Phew, the season is finally finished. For the Sixers, the real season has begun (see story).
The NBA draft is 10 weeks away, and that night will be more important than any of those 82 in the past that included an actual basketball game.
The Sixers finished with the second-worst record in the NBA, and their pick will be determined in the lottery on May 20. There is no clear cut No. 1 pick, so for the purposes of this exercise, we'll pretend the Sixers jumped up a spot in the lottery and have the first pick.
We asked the hoop heads in our office to put themselves in Sam Hinkie's shoes and make their selection:
Can the Sixers go wrong with Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? Both players are 6-foot-8, 19 years old, and will be the first two picks in the NBA draft in June. But if given the Sixers' GM chair on draft night, I'm going with Parker. The reason: Parker is a better shooter and scorer. Another reason: The Sixers are the worst shooting team in the NBA and their top two picks from last year -- Michael Carter-Wiliams and Nerlens Noel -- are not good shooters.
Parker might not be as solid on defense as Wiggins, but that's OK. Noel is going to be the Sixers' version of Joakim Noah, so why not go with a guy who can put the ball in the hoop?
If the Sixers land at the top of the lottery, I'd go with Andrew Wiggins. He has a projectable outside shot. He's a much better defender than the other wing option (Parker). He can rebound and pass and he's good in transition. Wiggins needs to work on his handle, and you'd like him to show more aggressiveness at times on offense. But he looks like a guy who can grow into something special. These Sixers are about potential and upside, and Wiggins has plenty of both.
This team is in dire need of scoring. Andrew Wiggins will score. The freshman forward from Kansas averaged 17.1 points per game. But to me, the real story of Wiggins' scoring prowess is the last five games of the Jayhawks' season. Without fellow freshman star Joel Embiid, Wiggins had to step up. In the first game without the center, he scored 41 points on 12 of 18 shooting. Over the final stretch without Embiid, Wiggins averaged 23.2 points. Yes, he had some down moments, but when called upon, he didn't shy away from stepping into the spotlight and taking over a game. In the early-season matchup with Duke, going head to head with another NBA lottery prospect in Jabari Parker, Wiggins shined with 22 points on 9 for 15 shooting and also showed his defensive skills. This is another area the Sixers must address. Between his nightly scoring capacity and his defense, Wiggins is the player who best fits the Sixers' needs.
A piece of me feels that Julius Randle could end up being the best player in this draft if he decides to declare, but the Sixers desperately need a wing that can fill it up. Enter Jabari Parker, who can immediately step into the role of go-to scorer. Parker is the most polished prospect offensively and has a similar skill set to Carmelo Anthony -- minus the constant ball-stopping. The 6-foot-8 forward can knock down the midrange jumper, get to the rim, and even step back and drain a three-pointer on occasion. Sure, his defense leaves a lot to be desired, but what young player couldn't use some work on that part of his game? With people in this city craving a flat-out scorer ever since some guy that wore No. 3 stopped playing at a high level, the Sixers can't afford to pass on a player with Parker's ability.
Andrew Wiggins. The Sixers are in need of a starting small forward. Wiggins showed the ability to attack the rim, getting to the foul line for 6.5 attempt per game, making an impressive 77.5 percent. Despite Kansas' early exit from the NCAA tournament, Wiggins played well in the Big 12 tournament. After Kansas' victory over Oklahoma State, Wiggins said, "My shot was falling the whole game. They cut off the base line, and step-back is one of my main moves, and it just fell through."
At 19 years old, to be able to take what a defense gives you and be able to identify your strengths -- that's a strong foundation to take to the next level.
This is an easy choice for me: Andrew Wiggins. As productive as Jabari Parker and Julius Randle were on the collegiate level, Wiggins has far and away the most upside of any prospect in the draft. Wiggins is a 6-8, explosive athlete with a jump shot that continues to evolve. He's hands down the best perimeter defender in the draft and will enter the NBA as a productive two-way player. At worst, he's a lockdown defender who provides Jeff Green/Rudy Gay level production on the offensive end. At best, he's a more athletic version of Paul George who will elevate the 76ers to elite status over the next decade. Take Doug McDermott with the Pelicans' pick and build around a nucleus of Michael Carter-Williams, Wiggins, McDermott, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel.
Nobody wants to go out on a limb? That's fine. I'll walk the plank. Give me Joel Embiid. The Sixers (and their fans) have every reason to panicked about a big man with health concerns at 18, but Embiid's upside is higher than anyone else's in this draft. Before back issues ended his season, Embiid spent a solid three months building himself as the consensus No. 1 pick. The top choice in the draft? Wiggins wasn't even the best player on his college team. As every other roster in the NBA gets smaller, I vote for Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown to play Embiid and Nerlens Noel next to each other. Fill out the rest of the roster with shooters, minus Michael Carter-Williams. (I see you sounding the Doug McDermott horn, Sean Kane.)
The Sixers either become the next NBA dynasty ... or Embiid becomes the next Greg Oden. Who wants to find out?