Sixers draft for the future - once again

PHOTO FROM JOEL EMBIID'S TWITTER ACCOUNT New Sixer Joel Embiid tweeted out his 'Just got drafted' face after being selected third overall.
PHOTO FROM JOEL EMBIID'S TWITTER ACCOUNT New Sixer Joel Embiid tweeted out his 'Just got drafted' face after being selected third overall.
Posted: June 27, 2014

IF YOU ARE A FAN of sequels, then the 76ers are the team for you. "Tanking 2" is coming to the Wells Fargo Center and NBA arenas all over the NBA.

For the second consecutive season, the Sixers selected an injured big man, this time grabbing Kansas 7-foot center Joel Embiid, who suffered a stress fracture in his right foot last week during a predraft workout and had surgery soon after. The recovery time for him has been set at 4 to 6 months, but, like Nerlens Noel of a season ago, Embiid could miss the entire season.

General manager Sam Hinkie then further ensured another abysmal season by trading the player the Sixers took with their 10th pick, Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton, to the Orlando Magic for its pick at No. 12, Dario Saric. Saric, a flashy and versatile 6-10 forward from Croatia who played in the Adriatic League this past season, agreed earlier in the week to a 3-year contract with Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes. There is a player option for the third season, which means Saric will play a minimum of 2 years overseas.

So, in case there was any doubt, the organization's eyes are on the future.

The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins at No. 1 and the Milwaukee Bucks took Duke's Jabari Parker at No. 2.

Before the Embiid injury, staying at No. 3 seemed to be a no-brainer for the Sixers, as no one was sure who among Embiid, Wiggins and Parker would fall to them. Once the injury was reported, however, things became a less solid. Apparently targeting Wiggins as their preference, the Sixers reportedly were in talks with Cleveland most of yesterday in an effort to move up. According to a source, the Sixers made a lot of offers, but nothing came to fruition. So instead, they gobbled up Embiid, a Cameroon native who started playing the game only about 3 years ago and wasn't even expected to suit up for the Jayhawks this season.

"I thought that he would be the first pick in the draft, but I didn't think it would be this year; I thought it would be in a couple of years," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He will be an impact player. It is very possible he could have been the No. 1 pick. If he's healthy, Philadelphia got a steal at No. 3."

Embiid, who also missed the final six games of his college career with a stress fracture in his back, averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks for Self this past season, while shooting 62.6 percent from the floor. He has a 7-5 wingspan and possesses the intangibles that have many thinking his game can become comparable to that of Hakeen Olajuwon.

"Every time I watched Joel play, he impressed me, because he got better every time I saw him," said former Kansas star Danny Manning, now head coach at Wake Forest. "He really has a presence defensively, has soft hands and is always continuing to improve his offense. Joel is a very obviously talented young man with a huge upside. Every time I watched him play, he added something different. He really has a presence defensively. He has great timing and can instinctively block shots. He has great hands and will continue to improve on the offensive side of the ball. He's comfortable at stepping out and playing the pick-and-pop game, which is so big in the NBA."

Eventually, Embiid probably will be paired with Noel in the frontcourt, a couple of 7-footers who are both above average shot-blockers. While Noel struggled in college offensively away from the basket, that is an area where Embiid thrives and seemed to be only getting better.

"I saw him in high school and I thought he was a project," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team upset Kansas early in this past season. "Then I watched him on film getting ready to play them and then in person, and I was shocked how much he improved from high school. I thought, 'Wow he's a pro.' After we played them, I thought that he'd be a first-round pick this year. Late in the season, I was even more impressed from how much he improved from when we played them. In 2 years, it is amazing the amount of improvement that he's made.

"With big guys, the first two things you look for are feet and hands. He has them both. Probably the third thing you look at is their ability to learn, how quickly do they pick up concepts?

"Certain guys, you show them something one time and they get it. Others, it's going to take a lot of repetition. From what I've seen of him, the way he gets that, the way he shot the ball later in the season, he didn't have that in the beginning of the season against us. You see how quickly he picks things up."

In Saric, who was MVP of the Adriatic League, the Sixers, eventually, will get a player with a lot of flash and a very high basketball IQ. His court vision is outstanding; he often makes good passes that his teammates aren't aware are coming.

He has that feel for the game normally reserved for a point guard, but he has it in a 6-10 frame.

He has been compared to Toni Kukoc, who played for the Chicago Bulls and spent time with the Sixers.

The Sixers also will receive a future first- and second-round pick from Orlando.

The organization's eyes are on the future. But you might want to keep yours closed in the meantime.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


comments powered by Disqus