"Eyy, rock the baby to sleep with a slam dunk." That call in 1983 was in reference to the magical dunk put on display by none other than the doctor himself, Julius Erving. That same year, the Philadelphia 76ers won the NBA Championship, beating the Magic Johnson led Los Angeles Lakers in a four-game sweep. In those days, the 76ers were extremely fun to watch. Their constant rivalry with the Lakers caused eyes all over the country to gaze upon their bright, clunky televisions. Two stars, who were role models for millions of children all over the world, going head-to-head every year. What could be more exciting?
The Philadelphia 76ers need to find a way to assemble a team just like the one that won the NBA Championship in '83 with Dr. J. They need to bring back the excitement. The fans in Philadelphia need something to cheer about and something to get genuinely enthusiastic about. Philly fans are ready to get hype again, but their teams, especially the 76ers have not allowed for them to do so. With some better picking in their drafts, the Sixers could put together a team that could compete for years to come. So far they have done an okay job, but they still have always to go. Long story short: LET'S GET SOME GOOD PLAYERS IN PHILLY!
The following list is a ranking of the last 22 first round draft selections of the Philadelphia 76ers, since the legendary '96 draft when they took Allen Iverson first overall.
23 Jiří Welsch - 2002
As you'll see with several other names on this list, Jiri Welsch was drafted in the first round by Philly, 16th overall, back in 2002 but was immediately traded. The Sixers sent Welsch to the Golden State Warriors for a future first round pick and a future second round pick. He was a bust with the Warriors, only spending one season with them. He averaged just 1.6 points per game, 0.8 rebounds per game, and 0.7 assists per game in 37 games. The Warriors traded him to Dallas in a multi-player trade midway through the 2002-03 season.
He never played a game with Dallas and was traded to the Boston Celtics in October 2003. His Celtics run was the best of his career, averaging 8.5 PPG in 136 games. Welsch eventually made stops in Cleveland and Milwaukee before leaving the NBA. He last played in the NBL, the Czech Republic's top basketball league, for the ČEZ Basketball Nymburk.
22 Elfrid Payton - 2014
Much like some other names on this list, Elfrid Payton never actually played a game for the Sixers, as they traded him after selecting him on draft night in 2014. Payton was traded to the Orlando Magic for Dario Saric, a future first round pick and a future second round pick. It's hard to rank him any higher on the list, considering he's only played two full NBA seasons, since there's still his whole career ahead of him.
As far as what the Sixers got in return for Payton, Saric is still unproven, as he only signed with Philadelphia this past summer and has mostly been a bench player during his time in Philly. Perhaps we'll have to do an update on this list in a few years to see how valuable drafting and trading Payton was for the Sixers.
21 Evan Turner - 2010
Evan Turner was selected second overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. While many people will probably argue that he does not deserve to be ranked as the worst 76ers pick over their last 20, I think he is by far the worst one. The reasoning is simple. Number one, he was a mediocre player for the Sixers, and is still just an okay player. And number two, he was drafted over players that are MUCH better than him. Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Eric Bledsoe, and Avery Bradley were all selected after Evan Turner.
While this may be a bit dramatic because he is not really that bad, these players could have set the 76ers in the right direction much, much quicker than they are now.
20 Larry Hughes - 1998
Larry Hughes was drafted eighth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. Hughes is a lot like the next player on this list in that he did not have a bad career and was not a bad player, but he was definitely not as good as the players selected after him. Unfortunately for the 76ers, they decided to draft Hughes over Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. Sure, they had no idea that either of those players would turn out to be future Hall of Famers, but they are, and the Sixers clearly made a mistake. It is unfortunate that the Sixers made two straight draft mistakes because had they not, they could have ended up with an Allen Iverson-Tracy McGrady-Nowitzki/Pierce combination that would have been extremely comparable to some of the "Big 3's" we have in our NBA today.
While Hughes was out of the league in 2012, both Nowitzki and Pierce are still playing in the NBA. Also, Hughes failed to make even one All-Star appearance, while Nowitzki and Pierce have a combined 23 All-Star appearances, NBA MVP Award, and two NBA Finals MVP Awards. Hughes may have been bad when taken as an individual, but when matched up against Dirk and Pierce? He was a terrible selection.
19 Keith Van Horn - 1997
Keith Van Horn was drafted second overall in the 1997 NBA Draft. Placing Van Horn this high up on the list was tough because he did actually have a fairly decent career. The reason he is so far up though, is due to who the 76ers did not draft instead of him. In the 1997 NBA Draft, the 76ers picked Van Horn over Chauncey Billups and Tracy McGrady! If the Sixers had drafted either one of those two over Van Horn, their team would have been even better than it already was starting to become at that time. Can you imagine an Allen Iverson-TMac combination? The Sixers might have actually beaten the LA Lakers in the NBA Finals in 2001.
