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The NBA draft is only a couple of hours away, and things are getting extremely interested at this point. While everyone is aware that teams are throwing up smokescreens and false rumors left and right, there is still plenty of realness coming out of the news that should raise some concerns. Being a Sixers fan, the rumor mill is stressful because of our magician GM, Sam Hinkie. Hinkie is amazing, and I love everything that he’s done to this point, but he is definitely a mastermind of playing the game.
While I’m not too worried about what the Sixers will do with their third pick tonight, I’m nervous about the way the first two picks will play out, and I honestly think it could really screw up the straightforward pick for the Sixers. It seems like the majority of the fan base is hoping to see the former Buckeye, D’Angelo Russell hold up a 76ers jersey tonight, which would be my preference as well; however, I’m growing more and more convinced that someone will nab him at #2.
Let me make it clear, I would be perfectly fine if the Sixers ended up with Jahlil Okafor, but I would hope that Hinkie could work more magic and package Embiid and our slew of picks to someone for another solid first round selection. Ideally, this would be to somehow grab Emmanuel Mudiay and fill in our guard role.
Although it has seemed like the two first picks would more than likely be Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, leaving Russell safely available for the Sixers, things are beginning to heat up and speculation is moving towards Russell coming off the board at #2. While I would normally be one to brush off the rumors and sit back knowing there is no true way to predict what will happen tonight, I’m beginning to get this bad feeling in my stomach.
The most recent news has been that the Lakers are trying to acquire a big man through trade or free agency. They have apparently been pursuing a trade for DeMarcus Cousins, but the Kings have a high asking price that includes the #2 pick. The current asking price for Cousins seems to be the second overall pick, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Whether this deal goes down or not, I don’t see the Lakers giving up their pick without acquiring the Kings’ first round #6 selection as well.
Were this to happen, it would probably point towards the Kings wanting to take Russell at #2 while having another young first round talent in power forward Julius Randle to be paired with the guard and usher in a new era for the Kings with promising young players.
This would leave the Lakers with one of the league’s best big men in Cousins as well as the ability to nab the other top guard prospect, Emmanuel Mudiay, in the #6 slot while the Sixers are awkwardly left with three big men and no guard.
The other possibility is the Lakers just take Russell at their current draft spot. The other reports that have been coming out is the Lakers are also very interested in acquiring LaMarcus Aldridge if he chooses to depart from Portland. This is much more of a gamble because Aldridge is not completely committed to leaving the Trail Blazers yet and other teams would also be in hot pursuit.
San Antonio is apparently still his personal number one destination choice.
Should the Lakers be so confident that drafting Russell would boost their appeal to Aldridge, it could easily be grounds for them to draft Kobe’s replacement at #2. I’m sure that they believe these pieces could land them in the playoffs for one or two more championship runs before his retirement.
So what about the Sixers?
So where does this leave the Sixers when all is said and done? As I mentioned before, I think it’s a no-brainer that they take Okafor if Russell disappears. While this would leave the team with three big men and some decisions to make, Okafor offers you younger, healthier, more proven talent. The college standout is praised for his post movements with people claiming he has immense talent for the role.
Yes, Embiid was the correct pick last year because the prospects after him just didn’t seem worth it. I was totally down with taking the risk and seeing if it plays out and lands the Sixers with “the next Hakeem Olajuwon,” but it has definitely been horrible to hear that his progress towards a return has been delayed even longer.
I think it’s clear that the Sixers only have two moves should Russell go at #2. They either stick with what they have in Noel and Embiid and draft the second top guard prospect, Mudiay. Or they take the big hyped center in Okafor and try to move either Embiid or Noel for a player or future pick(s).
The safe play is to take Mudiay. You fill the top need on your team and acquire a guard that has tons of positive reviews so far. I would be fine with this, but I don’t know a whole lot about Mudiay and would easily admit that it would feel like a consolation prize after losing out on Russell who is apparently the whole package. Mudiay apparently has great ball handling skills combined with speed at an appealing height of 6’5″, but lacks a jump shot. After dealing with Michael-Carter Williams, another player that couldn’t shoot, Mudiay seems like a consolation prize compared to Russell, who has great shooting and passing abilities as well as an ability to find the lane.
It would feel like a consolation prize that I wasn’t entirely sold on.
The other option is Okafor. While there would be complaints about drafting big men three years in a row with another year of possible tanking ahead, the pick would at least guarantee the Sixers a healthy proven pair of big men when sticking him on the floor with Noel. This would also mean Embiid would become a solid trade piece.
The one thing I hope doesn’t happen is the Sixers taking Kristaps Porzingis. While I think this is nothing more than a smokescreen to put pressure on the Magic, it’s the least favorite speculation I have heard. I don’t think there is any chance the Sixers grab Porzingis with Mudiay or Okafor still on the board, but you never know.
Who do they take?
After doing some research and discussing the draft with friends who know more about it than I do, it seems like with Russell gone Mudiay would be the pick. He has huge hype, lots of superstar potential, and would fill their big need of a guard. The organization apparently likes him a lot, and I think it would create the least amount of backlash with the local press and fans.
Yes, I said Mudiay would, to me, feel like a consolation prize; however, that would fade quickly because I understand there would be nothing else I can do aside from be excited to see what he can do when the season rolls around. The Sixers need a guard, and although there is still tons of worry around the Embiid situation, drafting Mudiay would safely fill a need with a good prospect rather than complicate our big man situation and leave us fans wondering if we have to watch another season of full on tanking.
In the end, I have absolutely no idea what will happen (obviously). I think the Sixers will definitely end up with one of the two guards mentioned and everything else stays the same with little to no panic moving forward. There’s definitely a chance they take Okafor if they believe he brings more value to the table, and although it would definitely be more worrisome, I’m okay with that pick as well.
No matter what, it seems like this draft will leave us with one, if not more, talented players moving forward. There is roughly seven hours or so until the draft begins on ESPN tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern time, and who knows what news stories will come out.