The Philadelphia 76ers have an obsession with draft picks. Like an NBA 2K17 player making a rebuilding video for YouTube, the Sixers have tried to stockpile as many draft picks as they can in recent years, landing big draft names like Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor as part of ‘The Process.’
But, while Embiid and Okafor seem like they’re turning out alright, other draft picks by the Sixers have either been disappointments, busts, or immediately traded for other pieces. Today, we’re going to look back at the last 15 draft picks by the Philadelphia 76ers and, taking into account everything from potential to what the team needed, we’ll try to fix things up a bit.
There’s two things to keep in mind with this re-draft, the first being that anyone from the 2016 class is not eligible from this list; I don’t like judging draft picks for at least three or so years unless they’re major steals (Steph Curry level) or busts (Anthony Bennett level).
The other is a bit more complicated. To add some fun and realism to the mix, we’re going to pretend that each pick follows one another, meaning who the Sixers drafted in this version of the 2008 draft may change how they look at the 2009 draft. Players already off the board (i.e. Kyrie Irving for 2011) are ineligible for this, meaning the Sixers have to do the best of what they’re given.
With that said, let’s change some history…
2002 – Tayshaun Prince, F, Kentucky
Original Pick: Jiří Welsch, F, Czech Republic
We start this list off with replacing a player who actually never played a single minute for the Sixers with another player who actually never played a single minute for the Sixers. During his brief NBA career, Jiří Welsch actually showed some major potential with the Boston Celtics and averaged 9.2 point and 3.7 rebounds a night during the 2004-05 season; Prince, however, would have been a great fit on a Sixers team that was nearing the end of their Eastern Conference supremacy.
My only concern here is that Prince, who fell to the end of the first round before Detroit picked him up, wouldn’t have grown into the player that he did around Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and the rest of those mid-2000s Pistons. Prince would have still been a solid 3-and-D guy who’d have been a nice compliment to A.I., but him having the level of success he did in Detroit for so long isn’t a guarantee. Still, it’s better than a player who was out of the United States by 2005, right?
2004 – Andre Iguodala, G/F, Arizona
Original Pick: Andre Iguodala, G/F, Arizona
There’s not much to say here, honestly. Iguodala is one of the best Sixers in recent memory before being traded as part of the four-team deal involving Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum in the summer of 2012 and, unfortunately, was unappreciated by the team’s fans. This was a guy who had to deal with the entire weight of the franchise being put on him during the Allen Iverson trade rumors and eventual departure…and he made things work!
Seriously, the Sixers making the playoffs four times in five years after Iverson left for Denver is mostly on Iguodala’s growth as a player and leader. I’d have no problem with someone making the case for Al Jefferson at this spot, but to me, this is Iguodala’s spot forever.
2006 – Rajon Rondo, G, Kentucky
Original Pick: Thabo Sefolosha, G, Switzerland
I’ll admit, the debate between Rondo and Kyle Lowry was tougher than people may think, but remembering the point guard that Rondo was before the nagging injuries and the off-court drama pushed him above the Raptors star here. I also do think that Rondo’s pass-first mentality and court vision would have been a better asset at the time for the Sixers instead of Lowry’s scoring prowess.
Now, the question we have to ask here is would the addition of Rondo, a point guard that actively enjoyed getting the ball to those who could score, have helped keep Allen Iverson in Philadelphia instead of publicly asking for a trade. I would say the answer is most likely no because Iverson had long been frustrated with where the organization was going, but having a point guard who appreciated his skills may have at least kept Iverson around for a bit longer – or made the Sixers ask other teams for more in return.
2007 – Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech; Marc Gasol, C, Spain; Wilson Chandler, F, DePaul
Original Picks: Thaddeus Young, F, Georgia Tech; Daequan Cook, G, Ohio State; Petteri Koponen, G, Finland
First off, no, I’m not saying the Sixers should have drafted Thad Young over Marc Gasol; I’m saying that they should keep the Young pick, but also add Gasol and Chandler to the mix if given another opportunity. Who am I to say that the Sixers shouldn’t take another chance on Thad Young’s 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds a night?
As for Gasol and Chandler, they simply fill holes for a dominant center and a solid wing respectively. Really, adding Gasol and Chandler are the final pieces to the puzzle, though I’m not quite sure how long it would take for Gasol to develop on a team with championship aspirations. Remember, part of Gasol’s development in Memphis came because the team was rebuilding and they added Zach Randolph via a 2009 trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.
2008 – Goran Dragic, G, Slovenia
Original Pick: Marreese Speights, F, Florida
Originally, I wanted the Sixers to take Texas A&M’s DeAndre Jordan, but if we go solely off the 2007 NBA Draft, then adding Jordan after you had drafted three big men 12 months earlier probably doesn’t make much sense. Now, had the back end of the 2007 NBA Draft not been so bad backcourt wise, maybe the Sixers could have drafted a guard then and picked Jordan a year later.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case so Philadelphia has to ‘settle’ for Slovenia’s Goran Dragic, a point guard they can develop either as a trade piece or as a replacement for Rajon Rondo if they were to dangle him in trade talks. But, there’s a third option, which is that the Sixers could try to do what the Phoenix Suns did later in Dragic’s career and move him to shooting guard. If they did that, then they’d be giving him a chance to play a position that allows him to jack up the type of long-shots he loves.