While this ranking may be unfair to Van Horn, who averaged about 16.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg in his career, it is hard not to rank him this far up the list because of what the Sixers could have been if they had drafted differently in 1997.
18 Furkan Korkmaz - 2016
Furkan Korkmaz was selected 26th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. There is not much to say about Korkmaz as he is still currently playing in Turkey with Anadolu Efes. He comes in at 17 on this list due to his possible potential and because of the value that he could possibly bring the Sixers in the 3-point shooting department. He has proven that he can shoot from beyond the arc very well overseas, and the 76ers are very hopeful that if he decides to come stateside, he will bring that skill with him.
This 19-year-old is still a question mark, but with the ever increasing talent from foreign players in the NBA, Korkmaz could be the missing piece to a very young Sixers team.
17 Speedy Claxton - 2000
Speedy Claxton was drafted 20th overall in the 2000 NBA Draft. He played only one season for the 76ers before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs in 2002. While Claxton was never a terrible player, he was never good either. He averaged 9.3 career points per game to go along with his 4.3 assists per game. For the Sixers, he only averaged 7.2 ppg and did not get them much in return from the Spurs. He is a lot like Luwawu-Cabarrot in that the 76ers took a chance on him late in the first round, but the difference is that Cabarrot is 21 years old, while Claxton is out of the league.
Look, Speedy Claxton had potential, but he just was not a great talent. He was a great player for Hofstra, but he was never going to make a great NBA player. After eight seasons in the NBA, Claxton was out of the league. The Sixers took a chance, but it just did not pay off in the end for them.
16 Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot - 2016
Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot was taken 24th overall in this past year's NBA Draft. Luwawu-Cabarrot is native of France and was drafted out of Serbia, where he last played. In his season prior to being drafted, he averaged 14.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, and 2.8 apg. While those numbers are very good, Luwawu-Cabarrot has yet to make any type of difference in the NBA. He has only made 11 appearances this year and averages only a mere 5.9 minutes per game.
It may be too early to tell if he was a good pick or not, but he is doing nothing to say that he was. He is still only 21 years old so he may just have to adjust to the different style of the NBA. Early reports after he was drafted said that Luwawu-Cabarrot was a very solid outside shooter, but he has struggled thus far. If he is able to reconcile his shooting ability, he could become a valuable asset for the Sixers. Until then, he is just another late pick that amounts to nothing.
15 Maurice Harkless - 2012
Maurice Harkless was selected 15th in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Saint John's University. Harkless only spent one season there as he averaged 15.5 ppg and 8.6 rpg as a freshman. One reason for his spot at 14th on this list is due to him never putting on a Philadelphia 76ers jersey. A few months after he was drafted, Harkless was traded to the Orlando Magic for Andrew Bynum (a three team trade which included sending Dwight Howard to the Lakers) who ended up playing in zero games for the Sixers. The second reason for him being at 14th is because he is just an average player. He played pretty well for the Magic early on in his career, but since then he has just been an average bench player. His career averages are 6.7 ppg and 3.5 rpg.
14 Thabo Sefolosha - 2006
It's easy to forget that Thabo Sefolosha, the Swiss native, was actually a first round pick of the Sixers. That's because he was promptly traded by Philly after they selected him 13th overall back in 2006. The Sixers got the Rodney Carney from Chicago in return, who the Bulls drafted 16th overall.
Overall, Sefolosha has carved out a decent career for himself. He's now on his third team, with the Atlanta Hawks after playing for the Bulls for three years, he was traded to OKC, where he played until 2014.
Sefolosha hasn't really amounted to much more than being a solid bench player, averaging 5.9 points a game in his career. It's hard to find a definitive ranking on this list for him, given that he never actually played for the Sixers.
13 Michael Carter-Williams - 2013
Michael Carter-Williams was selected 11th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Syracuse University. He left Syracuse after his sophomore season in which he posted 11.9 ppg, 7.3 apg, 5.0 rpg, and 2.7 spg. Carter-Williams won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2014, but has never really been that good. Winning the ROY while with the 76ers is not that tough considering the amount of minutes he played, and how bad the rest of the team was/still is. The Sixers were smart enough to realize that Carter-Williams did not have much talent though, as they decided to deal him to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2015. While he has seen a drop in numbers every year since his ROY campaign, Carter-Williams has not been terrible, averaging 14.5 ppg, 6.1 apg, and 5.6 rpg.
The reason why he is at number 13 on this list is because he really is not anything special. Sure, he won the ROY, which most of the players ahead of him on this list failed to do, but at least the other people on this list either have extreme potential, were already great, or were consistently solid throughout their careers. Michael Carter-Williams has yet to prove anything. Maybe he will prove me wrong. We shall see.
