If Joel Embiid turns out to be a stud, then GM Sam Hinkie nailed this draft. I was worried that they would get too cute and start wheeling and dealing more than necessary, but they made just the right amount of moves on draft night. Many experts and insiders had the Sixers taking Dante Exum with the 3rd pick in the draft, but when it came down to it, it just didn’t make sense. They decided to take a risk and bring in an injured center for the 3rd year in a row after deciding to draft Embiid, who’s injury has now been declared to keep him out 5-8 months instead of the previous 4-6 months that were expected. Here’s a look at everything the Sixers did on draft night:
Round 1, Pick 3: C Joel Embiid, Kansas
Joel Embiid is likely not going to play a game next year. Sixers fans are used to waiting around for a guy to return though after waiting the whole year for Nerlens Noel. Sometimes being out the entire year turns out to be fine though…remember Blake Griffin? He was taken first overall and missed the entire year due to a broken left kneecap. He went on to have a dominant rookie year and win the Rookie of the Year award. Noel has the chance to do that, and Embiid certainly does the year after that. While it does scare me that the same injury essentially ended the career of big men such as Yao Ming and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, not every guy is the same. Embiid is young and doesn’t have the wear and tear that those guys did, giving him an advantage. If he can come back next year and start next to Noel, Philly’s Twin Towers could become the scariest young duo in the frontcourt in the league.
Round 1, Pick 10: Elfrid Payton, UL-Lafayette
My first reaction when I saw this pick was “oh no, not again.” I thought they had thrown a curveball and wanted to replace Michael Carter-Williams with Payton. My second reaction was hey, maybe they can just go with two point guards. That basically worked in Phoenix, right? My third reaction was anger. “Why the heck would they draft this guy? If they wanted a point guard, why’d they pick him? All three of these reactions didn’t seem to matter though, because it was later announced that Payton was being traded to the Magic for Dario Saric, who they had taken with the 12th pick in the draft. I liked Saric better anyway, and it was someone they could stash away for a couple years while he improved. But when I found out the Sixers also got a 2015 2nd rounder and a 2017 1st rounder, I was elated. The Sixers got a steal here, essentially taking a player they didn’t want and trading him for a player they did want, plus two picks. Hinkie is a genius.
Round 2, Pick 32: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
I was actually hoping for this pick to be Cleanthony Early from Wichita State, but when I saw they picked K.J. McDaniels instead, I was quite pleased. McDaniels is going to start right away, unlike both Embiid and Saric, so I was extra happy to see that. He’s both good at defense and rebounding, something the Sixers need help at, especially at the SF position where he’ll be. He’s not going to be taking 15-20 shots a game, but they don’t need him too if they keep Thad Young around. McDaniels is ready to make an impact in areas other than scoring, something that many players lack. This was my favorite pick of the whole draft for them.
Round 2, Pick 39: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Jerami Grant is another SF, and he should also see a fair amount of playing time next year, likely coming off the bench unless he’s able to beat out McDaniels for the starting job. I’m actually surprised that he was still available at 39, so the Sixers were smart to pick him up. It’s always possible that he could be pushed up to a stretch forward; according to this overview of him, his NBA comparison is Thad Young. Since he might not have a true position yet, it will probably give McDaniels the advantage in who will immediately start at SF, but Grant should be able to help them wherever needed.
Round 2, Pick 47: Russ Smith, Louisville
I thought this was a great pick and the perfect guy to backup Carter-Williams. Of course, I only got about 30 seconds to imagine what they’d be like before they announced that he was going to be immediately traded to the Pelicans for Pierre Jackson, a guy I’ve mentioned a lot recently. Why is that? Because he was part of the Jrue Holiday trade a year ago that sent Noel to Philly. So the Sixers drafted him, traded him immediately, saw he was good in the D-League, then traded back for him. Except Jackson wasn’t just good in the D-League, he was one of the best players. He averaged an astounding 29.1 PPG and was named a D-League All-Star. While this is the D-League we’re talking about, at least it proves he can play. Who needs Russ Smith anyway?
Round 2, Pick 52: Vasilije Micic, Serbia
Whoever can pronounce this guy’s name correctly on the first try deserves a medal. Vasilije Micic is another PG that will fill in as a reserve guy. That is, when he comes overseas to play for the Sixers. It seems like this make was largely made to stash away another guy in Europe while they figure out their roster back in Philadelphia. Due to my somewhat lack of knowledge of Serbian players, I don’t really know what else to say about him. Most people will probably forget about him in a month, so if he ever comes over to play for Philly and is successful, it’s essentially a bonus.
Round 2, Pick 54: Nemanja Dangubic, Serbia
Here’s yet another Serbian that the Sixers drafted whose name I can’t pronounce. But SG Nemanja Dangubic won’t be playing for the Sixers ever after he was immediately traded for the draft rights to the 58th and 60th picks in the draft, both of which were the Spurs. Those guys ended up being SG Jordan McRae and PF Cory Jefferson. So the Sixers were making trades until literally the final pick of the draft. Of course, the trades didn’t end there. The Nets traded the Sixers cash for Jefferson, meaning his short career with the Sixers was already over. So overall, the Sixers used the 54th pick to get McRae and some money. Not bad, in my opinion. McRae could get some minutes with them if they choose not to bring back James Anderson, but it all depends on what the Sixers do in free agency.
Overall, I’d give the Sixers’ draft a grade of B+. I can’t give it any higher of a grade than that for two reasons. First, they didn’t get Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. That’s not totally their fault, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that they didn’t walk away with either of them at the end of the night. Second, most of these guys won’t play a single game for them next year. Embiid and Saric, the two guys they got out of the first round, could be great players, but it certainly won’t be next year. So it’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen. If there’s one thing everyone knows now though, it’s that they’re going to continue the tanking for one more year.