A Bad Break for the Philadelphia 76ers
You might think that the news today that Joel Embiid has a fracture in his right foot is bad news for the former Kansas Jayhawk, who was rumored to become the top pick in the NBA Draft next week, but it is actually worse news for the Philadelphia 76ers.
You see, the Sixers have the third pick in a two player draft now that there are major medical concerns about Embiid.
Embiid was rumored to be going to the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 overall selection in next Thursday's draft, but this news will certainly drop him down the draft board. It is the same story as Nerlens Noel last season, when he blew out his ACL, dropped to No. 6 (New Orleans Pelicans) and was traded to the Sixers. So what was considered to be a draft with three potential super stars is now down to just two, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins is the guy the Sixers and GM Sam Hinkie have wanted all along. Heck, Hinkie traded away every bit of NBA talent on the roster and tanked an entire NBA season, just to try to get his hands on Wiggins. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Bucks actually finished with a worse record than the Sixers last season and Cleveland got lucky in the lottery and jumped ahead of both the Bucks and the Sixers. Cleveland had only a 1.7% chance of landing the top spot.
The rumor mill had the Cavs enamored with Embiid's potential, but now it seems highly unlikely that they will use the No. 1 overall pick on a medical risk. Embiid also missed the last six games of his college career with a back injury, so he can rightfully be labeled injury-prone. And there is also the fact that Embiid has only been playing basketball for a few years, since he was born and raised in Cameroon, so maybe he isn't built for the rigors of the game.
It almost doesn't matter if he can recover quickly from this injury. The fact of that matter is, now the Sixers can't get their man.
Sixers' Draft Options
What Will the Sixers Do in the Draft
Several media outlets reported that the Sixers made inquiries with Cleveland to determine their interest in trading the No. 1 pick. The Sixers have the 3rd pick as a reward for tanking last season and they have the 10th pick from the Jrue Holiday trade with New Orleans (that also got them Noel). It isn't clear if the Sixers would have been willing to trade both of those picks to move up to No. 1, though. I saw reports where they offered the No. 3 pick and Thaddeus Young, but the Cavs said no. But if the Sixers and Hinkie wanted Wiggins as much as has been reported, they may have eventually given up 3 and 10.
But that's all over now. There is no way the Cavs will trade the top pick. They also won't risk taking Embiid. That means that the Cavs and Bucks will take Wiggins and Parker in some order and the Sixers will be left with nothing but a bunch of question marks.
Oh sure, people are all hyped up about Dante Exum, the guard from Australia that none of you has ever seen play live, but the Sixers already have a pretty good point guard. That would be Michael Carter-Williams, who was only the NBA Rookie of the Year last season. He and Nerlens Noel, who sat out all last season recovering from that ACL injury, look like the building blocks that Hinkie can build around. Of course, that's what people thought about Holiday and you saw how that turned out.
With all that in mind, I fully expect the Sixers to trade down in the draft.
There is no way that they will draft Embiid. The Sixers have spent the last two full seasons with a center that didn't play a single game all season. Noel last season and Andrew Bynum the season before that. Forgot about him already, didn't you? Even Hinkie isn't crazy enough to draft Embiid and tank a second straight season, is he? Quick somebody find out who the hottest high school kid is right now, who is projected to be the No. pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Maybe he was part of Hinkie's plan all along. Just kidding (I hope).
Seriously though, the Sixers simply can't draft Embiid at No. 3. I have this overwhelming feeling that this willbe like teh 2007 draft. Embiid will be the Greg Oden of this draft and Parker or Williams (or both) will be the Kevin Durant. The Sixers have too long a history of big men with injured feet (See Andrew Toney and Jeff Ruland) to go down that road, right?
So Hinkie will wheel and deal in this draft. Up and down the board. With five 2nd round picks and Young as possible parts in any number of trades, the Sixers are sure to be the story of draft night. It's not like they can actually draft five 2nd rounders anyway. There are only so many foreign players you can draft and stash overseas.
I actually think the Sixers may trade for future 1st round picks, since they are missing a few of their own from previous trades. They owe Boston a 1st rounder in 2015 (originally traded to Miami for Arnett Moultrie), but it is lottery protected. That means if the Sixers are in the lottery again next year, they owe the Celtics a 2nd rounder in 2015 and another in 2016. Anybody else think it's not beyond Hinkie to tank again so they don't lose that 1st? Anyway, they owe their 2017 1st rounder to Orlando (1-11 protected) as part of the Andrew Bynum trade (UGH!). If they are in the top 11 in that draft, it rolls over to 2018 (protected 1-8). After that it becomes two 2nd rounders in 2018 and 2019. Don't worry, even Hinkie should be done tanking by then.
But that just might mean Hinkie would be willing to trade No.3 or No. 10 for a lower pick and a possible future 1st rounder. One possible scenario I can envision is that the Lakers want to make one last run with Kobe and think Exum or another player who wouldn't be there when they pick at No. 7 is the key. The Sixers trade No. 3 and Thad Young for the Lakers' No. 7 pick and their 1st rounder next year.
Keep in mind that the Sixers have only around $27 million in salary commitments next season and the NBA salary cap is expected to be around $63 million. That puts them among the top five in available cap space for next season. No, the Sixers won't be trying to get Lebron James. More likely, Hinkie's long-term plan is to roll that cap space over into the following season when the Sixers young players have had another year of experience under their belts and possibly another lottery pick or two to build with.
The Sixers don't need Embiid, since they have a similar player in Noel, so they will end up trading the No. 3 pick somehow. There are plenty of other talented players in this deep draft (Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon) and not even Wiggins was going to make the Sixers a title contender next season anyway. And the Embiid injury just crushed that dream.
Last season's tank job was just step one in a long rebuilding process that is going to take a few years. Sam Hinkie proved with the Holiday trade that he is willing to trade anyone or anything to achieve his long-term goal of winning a championship. That means that the only thing we know for sure about what the Sixers will do next Thursday night is that he will be busy.