After countless agonizingly anticipatory months of waiting, debating, over-analyzing and picking apart every tidbit of information that’s surfaced surrounding potential Philadelphia 76ers targets and the completely unpredictable Sam Hinkie, the 2015 NBA Draft is now literally only a handful of days away. But until the very moment the draft starts and the Sixers are given the stage when the No. 3 pick is due, the speculation and debate will only continue. Do the Sixers take D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay and fill the gaping void at point guard? If so, is Russell or Mudiay the right man for the job? What about Kristaps Porzingis? Is the lengthy Latvian with a pure shooting stroke intended to provide security surrounding the unanswered questions in Philly’s post? Or what should Hinkie and the Sixers do if Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor is still on the board after Minnesota and Los Angeles take first pickings?
Each are very serious question with potentially franchise-changing results and there are plausible cases supporting and criticizing each would-be scenario.
From the jump, I’ve been a faithful member of the group that feels going guard would be the right decision for Philly – especially considering there’s two potential All-Star caliber talents that will likely be available and teams simply don’t win championships without great guards with the exception of the Miami Heat with LeBron James.
I’ve long said there’s no reason to stock up on big men in preparation of Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid never panning out, when that’s a road that may never need crossing. But in opposition to my own stand on what would be the best move for Philly June 25, there is one talent that’s simply too special to pass up if he’s still on the board at No. 3 – Karl Towns.
Towns, Okafor and Porzingis are all unquestionably viewed as the most coveted big men in the draft. Porzingis has plenty of holes in his game and areas where he’ll need some serious improvements before he’s ever able to step up as a featured player on any roster. Philly doesn’t need another high-upside project that could quite possibly never pan out. Okafor is viewed as one of, if not the most offensively gifted low-post presence to enter the league in the last decade, but his defensive limitations and lock as a true center don’t make sense from a potential fit standpoint, which has been considered the area of concern with Noel if he’s never able to play alongside Joel Embiid as a power forward.
And then there’s Towns.
As arguably the highest upside prospect in the draft with notable strengths in just about every facet of his game, Towns is viewed as the favorite to have his name called first in the NBA Draft. If Towns doesn’t go No. 1 – which is quite possible as reports say Timberwolves GM Flip Saunders prefers Okafor over Towns – it’s as close to a guarantee as humanly possible that the Lakers ensure he anchors their paint next season.
It would be nothing short of a mini-miracle for Towns to still be sitting hatless when Hinkie is set to handpick is next potential cornerstone, and in this case, it would be completely justifiable – as if Hinkie cares about justifying his decisions – for Philly to completely ignore needs and makes Towns a Sixer.
Hinkie and the Sixers have made it perfectly clear that the goal is always best player available. Towns is already viewed by many as the best player in the entire draft, and SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell makes a case as to why it’s not even a close race. In this regard, Towns would be a no-brainer. But he’s also the safest pick, too, as the lottery-lock with virtually no glaring holes in his game, as noted in O’Donnell’s column.
“What’s really jarring is that Towns doesn’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses. Scouts can question Okafor’s defense, D’Angelo Russell’s athleticism, Emmanuel Mudiay’s shooting and Kristaps Porzingis’ frame, but there’s nothing to nitpick with Towns. After watching him at a private workout, ESPN’s Chad Ford described Towns with the most ridiculous hypothetical imaginable: “What if Dwight Howard could shoot, dribble and move the way James Harden does?”
And then there’s the whole “fit with Embiid” concerns that have hovered over Noel since the day Embiid became a Sixer, along with the no growing wonders of whether Embiid will be the one that may never pan out with continual setbacks in his foot recovery and an already lengthy injury history. Alongside a healthy Embiid, Towns would be yet another shot blocking force with tremendous size at 7 feet, 250 pounds with guard-like skills and a pure shooting touch out to the perimeter. Alongside Noel, that same frame could defend bigger bodies down low while Noel continues to fill out and stretch the floor offensively with ease – a role Noel will be expected to do next to Embiid, where he’ll have more than enough work to do.
Regardless of which Philly big he was stuck next to, Towns would have no issue finding his way and contributing in a wide array of areas. The same can’t be said for any other big man in this draft, and with the looming concerns for Noel’s fit and Embiid’s health, Towns would be the one big man worth passing up on a potential franchise floor general to land.