By Peter Gleason
In case you haven’t noticed, the NBA draft is tomorrow night, and the Sixers are on center stage as the world — but especially long-suffering Sixers fans — waits to see how general manager Sam Hinkie will do in the third draft since his hiring in 2013.
There have been lots and lots of so-called experts predict what Hinkie will do — talk about a waste of brain power! — but someone who follows the NBA closely and actually had some common sense and sources is Chad Ford of ESPN, who has posted the following:
Round 1 (3) Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China (above)
Round 2 (35) Christian Wood, C, UNLV Round 2 (37) Olivier Hanlan, G, Jr., Boston College
Round 2 (47) Vince Hunter, F, So., UTEP
Round 2 (58) Daniel Diez, F, Spain
Round 2 (60) Arturas Gudaitis, C, Lithuania
Analysis: The Sixers have six — that’s right, six– picks in the draft. But five of them are in the second round, meaning they only get one real shot in this draft to add a major difference-maker. I don’t expect the Sixers to actually draft six guys. Three is much more likely. But for now, here’s what it would look like if they kept all of them. Nerlens Noel looked like a keeper after a strong finish to his rookie year. Joel Embiid has the potential to be the best player in the 2014 draft if he can stay healthy (which is a major question mark right now) and keep progressing. The Sixers could end up with a monster front line in a few years. What they need — desperately — is some backcourt help. In the first version of the “Grade: A” mock draft, I had them grabbing Russell. But after watching them both work out and interviewing them, I actually think it’s Mudiay who has the slight edge over Russell. He’s bigger, more athletic and I think he has a unique maturity that will matter in the league. He doesn’t provide the shooting that Russell does, but his shot isn’t broken. He’s clearly been working on it. Defensively? Mudiay is far ahead.
The rest of the draft is a who’s who of upside. Wood is a great athlete and has the ability to both stretch the floor and protect the rim. It’s his work ethic that caused him to fall into the second round. Hanlen is a combo guard who can score and play the point. He’s better than what he showed at Boston College. Hunter’s an elite athlete who, if he ever learned how to shoot, could be a steal at this point in the draft. Diez and Gudaitis are draft-and-stash guys because there’s no way the Sixers want or need six rookies on their roster. Of the two, Diez is especially interesting because of his ability to shoot.