After two years that netted a combined 37 wins, the Philadelphia 76ers should be closer to the end of their “tanking” years than the beginning, having drawn the third pick in this year’s NBA Draft following Tuesday night’s lottery.
At least, they better be.
Once they make their selection June 25, they’ll have two players picked third and one (Nerlens Noel) picked sixth. If they can’t get out of the NBA’s basement with these players, then president/general manager Sam Hinkie will have some explaining to do.
After all this time of wheeling and dealing, and waiting for draftees to perform due to injury, we’ll have the opportunity to see how three of his top players from the draft (assuming no injuries at the last minute) play together.
Would the Sixers have been better off had they had received the Miami Heat’s and Los Angeles Lakers’ picks? Or if they had picked first or second? Sure. But Hinkie had already said he didn’t expect to receive either pick this year and that the most likely outcome was to pick fourth. Thus, there are no excuses in terms of saying things didn’t go his way. If anything, the Sixers should be, and are, pleased with the outcome.
Their draft spot almost guarantees they’ll get a much-needed player. There had been discussion over whether they should draft a big man, such as Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahil Okafor, or a point guard, such as D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay. If these prove to be the four most coveted players, the Sixers will get one of them. Any of them would improve the team, but in the end, it’s up to Hinkie to make the right selection, even if that means picking someone outside of this group.
In the past, the third spot has been hit or miss. Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kevin McHale, Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, and James Harden were picked third, but so were Dennis Hopson, Chris Jackson, Darius Miles, and Adam Morrison. Looking back from 1980 to 2010, just less than half of players picked No. 3 ended up with productive careers that included multiple All-Star appearances.
So if Hinkie really is the one to assemble a championship-caliber team, he’ll prove his worth in this draft. After June 25, there’s no more waiting. No more excuses. He’ll have his three players to form the core, and they’ll start playing together. One of them needs to emerge as one of the NBA’s best at their respective position, or Hinkie, who loves to play the odds, will have failed to meet them.