Now that we know where the Philadelphia 76ers will select in the NBA draft on June 25, we can spend the next month speculating about who they’ll take.
Luckily for them, the third spot isn’t a bad one this year, considering there are four players who are considered the cream of the crop.
So far, that is.
But considering we don’t know who may impress between now and June 25, I have to assume one of the following four players will be among the likeliest to land in Philly: Jakil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, or Emmanuel Mudiay.
The list is divided between big men (Okafor, Towns) and point guards (Russell, Mudiay). Now because we don’t know what will happen with the first two selections, the Sixers may be forced to decide between taking a power forward/center, an area they have seemingly taken care of with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, or filling their biggest need at the point guard spot.
Here’s the answer: They should draft their best available player. If they think Okafor will have the biggest impact, take him. If it’s Russell, take him. If it’s someone we have never heard of, take him, as long as it works out.
But if they draft a big man, why would it make sense to have three players who play roughly the same position, all of whom will be looking for heavy minutes? Shouldn’t they just fill their biggest need in a draft that has point guard talent?
If they have Towns or Okafor high on their list, and either one’s available, then no, especially not in this case. Despite the high expectations of Embiid, last year’s foot injury just before the draft should be concerning enough to make you seriously wonder if he’ll have an injury-plagued career, and the Sixers need to have a backup plan in case they’re stung with the worst-case scenario. Even if Embiid proves he’s not a Yao Ming or Bill Walton health-wise, the Sixers will have a high-quality problem that they can use to their benefit in a trade opportunity.
Also keep in mind how rare it is to find talented big men who have the potential to be among the best in the league, versus how common it is to acquire a skilled guard. Due to the NBA’s rules benefiting backcourt players, it’s much easier for them to excel, even if they’re not the most talented.
Of course, the only problem with this plan is not knowing for sure if Embiid is truly injury-plagued for several years, assuming he doesn’t reinjure himself immediately after playing again. But if the Sixers take a guard who isn’t as high on their list, it could create an even bigger problem down the road.