You may be wondering why the Philadelphia 76ers have become the team they are today. Finishing with the worst record in the NBA, the 76ers are the laughingstock of the league, and for good reason. Front office mistakes; every team makes mistakes, but the city and fan base count on them to make the correct move for the team more times than not.
The Sixers have been widely scrutinized for their “tanking”. But what good is tanking to get a draft pick when you aren’t getting sufficient talent to field a viable NBA team with? The tanking strategy could work, but the higher-ups within the 76ers organization need to make the right decisions. For the Sixers, the draft is the difference between 10 more years of losing, and becoming a playoff team with an abundance of young talent.
The Sixers have made many more mistakes than just draft mistakes, and you could make an argument that the draft hasn’t been the main reason for the downfall of the 76ers. But poor drafting surely played a role. Awful trades also helped put the Sixers in the hole they’re in today (Andrew Bynum trade).
Even though the Sixers had the worst record in the NBA last season, things are looking up. With the Sixers possessing the first overall pick in the draft this year, the organization looks to add their biggest piece yet. The pick will most likely be either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram so hopefully they never earn their way onto this list. Every team has bad draft picks because it is so hard to evaluate talent one year removed from high school (many of the players drafted in the lottery). The Sixers are looking to get back to their championship and winning ways with a player like Allen Iverson or Julius Erving. With all of the draft picks this team has accumulated they have to get lucky sooner or later, right? Here are the 15 worst draft mistakes of the Philadelphia 76ers.
15. B.J. Tyler
B.J. Tyler was not an extremely high draft pick, but he sure didn’t play well even for the 20th pick in the 1994 draft. In his first and only season with the Sixers, Tyler averaged 3 points and 3 assists per game. Considering he played 14 mpg, he should have performed much better in his time on the court. Tyler also has an extremely embarrassing tale of why he had to retire. He fell asleep with an ice pack on his knee which destroyed his knee and he lost his athleticism. He was forced to retire. I’m not sure whether this story is accurate or not, but either way he had a short NBA career.
Tyler’s case is a sad one when you think that his career ended because of one stupid mistake like that. While his first NBA season didn’t show much promise, it was only his first season. Maybe he just needed more time to adjust to the rigors of the NBA lifestyle. He never got that chance.
14. Kenny Payne
Kenny Payne is currently an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, but back in his day, he was drafted 19th overall by the Sixers in 1989. He played for the team for only four seasons before leaving the NBA for other basketball leagues. The small forward was largely unsuccessful in his short NBA career. He was drafted before Vlade Divac and was drafted just after Shawn Kemp and Tim Hardaway. Too bad the Sixers didn’t have a little higher draft pick.
Things seem to have worked out fine for Payne, as the contract he received from Kentucky in 2015 was a generous one, as it was a three-year deal, worth $2.1 million. Sometimes the fates of certain basketball players aren’t to be players, but rather coaches. Maybe Payne has now found what he was meant to do in the game of basketball.
13. Terry Furlow
The 12th pick in the 1976 NBA draft was owned by the 76ers and they drafted Terry Furlow. He attended Michigan State University where he spent four years before declaring for the NBA draft. Although the Sixers drafted him, he only played for the Sixers for one season, in which he averaged a mere 2.6 ppg. What makes this mistake all the more dire is he was also drafted before Alex English, Dennis Johnson, and Lonnie Shelton.
While Furlow was not able to leave a lasting impression in Philadelphia, he remains a legend in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. His younger brother Earl said this about Terry 30 years after his death. “The legacy that Terry left here for not only himself but for the community is that you can come out of here if you work hard enough,” . “A lot of the young guys around here, even though it’s been a long time, they still know who he is. The legacy around here is not dead by far and a lot of people still talk about Terry.”
12. Jim Spanarkel
Jim Spanarkel was the 16th pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. Spanarkel was drafted before Mark Eaton, Bill Laimbeer and James Donaldson, who all had better careers than Spanarkel. Spanarkel averaged about 10 ppg throughout his career which is disappointing for the 16th pick in the draft. He never made an All Star team or won any awards and that is what ranks him 12th on the list of worst draft mistakes in Sixers history. Sixers fans would have loved someone like Laimbeer playing for their team. Philly fans like their players to have a little bit of an edge and nobody had more of it than Laimbeer.
Spanarkel arguably found more success in his post playing career, as he has been an analyst for the Nets for the past 20 years. He also works certain college games on CBS alongside play-by-play man Ian Eagle. It’s good to see him doing so well in his second career, because he sure wasn’t great at his first one.
