When you’ve been one of the NBA’s worst teams the last couple of seasons and are in a major rebuilding project, the draft is your biggest night of the year. All that losing this past season helped earn the Philadelphia 76ers the third pick in this year’s draft, and they better not screw it up.
So who should the 76ers select, and who will they select?
All signs point to the Minnesota Timberwolves taking Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick, and rightly so. He’s widely regarded as the best talent in the draft, and I agree. The Los Angeles Lakers’ pick at No. 2 gets a bit more interesting. They’re reportedly mostly set on Jahlil Okafor but have entertained the possibility of drafting D’Angelo Russell, considering they’re trying to trade for the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins. I don’t think that’ll happen, though, so the Lakers will end up with Okafor, a solid selection.
At No. 3, two possibilities have been connected to the 76ers for the most part: Russell and Kristaps Porzingis, a 19-year-old 7-foot-1 Latvian who’s known for his shooting and his 7-6 wingspan. Emmanuel Mudiay has an outside chance to be selected here, but not likely.
The Sixers have reportedly increased their interest in Porzingis since he started working out for NBA teams, resulting in several mock drafts predicting the Sixers to select him. Perhaps team president and general manager Sam Hinkie will follow the same train of thought he had when acquiring Dario Saric in last year’s draft.
That won’t happen, though, and quite frankly, it better not. Since 1998, 18 Europeans have been selected in the draft lottery, and only two (Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol) have made an All-Star team. Coincidentally, Porzingis has been compared to Nowitzki. Perhaps more importantly, so have several other Europeans.
Russell, though, has a much better chance of achieving his potential. He has solid size for a point guard, an all-around game, and strong outside shooting ability. He’s not as athletic as others such as Mudiay, but perhaps that quality (or lack thereof) doesn’t pose as big of a risk considering the same was said about Stephen Curry and James Harden. Part of me wants to say Mudiay is the better choice because of his athleticism and size, which is even more impressive than Russell, but it’s almost impossible to know for sure considering I’ve seen so little of him. So even though I’m willing to say Mudiay could end up having a better career, I’d be on board with Russell.
I expect the Sixers not to outthink themselves and go with Russell. Remember, they probably wouldn’t have given up so fast on Michael Carter-Williams if they didn’t think they could find someone better relatively soon at the point guard position. So it wouldn’t make sense at this point to steer away from that plan, especially when considering the risk of selecting a European that high in the draft.