With the current sorry state of Philadelphia sports, the team that I am most excited for in the future is the Sixers. General manager/Godfather/Albert Einstein’s protege/Jesus’ brother Sam Hinkie has turned the Sixers from the most mediocre team in basketball (actually second behind Milwaukee. Like they are MEDIOCRE) into the worst team in basketball. As Borat Sagdiyev would say, “Great success!”
“Wait, what?” you are telling yourself. “You are an idiot, Peter Taylor. It’s not good that the Sixers got worse this season by trading Jrue Holiday, an all-star, for someone who only has one knee and can’t play offense (Nerlens Noel) and a draft pick.”
But, friend, this is where I tell you that you are wrong. See, in the NBA, the Land of Mediocrity is the closest thing to hell that you can find. Teams like Milwaukee, Toronto, Portland, and the Sixers pre-Noel trade have no potential to be contenders. While they may make the playoffs as an 8 seed every couple years, there is no real chance that these teams will be real factors in the playoffs.
But sucking, like the Sixers, Orlando, Utah, and many other teams are doing this year, allows teams to acquire blue-chip prospects in the draft. By pick 15, where a team like Milwaukee will usually select, all the players with All-Star potential or even sometimes starting potential are all gone.
And next year’s draft is an especially good one. Some very smart NBA people, like ESPN’s draft expert Chad Ford, expect the 2014 draft to have around 6-8 players who would have been surefire 1st selections in the 2013 draft. One prospect in particular, Andrew Wiggins, has been hailed as the best player since Lebron.
So, Sam Hinkie being the smart man he is, decided to blow up the team. By trading Holiday, he not only acquired Noel, the consensus top talent in the draft who would have been taken first if not for a knee injury, he picked up a 1st round pick for the 2014 draft. While hurting his team this season, Hinkie has put himself in a position to have a Sixers team in 2014 featuring 4 players who were top 14 picks in a draft (Noel, super athletic point guard Michael Carter-Williams, and their two picks next year). Add that to the estimated $35 million plus in cap space for 2014, and the Sixers could be one of the best teams in the league, as early as 2015.
And, even better for the Sixers, their two current star prospects could fit well together. Carter-Williams, while incredibly athletic, is literally the worst jump shooter in the league. But, with his speed and size (he is 6’7″, huge for a PG), he could dominate teams in the pick and roll. And he has just the big man to play it with: Noel. Noel does not have much of a low post game, but the freakishly athletic big could wreck defenses in the pick and roll as well. And their upside defensively is enormous: Noel is one of the best defensive players to be drafted in some time, and MCW’s length could make him a shutdown perimeter defender. Granted, MCW needs some kind of jump shot to be a success in the NBA, and Noel has to first recover from ACL surgery and then develop a little low post game. But if that happens, the Sixers will have two quality starters with a lot of upside.
And then, considering how bad the team this year, they are a lock for a top 5 pick, and more likely a top 3 pick. And those top three picks will be All-Star potential players like Wiggins, power forward Julius Randle, small forward Jabari Parker, or point guard Marcus Smart. Add that pick to their 1st round pick they acquired from New Orleans in the Holiday/Noel trade, which will likely fall from 10-15, and there’s two top level talents from the best draft in a decade. Add them to Noel, MCW, and a possible star free agent from a loaded class in 2014 like Kevin Love, Lebron, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and others, and the Sixers are a contender.
Until then, the Sixers will suck. But it will be a fun suck. Sam Hinkie, the ball is in your court. Let’s make it happen.