11. Matt Guokas
We’re going a while back for this one. In the 1966 NBA Draft, the Sixers drafted Matt Guokas with the 9th pick, who was a 6’5″ shooting guard out of St. Joe’s University. Later on in his life he became a head coach and even coached for the Sixers. In his coaching career, he posted a .430 winning %. He wasn’t successful as a player or as a coach. His best season came in 1974 with the Chicago Bulls where he scored 7 ppg.
The 1966 draft wasn’t stacked on talent and most of the best picks had gone before Guokas. To get to some of the good talent that was available, you have to go to the third round, where guys like John Block and Archie Clark were still available. Both men made several All-Star games and undoubtedly would have been massive contributors for the Sixers.
10. Sharone Wright
Sharone Wright was the 6th overall selection in the 1994 NBA Draft. He played center for the Sixers and the Raptors but then later played in other professional basketball leagues. What makes Sharone Wright a huge draft mistake? He only played one and a half seasons with the Sixers. He was drafted before Eddie Jones who had a much better career for his respective team and the Sixers got ripped off with Wright.
Wright’s basketball career was cut short when he was in a car accident while still a member of the Raptors. The accident caused him to suffer multiple injuries including broken arms and a broken collarbone. After his departure from the Raptors, Wright played all around the world, enjoying stints in Spain, Poland, South Korea and the Netherlands, where he won the Dutch Cup.
9. Freddie Boyd
Freddie Boyd was drafted 5th overall by the Sixers in the 1972 NBA Draft. He was drafted before Paul Westphal, and Julius Erving. Although Julius Erving was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, after a run in the ABA, he ended up in Philadelphia playing for the Sixers in the NBA.
As for Boyd, the point guard never posted impressive numbers throughout his career and he didn’t last long in the association. It didn’t help that Boyd was around in one of the worst periods in Sixers history, much like the era they’re in now.
No clue whatsoever,” former Sixers center Dale Schlueter said. “Really, it was a pile of crap. The coach knew absolutely nothing about how to coach in the NBA. He had no clue how to handle adults. He had been around college kids. We had some veteran players, but it was like a revolving door. We didn’t lose by tremendous amounts, but it got to a point where [opponents] said, ‘There’s no way in the world you’re going to beat us.”
Coach Roy Rubin was seen as one of the worst coaches in NBA history and likely didn’t do Boyd any favors in his development.
8. Lucious “Luke” Jackson
The Sixers’ draft mistakes go back a long way. Lucious Jackson was drafted with the 4th pick in the 1964 NBA Draft. Although he didn’t have an awful rookie season, his stats decreased thereafter. He did win a championship with the Sixers, but he was carried by Wilt Chamberlain, who if you didn’t know is the most dominant player of all time. Jackson was a 6’9″ power forward who played alongside Chamberlain and was able to ride his coattails.
The 1966-67 Sixers were one of the greatest teams in NBA history, so Jackson came around at just the right time, unike other unfortunate souls who saw themselves join the team in some of the worst periods of the team’s history.
7. Chris Welp
The late Chris Welp was a 7’0″ center who was drafted with the 16th pick in the 1987 draft. The German was best known for his time in college with the Washington Huskies. Welp was drafted before Mark Jackson and Reggie Lewis. Other notable players in the 1987 NBA draft were Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Horace Grant and Reggie Miller. This was ultimately a great draft, too bad the Sixers couldn’t have snatched up a star player.
Welp came in at a time when the 76ers were actually a competitive basketball team. With Charles Barkley in town, the Sixers were hoping to build themselves a contender in the East and obviously felt the big German could be of some help to them. Following his trade out of Philadelphia, Welp played with the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors before leaving the NBA in 1990. From there, he resumed his playing career in Europe, playing in his native Germany for six seasons, as well as Greece and Italy.
6. Al Henry
Al Henry was never a good player in the NBA. The 6’9″ center was underwhelming to say the least. He only lasted two years in the league, both with the 76ers. In his first season he averaged 1 ppg and in his second he average 4. He was the 12th pick in the 1970 draft, but didn’t deserve to be. Looking back, he should have gone un-drafted. I guess hindsight is 20-20. What’s worse is that two Hall of Famers were selected shortly after Henry, with Calvin Murphy and Nate Archibald going 18th and 19th.