12 Marreese Speights - 2008
Marreese Speights was drafted 16th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. Speights came out of the University of Florida, where he played for two seasons and averaged in his sophomore season, 14.5 ppg and 8.1 rpg. While it can be argued that Speights should be higher on this list, it is a tough decision. By the end of his career, he may surpass Samuel Dalembert and Thaddeus Young, but only time will tell for that. He did help the Golden State Warriors win the 2014-15 NBA Championship, which could push him ahead of those two alone, but for now he sits at number 12.
He has yet to prove that he is as consistent as the previously mentioned players, and has not played as long. If he continues on like he has been though, the next time the Sixers draft picks are ranked, Speights will be further up this list.
11 Samuel Dalembert - 2001
Samuel Dalembert was selected 26th overall in the 2001 NBA Draft. He was coming out of Seton Hall where he played two seasons. In the NBA, Dalembert had a very solid career, especially for someone who was drafted at number 26 overall. For his career, he only averaged 7.7 ppg and 7.8 rpg. While those numbers will bore you to sleep, Dalembert was an extremely reliable player who could grab rebounds and play solid defense. He was never a star or an All-Star, but he certainly brought his lunch pail to work every single day.
While Dalembert was a very solid pick at 26th overall, he was never good enough to rank him higher than 11th. The 76ers should be proud that they ended up with such a reliable player so late in the draft.
10 Thaddeus Young - 2007
Thaddeus Young was drafted 12th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. Coming out of Georgia Tech after one season, Young was a promising talent. He averaged 14.4 ppg in his one season at Tech and looked to be a steal for the 76ers at 12th overall. While he never truly turned out to be a great talent, he did end up as a solid player for the Sixers. Young played seven seasons for the 76ers and a part of a few playoff teams. For his career, he has averaged 13.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg. While those are not eye-popping numbers, Young has been a strong player over the years, especially on defense. For those who follow the Sixers, Thaddeus Young can be compared to Andre Iguodala. He can score if needed and he plays very strong defense.
The reason Thad comes in at number ten here is because his numbers didn't reflect such a high pick. He is heading into the back end of his career and he does not have any individual accomplishments, or team accomplishments for that matter, to his name. The players ahead of Young on this list either are very young and have tons of potential, or were/are just better overall players than him.
9 Nikola Vučević - 2011
Nikola Vučević was selected 16th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Vuc was taken out of USC where he played for three seasons and averaged a double-double in his junior year (17.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg). Vuc has not made it to any All-Star games yet, but he may have deserved to. He has almost averaged a career double-double in 5+ seasons and has been very effective since being traded to the Orlando Magic. In 2014-15, Vuc averaged 19.3 ppg and 10.9 rpg for the Magic. His current production is a bit down, most likely due to Serge Ibaka's arrival in Orlando.
The reason for Vuc's place on this list is due to how much of a steal he truly was. At 16th overall, Vuc was taken after one of the biggest busts in NBA history, Derrick Williams. While he was not very effective for the 76ers, Vuc has showed his abilities in Orlando. It is a shame that the Sixers did not give him more of a chance, but sometimes that is how the NBA goes.
8 Nerlens Noel - 2013
Nerlens Noel was drafted sixth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was technically chosen by the New Orleans Pelicans, but he was immediately traded to the 76ers when he has stayed. Noel is out of the University of Kentucky where he posted a solid 10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, and 4.4 bpg. Those numbers are similar to his two-year NBA career stats -- 10.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg. While he does not put up huge scoring numbers, Noel makes up for his lack of scoring on the defensive end. He constantly affects shots with his 6'11" frame and showed just how great he is on defense when he averaged those 4.4 blocks per game in college.
The reason Noel slides in at number eight on this list is because of his potential. He is still only 22 years old and showed flashes of improved scoring ability last year (2015-16). There have been recent rumors that Noel could be on the move, but until that happens, he was a very good pick at number six and the Sixers ended up with a potentially great player.
7 Jahlil Okafor - 2015
Jahlil Okafor was selected third overall by the 76ers in the 2015 NBA Draft. He is out of Duke University where he played for one season and averaged 17.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Coming out of Duke, Okafor was a great prospect who many thought could end up going first overall due to his great ability to score the basketball. While he was not selected first overall, the Sixers were lucky enough to scoop him up at number three. In his first season, Okafor averaged more than 17.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg. He is currently a liability on the defensive side of the ball, but he is only in his second year and defense is something a player can easily work on.
The reason why Okafor comes in at number seven on this list is because of his potential. So far he has been a bit of a disappointment, but he is still only 20 years old. Watch out for an Okafor-Embiid pairing in the future -- it could be one teams are very afraid to match up against.
