Former NBA Defensive Player of the Year and Philadelphia 76ers big man Dikembe Mutombo tweeted a congratulatory message to his former team for nabbing the top overall pick prior to the NBA draft lottery selection show occurring. For some, it was an indicator of a nefarious plot to put the NBA’s third largest media market back on the map after more than a decade of doldrums and failures.
But to me it was just Dikembe allowing his ever-present positive energy to float out into the universe and push for something good to happen in a situation that has been unbearably bad.
Just how bad? Of the four playoff series that they have appeared in over a ten-year span, the Sixers have been eliminated in the first round three times. They reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2012 during a strike-shortened season with a 35-31 record. Though the NBA Draft is designed to help bad teams accumulate talented players, Philly is alleged to have used the lottery as a destination rather than as the happenstance, resulting from a poor regular season over the past five years.
They seem to have shown great umbrage to the idea of formulating a competitive team by constantly trading away talent.
The former second overall pick in 2010, Evan Turner, plays in Boston and 11th overall pick in 2013, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year and was shipped out to Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the Sixers have had to stash injured commodities in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, a player that has missed two full seasons since being drafted because of a nagging foot injury.
The Nerlens Noel acquisition was at the expense of then All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, who was shipped to New Orleans as part of the deal. Former Sixers General Manager and President of Basketball Operations Sam Hinke can be thanked for all the madness surrounding the Sixers, such as drafting two injured prospects in the lottery within two years of one another. But his resignation in April has many in the City of Brotherly Love hoping for a turnaround of epic proportions.
Prior to this year’s lottery selection show, it was predicted that the Sixers had a 22.6% chance of winning the top overall pick. Selecting their fifth lottery pick in eight years, the organization indeed snapped up this year’s top selection .
As constituted, one wonders aloud which pick would best suit the needs of a Sixers franchise that is desperate for some respect.
Some consider former LSU standout Ben Simmons as the top overall pick in the draft while others believe Duke’s Brandon Ingram’s skills and potential are too much to forego. Last season the Sixers struggled to put points on the board, averaging 97.5 points per game, which was near the bottom of the league. They also struggled to defend.
Both could immediately help the Sixers in different ways. Simmons is a rare talent who is capable of rebounding the ball and leading the break. If he’s playing small forward alongside Jahlil Okafor, Embiid or Noel, all of whom run the floor when motivated, they could spell trouble. Especially so in a league enamored by small ball.
Brandon Ingram’s length, ball-handling ability, and propensity to create his own shot off the dribble means that teams can no longer pack the paint and snag rebounds off the misses from no-name scoring options, giving Okafor and company more space to operate. Ingram is also considered to have elite potential on the defensive end.
Simmons has excellent court vision at 6-foot-10 and is by far the better rebounder, but boards are not as pressing a concern for the Sixers as scoring. Simmons also appears better suited to immediately contribute because of his frame and willingness to pass the rock.
Some are comparing Simmons to LeBron James, while others believe Brandon Ingram is the heir apparent to Kevin Durant. High accolades aside, these two both appear as if they’re tailor-made to help Philly get back the prominence it has not enjoyed since the turn of the century.