Had Philly done that, then this next pick would have been a bit easier…
2009 – Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
Original Pick: Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
If we’re going off the logic that all of the players already listed were drafted in this universe, then adding Holiday still makes sense even with Rondo and Dragic already on the roster. Whether you’re putting Holiday as a sixth man or if you’re planning on dealing Rondo to create a space for him at the point, this is still a pick that would logically work.
People really forget how solid Holiday was in Philadelphia, averaging about six assists per night and even making an All-Star Game in 2013; this guy wasn’t a scrub, even if the Sixers battled inconsistency before trading him on draft night in 2013. One also has to factor in that after Holiday in the 2009 draft, there’s not much else to choose from given the other players we’ve picked.
Had the Sixers not drafted Dragic and made a couple other decisions, Wesley Matthews isn’t the worst choice, but Holiday seems like the safe pick here. Speaking of safe picks…
2010 – Paul George, F, Fresno State
Old Pick: Evan Turner, G/F, Ohio State
This is one of the picks on this list that is absolutely a no-brainer. Even if you say that the 2014 injury in the August scrimmage still happens, how do you pass up on Paul George? While PG13 is on pace for his lowest scoring output since the 2012-13 season and has seen his advanced stats take a bit of a dip, George fits a need regardless of the ‘universe’ this re-draft is in.
No one was challenging the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls for Eastern Conference supremacy during the real-life 2010-11 season, but I want you to imagine a Sixers lineup with Rajon Rondo at the point, Andre Iguodala at the two, Paul George playing small forward, Thad Young at the four, and Marc Gasol at the five? That’s a team that could have really given the Big Three of the Miami Heat a huge challenge…
2011 – Jimmy Butler, G, Marquette
Original Pick: Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
So even with Andre Iguodola at shooting guard with the addition of Paul George a year prior, the Sixers would still need to prepare for the future because Iggy’s free agency was approaching and the team probably wasn’t going to be able to keep him. Enter Jimmy Butler, a Marquette guard who fell to the Bulls towards the end of the first round and has become the face of their franchise.
Would drafting Butler have set off a chain of events where Iguodola was traded earlier and with two years left on his deal rather than the one season when Philly traded him to Denver in the Andrew Bynum deal? Probably not, especially if the Sixers were coming off a huge 2010-11 season that saw them make major strides. Like in Chicago, Butler would have spent some time on the bench to develop and grow, but he’d be the future franchise player faster than anyone could predict.
2012 – Draymond Green, F, Michigan State
Original Pick: Maurice Harkless, F, St. John’s
Where does Draymond Green fit into all of this when the frontcourt is all set up with George, Young, and Gasol? Simple: Green is a better all-around player than Young, who can move to the sixth man position; and, the former Michigan State alum is versatile enough to chip in wherever the Sixers would need him. Factor in the Sixers potentially moving Young to the sixth man spot and letting Green get some time at the four and you’re set.
Like with Prince, though, is Green’s real-life success a result of his actual basketball skills, or the development that came with being on a consistent championship contender? Then again, applying the roster that we already have in this ‘universe’ probably does make the Sixers consistent championship contenders, so maybe that point is more moot than originally thought.
2013 – Dennis Schröder, G, Germany
Old Pick: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
Were the struggles of Michael Carter-Williams in Philadelphia due to his own skills, the tanking movement, the coaching of Brett Brown, or just a mix of all three? Regardless of what you pick (my personal guess is the tanking movement, which destroyed his confidence as a player), Dennis Schröder is the safer pick here without a doubt.
If you’re wondering why Schröder and not Giannis Antetokounmpo, there’s two main reasons I had about why I went for the German point guard. The first is simple: what this team already had. Putting Giannis on a team where the small forward, power forward, and center spots are already filled – as well as the point guard spot having enough possible choices – seems counterproductive.
The second is what the Sixers themselves would have needed. Maybe Giannis would have seemed like a smarter pick to some because of his potential and him being raw, but on paper, your other point guard options are an aging Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday and Goran Dragic; all are fine in their own right, yet I don’t see the harm in adding one more to the mix. Anything’s better than Anthony Bennett, at least.
2014 – Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia; Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
Original Picks: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas; Elfrid Payton, G, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Back up, Sixers fans, I’m not calling the Joel Embiid experiment a mess yet, nor am I saying he’s the one that Philadelphia should trade instead of Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor. Joel Embiid, while he is still a bit immature and needs to stop partying as much as he does, is on track to become a fine big man in this league and is the one the Sixers should keep for the near-future.
But here, you already have a franchise center in Gasol – who entered the 2014-15 season at the age of 29 – and you’d just drafted Draymond Green two years earlier. I’d instead draft Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic, who could have really benefited from some development with the Sixers under Gasol and would have actually played minutes in 2014.
2015 – Kristaps Porzingis, F, Latvia
Original Pick: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Is it too early to say that drafting Jahlil Okafor was a mistake? Considering Okafor, unlike other 2015 first-rounders, has actually played enough games to make an impact on his team, I don’t think so. Would the Sixers take Porzingis over Okafor if given the chance to? Absolutely.
The truth is, I do like Jahlil Okafor and I do think he’s getting a bad rep right now because of how the entire ‘big three bigs’ situation is being handled. At the same time, though, Porzingis has been the second-best player from that draft class (no one has been better than Karl-Anthony Towns and the way things are going, no one may pass him on that list) while Okafor has been…maybe borderline top 5?
If you were the Philadelphia 76ers, who would you take a chance on if you could fix some of their past draft mistakes? Let us know in the comment section below!
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