Sixers need only to take the best player available at No. 3

Posted: May 29, 2014

TIME IS the great enemy of easy logic.

With about 5 weeks between when the Sixers got the No. 3 overall pick and when the NBA draft will happen, a move that is easy is bound to be viewed as something more complicated.

Doing the easy thing is boring, and boring doesn't make for interesting sports talk.

Going into the May 20 NBA lottery, Sixers fans' biggest fear was that the team would get knocked out of the top three picks.

The consensus is three players in this year's draft have the highest percentage of developing into superstar, franchise-defining players - Kansas freshman swingman Andrew Wiggins, Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, and Duke freshman swingman Jabari Parker.

As long as the Sixers were guaranteed of getting one of those three players and also got the 10th overall pick via a trade last year with the New Orleans Pelicans, the lottery was going to be a winner.

That's just what happened, so all the Sixers have to do is pick whoever is left from Embiid, Wiggins and Parker after Cleveland and Milwaukee select.

The decision is so simple, it instantly became boring, and folks started coming up with creative ways for the Sixers to overthink this.

I try not to overthink. I'm not making this more complicated than it needs to be. Whoever falls to me among Parker, Wiggins and Embiid is whom I'd draft.

The only way I would deviate from that plan is if I could make a trade that would guarantee I get Wiggins, but also did not cost me the 10th overall pick.

I'll package the No. 3 with any number of the five 2014 second-round picks the Sixers own to assure that I get Wiggins.

But if the price is more than that, I'll be content to sit at No. 3 and see who falls my way. I think that will be Parker.

One thing I would not do is trade down from this spot.

Obviously, my first choice is Wiggins, because I think an All-Star-level swingman is the Sixers' greatest need.

Next in line would be Parker, for the same reason.

But if Embiid is the player left, I'm taking him - end of discussion, no questions.

Even though the Sixers have center Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall pick in 2013 who missed his rookie season because of injury, I will take Embiid if Wiggins and Parker are gone.

I'll figure out later how to make it mesh.

Embiid's upside is too high to switch out of "best available player" mode, just because I already have Noel.

Clearly, the long-term issue of the stress fracture in Embiid's back that caused him to miss the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments will come into play.

A negative health report on Embiid, Wiggins or Parker is the only thing that would keep me from drafting the one who falls to me at three.

There have been suggestions that the Sixers, who certainly need a lot of parts at this stage of rebuilding, might be better off trading down a bit out of the third spot. That way, they can draft a highly regarded prospect such as Australia point guard Dante Exum, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh or Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, and also acquire another first-round pick - most likely for 2015.

I would not trade away the possibility of potentially drafting one "great'' to get a couple of "really goods."

That's what you would do by passing up on Wiggins, Embiid or Parker.

There is a simple NBA history lesson - since 1980, almost every NBA champion has featured a Hall of Fame center or a Hall of Fame swingman (someone who can play both shooting guard and small forward).

The only exceptions are the Detroit Pistons (1989, 1990, 2004), San Antonio Spurs (2005, 2007) after Tim Duncan switched exclusively to power forward and 2011 Dallas Mavericks, with future Hall of Fame power forward Dirk Nowitzki.

As great as Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson was, he never won another title after Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired.

Although Michael Jordan was the ultimate swingman, even if you wanted to categorize him as a shooting guard, Hall of Fame small forward Scottie Pippen was the only on-the-court constant for all six of his titles.

Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone and point guard John Stockton are both in the Hall of Fame, but both went in without championship rings.

In 2001, Sixers future Hall of Fame combo guard Allen Iverson overcame every obstacle except the Lakers with future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal and future Hall of Fame swingman Kobe Bryant.

Most roads to a NBA championship have been driven by a Hall of Fame-caliber center or swingman.

Based on potential, Wiggins, Parker and Embiid are the best bets in the 2014 draft to possibly have Hall of Fame-worthy careers.

One of them will fall to the Sixers at No. 3. Just take whoever that is. It doesn't have to be anymore complicated than that.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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