Sixers' future success could be more than just a dream

Posted: April 06, 2014

WHEN THE SIXERS tied the record for longest losing streak in major pro sports, I was contacted by "Today" and asked to comment about how Philadelphia fans were taking all of this. Even though I was in Miami to make a speech when I received the call, I was willing to tape an interview.

They came over and did a 10-minute interview, of which they used about 40 seconds. I told them Philadelphia sports fans, despite our reputation for being difficult, unruly and very hard on our teams, are sophisticated enough to understand what it takes to win. Therefore, I went on, our fans were not really upset, because we understood the long-term goal and were willing to endure some basketball ignominy in the short run if it meant we were on the path to becoming competitive. I ended the interview by noting that even though we had lost 26 straight, the Milwaukee Bucks still had a worse record. I said, "Come on, Bucks, win a few games, you can do it!"

I don't mean to imply that the Sixers' players are tanking - they absolutely are not. Our players and coach Brett Brown are trying as hard as they can to win every game - the effort is genuine. But when management traded Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, it essentially raised the white flag of surrender. They essentially emasculated our team with two goals in mind: to free up cap space and, knowing the team without Turner and Hawes would not be competitive, to get the best draft choice.

Every Sixers fan hopes they will be successful, and I believe they will. They cleared more than $25 million of cap space and are in a position where the odds favor their getting the first or second draft pick in the lottery.

As an eternal optimist, I believe that the Sixers' strategy is brilliant and that, by next season, we will have an exciting, competitive team. So let's dream a little. Assume the lottery odds stay where they are and the Sixers get the second pick in the draft. Assuming Jabari Parker stays at Duke, I believe the Sixers would be able to draft Andrew Wiggins from Kansas, who is a work in progress but has the potential to be a superstar with electrifying skills.

The Bucks, who would have the first pick, are in desperate need of a big man and would likely take Joel Embiid, also from Kansas. Embiid would be a defensive presence who could turn a team around almost single-handedly. We already have Nerlens Noel to fill that need.

Even if we fell to third or fourth, we could get a blue-chip player such as Julius Randle, the power forward from Kentucky, or Marcus Smart, the do-everything guard from Oklahoma State. But let's keep our dream going and assume we get Wiggins.

The Sixers own New Orleans' first-round pick, which should be, if form holds, the 10th pick. Who is likely to be available? According to various outlets, college player of the year Doug McDermott would be available. Although "experts" have doubts about whether McDermott is athletic enough to be an NBA star, I couldn't disagree more. I remember the same whispers were raised about Larry Bird at Indiana State.

Recently Villanova coach Jay Wright told me: "Doug McDermott is simply the best player in college basketball and he is the closest thing to Larry Bird that I have ever seen. He's the best post player in the country, as well as the best perimeter shooter in the country. He is a terrific rebounder, definitely not soft and can defend the perimeter. And, like Bird, he moves incredibly well without the ball."

Wright said McDermott would be "a great fit for the Sixers, because the pro game has changed, with most NBA teams using four or even five perimeter players."

St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said that though he doesn't believe McDermott can approach Bird's pro career, he will easily be as good or better than Gordon Hayward, the former Butler player drafted by the Jazz who is on his way to becoming an All-Star.

Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has accumulated four additional second-round picks to go with the Sixers' own pick. Their pick will be the second one in the second round, and a pick they obtained from the Cavaliers in the Hawes trade will be the ninth pick.

Which college players are likely to be around then? According to the draft gurus: Wichita State's Cleanthony Early, Kentucky's Andrew Harrison, Michigan's Glenn Robinson, Arizona's Nick Johnson, and even such burners as Louisville's Russ Smith, Connecticut's Shabazz Napier (although his performance in the NCAA Tournament might bump him up into the first round) and Syracus's C.J. Fair.

So let's continue with our dream and assume the Sixers get Wiggins, McDermott, Early and Johnson. Add that foursome to Michael Carter Williams, Noel and Thaddeus Young. That would give us six exciting, young players under 24, plus Thad, an established NBA workhorse. They would be incredibly talented and, best of all, they could really fly.

But there is still more. Remember, the Sixers will have, with the expanding cap, a lot of money to spend and, with this roster, they could be an extremely attractive landing place for some of the unrestricted free agents. Who out there could fit in with this crew? Consider the following: Luol Deng, Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Nate Robinson, Zach Randolph, Mario Chalmers, Channing Fry, Rudy Gay and Richard Jefferson. We could even shoot for the moon and try to get Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol or Chris Bosh.

So between the draft and free agency, my dream team sounds pretty good, doesn't it? And remember, the front office is a lot better judge of talent than Ed Rendell, and they might just do even better!



comments powered by Disqus