As if ESPN’s 21st century microphones at the Sixers draft party weren’t enough, I as a primary source can confirm that “boos” showered throughout Dilworth Park when the Lakers selected point guard D’Angelo Russell right before the Sixers could snag him. With free t-shirts snuggled around our heads to shield the torrential downpour given to us by Mother Nature, us Sixers fans were now faced with the task of erasing Russell from our imaginary depth charts. The Sixers then proceeded to draft talented big man Jahlil Okafor out of Duke who, for a long time, was considered the top prospect in this 2015 class: quite the consolation prize and then some. The excitement of scooping up a NCAA national champion in Okafor, however, was mostly swept under the rug because of one looming question:
What were the Sixers going to do at the point guard position?
A majority of those who are astute in their basketball knowledge capacity can attest to the fact that the point guard and the center are the two most crucial positions in the sport. The Sixers have half of the equation figured out as they have drafted three seven-foot centers who all equally have the upside of becoming perennial all-star-type talents. As for the point guard position, Sixers fans have been scratching their heads waiting for the organization to mold together any type of consistency. The most promising guard on the Sixers roster may very well be Tony Wroten, but Wroten spent a chunk of last season (which was only his third NBA season) injured. Other than Wroten, the organization has been dealt a small sample size from its other promising young guard in Isiah Canaan, while letting 10-day contract auditions like Tim Frazier and Larry Drew eventually fizzle out. Oh, and Michael Carter-Williams was traded, which didn’t help the point guard conundrum at all.
That being said, the noise was warranted. All of the chatter surrounding the Sixers point guard disparity had substance and social media, radio, and television all over Philadelphia made sure it was known. Suddenly, however, this chatter stopped. As recently as a week ago, the Sixers point guard situation has been pushed away from center stage and many don’t seem to be sweating it as much as they were on draft night any longer.
Why has the ‘no point guard’ argument lost its following? I’ve come up with three solid reasons that explain why.
1. The signing of Pierre Jackson
The best way to silence the worries of fans who believe the Sixers backcourt is thin is to actually sign another point guard: seems simple right? The Pierre Jackson (or “Pappy Jack”) experiment started a year later than the Sixers would’ve enjoyed, as the 5-foot-10 guard tore his Achilles tendon while a member of the 2014 Sixers Orlando Pro Summer League team. Nevertheless, after a year of documented hard work and rehab, Jackson earned a spot on this year’s Sixers 2015 Vegas Pro Summer League team and eventually inked a 4-year deal on July 15th. Jackson chalked up around 17 points and 6.5 assists during his college career at Baylor, while proving he can be a valuable threat from behind the three-point arc at a 40 percent clip. With the young, athletic talent the Sixers have assembled on their front line, a point guard like Pappy Jack who can advance the ball the full length of the floor at a quick pace seems to be a match made in heaven.
2. Joel Embiid’s injury
According to the Nerlens Noel progression paradigm, Joel Embiid should only have to sit out one year before finally lacing up in his second season. Unfortunately, this train of thought didn’t pan out as a setback in Embiid’s healing is going to require a second season-ending foot surgery. Looking in hindsight, many Sixers fans feel Sam Hinkie and the Sixers would be better off with Okafor instead of Russell when factoring in the Joel Embiid injury. Many fans, including myself, were assuming on draft night that Embiid would be ready come November and the acquisition of Russell would form into a suddenly scary starting line-up. A weak Eastern conference hierarchy caused the ever-so-popular “win now” proclamation to creep its way in South Philly, but after the news of Embiid’s foot hit the waves, fans have come to realize that another year of rebuilding may be in store. With another year of rebuilding comes less of a dire need to patch up any sort of point guard problems that may exist, therefore pushing the argument into oblivion.
3. Jahlil Okafor’s Summer League Play
Many years have come and gone since Sixers fans have been able to obtain immediate, tangible excitement over one of their highly anticipated first round draft picks. Injuries and a lockout stricken season left Sixers fans year after year clinging to merely college highlights and hope. This July, however, the Sixers were finally able to unveil their new raw prospect in Okafor in both the Utah and Vegas Summer Leagues. Okafor’s presence in itself warrants a “double take”; the 19-year-old towers at 6-foot-11 and carves out space with his 275-pound frame. Okafor has shown a knack for being able to use his size to his advantage by playing through contact and finishing convential three-point plays with regularity. His performances in both summer leagues suggest he can pull the load of a 20-10 type player in the future, and that in itself has warranted several Tim Duncan-esque comparisons from basketball junkies. So why has this quieted the point guard buzz? For one, Jah put up a stellar performance against D’Angelo Russell and the Lakers in the Vegas summer league, including a sensational block on Russell just before halftime. In so many words, his play has outshined Russell’s in all possible ways. In addition, if Okafor is as groundbreaking a player as he seems to be shaping into, having a PG slot inhabited by an all-star by November isn’t exactly the number one objective. For now, the best objective may be to let Okafor’s talents continue to develop, and the right type of point guard will eventually settle into place.
So while the Sixers will eventually reach a day where they need make a decision on a long-term answer at the PG position, rushing management into finding the clear-cut solution before this season rolls around simply isn’t as crucial as we may have thought.
The ‘no point guard’ argument has, ironically, lost its point.