6 Jrue Holiday - 2009
Jrue Holiday was the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. While Holiday has struggled as of late due to a multitude of injuries, his pick at 17th overall was great. He has an All-Star Game appearance to his name and a few playoff appearances. Since he left the 76ers, they have not even been close to making the playoffs. Over the course of his seven year NBA career, Holiday has averaged 14.1 ppg, 6.1 apg, and 3.5 rpg.
The reason Holiday comes in here at sixth is due to the value that he returned on his late selection and because of the 76ers lack of solid picks over their last 20. In reality, Jrue Holiday is an average player who is a very serviceable point guard in the NBA, but he will never be a star.
5 Jerry Stackhouse - 1995
Jerry Stackhouse was selected third overall in the 1995 NBA Draft. He was taken before Kevin Garnett, but Garnett was coming out of high school, and no one had any idea that he would be as good and as durable as he was throughout his career. Over the course of his career, Stackhouse averaged 16.9 ppg. While Stackhouse did only play three seasons for the Sixers, his departure was not due to lack of production. He was actually a fairly good pairing with Allen Iverson, as the two averaged 44.2 ppg as a pair in the 1996-97 season.
The reason for Stackhouse coming in at fifth on this list is because the Sixers really have not had that many other great picks. Over the years, the 76ers have made a lot of mistakes when picking in the draft and have ended up with a lot of busts. Stackhouse was no star in the NBA, but he was an All-Star and he was a solid player for the entirety of his career. As some of the other players on this list get older and develop, Stackhouse may move back on this list, but for now, he is the fifth best pick over the past 20 for the 76ers.
4 Andre Iguodala - 2004
Andre Iguodala was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. For where he was chosen in the draft, he was a steal. He was taken after one of the biggest busts of all-time in Rafael Araújo, so he was a pick that the 76ers should look back and be extremely happy with. When he was chosen, Iguodala was coming out of the University of Arizona, where he posted career numbers of 9.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, and 1.5 spg. Those are not the best numbers the college world has ever seen, but Iguodala has always been known as a very strong defender and a player that can score if he needs to.
The reason Iggy sits at number four on this list is because one, he was really a draft steal. Some of the players chosen before him are not even in the league anymore, and some are riding the bench. The second reason is due to his time in Philadelphia and in Golden State with the Warriors. In Philadelphia, he led the team to multiple playoff appearances and averaged under 10.0 ppg per the course of a season only once (his rookie season). With the Golden State Warriors, Iguodala has been a strong presence off of the bench and helped the Warriors win the 2014-15 NBA Championship (he was also the Finals MVP).
3 Ben Simmons - 2016
Ben Simmons was drafted first overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. He played at Louisiana State University and was ridiculed for some of his performances and efforts there, but it is undeniable that Ben Simmons will be a very good, if not great player. Even in a college season when he was criticized, Simmons was still able to put up 19.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, and 2.0 spg. Those numbers are unheard of! He was criticized because his team did not make the NCAA Tournament, and because he never really seemed interested in college basketball, which he has since admitted.
Look, Ben Simmons is a legitimate talent. He has been compared to LeBron James, and while he is currently injured, the 76ers made the absolute right choice in this situation. Simmons can score, pass, rebound, and play defense. He can do it all and can do it all extremely well. If he is able to get even an okay jump shot, Ben Simmons will be a perennial MVP candidate and a potential Hall of Fame nominee. The hype surrounding Simmons out of high school is like none we have seen since LeBron James. While I do not believe Ben Simmons is LeBron James, I believe he is a very similar player that has the ability to be the next great star in not just Philadelphia, but the entire league.
2 Joel Embiid - 2013
Joel Embiid was drafted third overall by the 76ers in the 2013 NBA Draft. He came from Kansas, but it a native of Cameroon. In college, Embiid was a force to be reckoned with. He blocked shots with ease and led the Kansas Jayhawks to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. In that 2012 college season, Embiid won the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award as he blocked an extremely solid 2.6 shots per game and rebounded the basketball 8.1 times per game.
The reason Embiid is listed second here is due to his immense potential. Sure, he missed the last two seasons due to a serious foot injury that required a few surgeries, but Embiid is already being compared to Hakeem Olajuwon for God's sake! If you extrapolate the stats he is putting up in his minute restricted 23 minutes per game, Embiid would be averaging 38.0 points per game, 5.0 blocks per game, and 16.0 rebounds per game. Those numbers are RIDICULOUS! Those are Wilt Chamberlain types of numbers in an NBA where just about every player is over 6'5". Assuming that Embiid will one day be able to play a full game and a full season, he will be an MVP candidate. In only playing half of this season's games, he will win the Rookie of the Year Award easily.
This guy is good and he is still only 22 years old! If he plays, he will be a perennial All-Star and will be a perennial MVP candidate. Stay tuned on Joel Embiid because he may end up taking over the number one spot on this list and in the Hall of Fame.