Once again, Henry could have just been a victim of circumstance as the great Sixers team of the late 60s was completely dismantled in the early 70s. Henry probably could have been a lot more successful in Philadelphia had he come around a few seasons earlier and gotten the chance to play with the likes of Wilt Chamberlain.
5. Leo Rautins
Leo Rautins was picked with the 17th pick in the 1983 draft. At the time he was the first and only Canadian drafted into The Association. He only played an astonishingly low 32 games throughout his entire career. He started his rookie season with torn ligaments in his foot and his injury only got worse from there. Needless to say, the Sixers missed the mark on this year’s draft. To be fair, this draft wasn’t exactly deep, but one player Philly missed out on was Doc Rivers, who went to Atlanta at pick no.31.
Rautins was eventually traded to the Indiana Pacers, but didn’t actually play for them. He would sign with the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent in 1984 but only played four games with Atlanta and only averaged three minutes a game. After his NBA career, Rautins moved back to Syracuse to some work on radio ads, but eventually resumed his playing career in Europe. He would play in the Continental Basketball Association as well as the Italian, French and Spanish leagues.
Picks like Rautins are partly why NBA teams were so weary of picking Canadian players high.
4. Larry Hughes
Boy, this one’s gonna sting. Larry Hughes was unfortunately drafted before Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. This terrible mistake by the Sixers in the 1998 NBA Draft proved to be a killer. Allen Iverson never had the help he needed to bring a championship to the city and either one of these guys would have given him ample help. It makes me sick to think about the tandem Iverson and Nowitzki would be. There would be no shortness of scoring, that’s for sure.
Knowing how painfully close the Sixers came to an NBA championship with Iverson lacking a strong supporting cast makes Sixers fans turn in their stomachs. Even after Iverson’s eventual departure from Philly, the Sixers still could have had a superstar in Dirk Nowitski on their hands. If it makes Sixers fans feel any better, there were other teams that passed on the big German. Didn’t work? Oh well, let’s move on to our next entry.
3. Evan Turner
This one probably hurts the most because it is the most recent. Not only did the Sixers get Evan Turner, who never developed into a worthy second overall pick, but they also missed on DeMarcus Cousins, and Paul George! One of those superstars sure sound nice right about now. The Sixers probably wouldn’t be where they are today if they had just chosen one of these proven players. They might even be title contenders while Sacramento or Indiana would be in the rebuilding process.
Sixers fans are going to be ruing this pick until things turn around. Hopefully with the impending arrival of Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, bad memories like these will soon begin to fade away and Philly fans can start reminiscing on their great picks rather than harp on past mistakes. Even after their draft pick this year, it will still take a couple of years for the team to develop as a unit.
2. Leon Wood
Leon Wood, who was drafted 10th overall by the 76ers, is part of the legendary 1984 draft. That wasn’t any of Wood’s doing, however. He was just lucky to be drafted alongside the greats of the game like Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Charles Barkley. They were all drafted ahead of Wood, so the Sixers had no chance of snagging one of them but, they could have had John Stockton, who fell six picks later to the Utah Jazz. Imagine what a team of Dr. J, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, and Moses Malone could have done!
Stockton could have been a mainstay as the Sixers’ point guard. Even with the eventual departure of Charles Barkley, Stockton’s presence in Philly undoubtedly would have made for an attractive free agent destination for players. At least Stockton didn’t have to wear those god awful Sixers jerseys of the early 90s. That just would have looked wrong.
1. Shawn Bradley
How could the no.2 pick in the 1993 draft, Shawn Bradley, possibly not succeed in the NBA? The 7’6″ center had the size and athleticism to dominate the paint for years. How exactly did he fail? Well to be fair to him, he wasn’t a “bad” player. Bradley was a great shot blocker, but what else would you expect from the 7’6″ man wearing #76?
On the offensive end, he never lived up to the expectations. After putting up impressive numbers at BYU, he couldn’t dominate in the NBA as he did in college. To add insult to injury the Sixers could have snagged Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker, or Sam Cassell. That easily could have kept them relevant throughout the mid 90s, even after the trade of Barkley.
You know a guy is an enormous bust when someone like Kristaps Porzingis felt the need to point out that he would not be like Bradley. Phil Jackson reportedly referenced Bradley when talking to Porzingis earlier in his rookie season, but the rookie responded: “That fired me up. I’m like, ‘I’m not Shawn Bradley, you know?”
That’s how Bradley earned his spot on this list.
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