The Philadelphia 76ers took a huge risk by drafting injured players two years in a row, but they have also given themselves the best chance of being the team to duplicate the Oklahoma Thunder‘s style of building a team through the draft.
The 76ers have had the tantalizing option to draft the widely regarded best players in consecutive draft classes. Their terrible play in 2013 landed them Nerlens Noel, and their repeat misfortune in 2014 landed them Joel Embiid, perhaps the best talent in the 2014 class.
Both Noel and Embiid have similar body types. They are the new breed of long and lean big men who are as quick as they are tall. Neither uses brute strength to overpower anyone, but both are excellent defenders. Noel has next to no offensive game, but this is alright for the time being. He will have his rookie season to develop his offensive game while Embiid rehabs.
Embiid already has a basic back-to-the-basket game and a nice jump shot too. When he and Noel are on the floor together, he will undoubtedly be the go-to scorer. The floor spacing will work itself out because coach Brett Brown will help improve the passing skills of the two, and potentially play one of the two at the elbow to make space for the other. Both are relatively raw, so it shouldn’t be a problem to get them to adjust to a new area of the floor.
Philadelphia’s frontcourt will be defensively intimidating and should block shots at will. Noel averaged an absurd 4.4 BLKPG in college while Embiid averaged 2.6. The Sixers as a team averaged 4.02. This statistic alone shows that the Sixers management has made some strides in the right direction by shoring up their interior defense.
And yet, we haven’t even got to their last first round draftee Dario Saric. Saric can come off the bench and perform as yet another facilitator to keep the offense running. Michael Carter-Williams is already the best passer on the team, but Saric will give him a run for his money.
The Sixers have their frontcourt for the next decade established, and MCW will hold down the point guard spot. All they need to do is fill in the wing positions. They can do this through the next draft or free agency. Philly has around $30 million in cap space, so they do have options.
The Sixers have made it known that they don’t plan on using their cap space anytime soon, and with good reason. They are in the rebuilding stages, but everything is going to plan so far. In two years, Saric will come over to the NBA, and Philly’s young core will have a few seasons under their belt. That is when the team can strike in free agency.
The run-and-gun style the Sixers play suits their roster well, and combining it with a Gregg Popovich disciple running the show will make the team appealing to free agents once the 76ers becomes a postseason contender. The Sixers are fortunate to be in the Eastern Conference, where they can squeak into the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Because the Sixers roster will be largely the same as the one that won 19 games last year, it is safe to assume they will be heading toward the lottery again. In next draft class, GM Sam Hinkie will surely find a wing player he likes amongst the uber-athletic crop that includes Emmanuel Mudiay of SMU, Stanley Johnson from Arizona, Kelly Oubre from Kansas, and even Croatian prospect Mario Hezonja.
If the Sixers keep this core together and keeping adding to it, they could have something special. They could boast a team that could potentially have no player shorter than 6-foot-5 on the floor at all times. The have a great coach with a solid staff around him. Basically, the potential for greatness is there. Only time will tell if they can become the OKC Thunder of the East, or if they will fade into mediocrity.