason or another, is in the market for a change of scenery. The Brooklyn Nets took on such a trade in 2017 when they shipped pick 2017 and the final year of Brook Lopez’s contract to the Los Angeles Lakers for Timofey Mozgov’s bad contract and the rights to mildly underwhelming second overall pick D’Angelo Russell.

Say what you will about Russell now – how he doesn’t deserve a max contract, shouldn’t have garnered such an expansive return from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and has failed to turn a pairing with Karl-Anthony Towns into anything fruitful – but he was the dude in Brooklyn during the pre-KD-era and surely helped to play a part in the team transforming into what they are today.

Are there players on the open market right now, guys on a contract worth less than the Al Hofrod trade exception ($8.19 million) who could effectively serve as pre-agent additions to the squad? Sure. While the exact players available for said pick are unknowable – seriously, who expected to land a Curry for Richardson and a high second? – it’s conceivable that 20 of the NBA’s teams would exchange some rotational player for the contractual flexibility of a four-year rookie contract player, from D.J. Augustin, to Kevon Looney, or even Kevin Knox, depending on the particular flavor of player/prospect a team is looking for.

Would the Sixers look foolish to trade four years of a player like Josh Hart for a veteran player headed for an extension in the not-too-distant future? That is 100 percent a possibility, but why draft a player who could maybe turn into the next Josh Hart when actual Josh Hart could potentially be had for 28 straight up?

That was largely Morey’s philosophy in Houston, and it never garnered him a losing season in over a dozen tries.

Factor in the potential for Philly to godfather together “the big one” for a player like Damian Lillard, and the chances of the Sixers walking away from the July 29th draft appear to fall somewhere between the number of wins the Philadelphia Eagles will muster in 2021 and the number of weeks it’ll take for WIP callers to suggest benching Jalen Hurts for Joe Flacco; you tell me which is higher.

Next. Kyle Lowry could have been Jrue Holiday 2.0. dark

No matter how much we romanticize the cultivation of homegrown talent, the NBA is a star-driven league. While stars can theoretically come from anywhere, just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, the back half and change of the NBA Draft hasn’t been a particularly fruitful breeding ground for future All-Stars, let alone MVP candidates in years past. When said selection of amateur offerings is instead better for landing roleplayer-level talent, it may make more sense for Daryl Morey to fall back on what he knows, trade the pick for a well-fitting veteran in the same age range as Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, and wish a player like Terance Mann well in his future endeavors. Eh, at least they’ll always have a Philadelphia 76ers hat on in their draft day photos.