Sunday, July 12, 2015


Seated and Defeated
So the other foot dropped today, with Sixers 2014 first round draft pick Joel Embiid getting shut down for another year with another injury to the foot, and there are several reactions in the world.

1) It's a darn shame, because Embiid could be a special talent, and this is just going down a la Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Yao Ming and every other 7-footer who could not stay healthy.

2) It's what the Sixers deserve, because they have lost on purpose and are mean mean mean, and Sixer Fan is from Philadelphia, and screw those guys, because they are also, in a unique and unprecedented way, mean mean mean.

3) Only stupid teams draft hurt 7-footers, because hurt 7-footers never become unhurt 7-footers, and shorter basketball players are always magically healthy.

Here's the deal, though... looking back at the 2014 draft, sitting in the third slot, what else should, or could, the team have done instead?

Here's the top 10 from that draft again. Warning: this gets ugly fast, and to supplement that point, I'll detail why.

1) Cleveland - Andrew Wiggins. Rookie of the Year, who we all wanted to go with Nerlens Noel. Sigh.

2) Milwaukee - Jabari Parker. No one was in love with him because he doesn't defend, but there's no doubt he'll be in the league for 10 years and score a lot of points. Assuming health, which might not be a great assumption.

3) Philadelphia - Joel Embiid. Our own personal Greg Oden. Except that none of the guys after him are Kevin Durant, and unlike Oden, Embiid profiled as a winning player on both ends of the court.

4) Orlando - Aaron Gordon. 17 minutes a game for a god-awful Orlando club that needed defense. Which was the one thing he was supposed to be able to do right away. His next team will get a hell of a bench energy guy.

5) Utah - Dante Exum. Had his moments and is crazy young, but 35% from the floor is extremely worrisome. I like him, but it's not as if he's a lock to be great.

6) Boston - Marcus Smart. Had his moments and actually played some (27 minutes per game) for the 8th seed in the lEast, but 37% from the floor is even more worrisome, in that he's not that young. I'm not a fan for the simple reason that if you can't get Evan Turner off the floor, I don't think you belong in the NBA.

7) LA Lakers - Julius Randle. Got hurt almost immediately, and wasn't exactly an athletic whirlwind before that. Yikes. Hey, here's a non 7-footer that got hurt. What were the odds?

8) Sacramento - Nik Stauskas. So good the Sixers just got him in a salary dump. So, um, there's that. Hope springs eternal.

9) Charlotte - Noah Vonleh. 38% from the floor as a power forward, 4 assists in 259 minutes for the year. I'm not sure how you play 259 minutes in the NBA and get four assists. I think a dead guy would have 6.

10) Philadelphia (traded to Orlando) - Elfrid Payton. Reasonably athletic and 42.5% FG is positively stellar for this group, but a PG who can't shoot FTs (55%) scares me silly, in that the ceiling is Rajon Rondo, and I have no desire to live with a Rondo type. No thanks.

Wait, it gets better. Want to give yourself omniscience and poach the breakout guy from later in the draft? That gets you Zach LaVine at 13 (athletic and productive, but the shot is wonky), Mitch McGary at 21 (pot helped drive him down this far, but still not getting better bigs in OKC off the floor), Rodney Hood at 23 (meh), and so far, um, that might be it. Maybe Jordan Clarkson at 46, who put up numbers in the LA Lakers Void, but plenty of mirages have done that sort of thing in the past. You can sign Jeremy Lin for squat right now, and he's done just about the same thing as Clarkson to date.

This does not strike me as a particularly good draft. Hell, Embiid might be considered one of the better players to date, in that there's still a hope he'll have a career in the US, unlike most of these clowns. Dario Saric at 12 might be the steal of the draft, and his rights are with the club.

So, if there's no great talent behind Embiid in the 2014 draft that they should have taken instead, and 7-footers with foot problems don't always go down the Death Hole (for every Yao Ming, there's a Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and for every Greg Oden, there's a Nerlens Noel). So why the anguish?

Well, because no one in the NBA who doesn't root for the Sixers is, well, rooting for this Process to work. No one really wants to go down the path of admitting that building something long-term requires massive and nearly deliberate losing.

But as a fan of the laundry, the only thing I really wanted them to do in the 2014 draft was win the lottery and take Wiggins. After that, there really wasn't an obvious move to make, either now or then. So, um, bummer, but at least they have another big to replace him, right?


Snd_dsgnr said...

"for every Yao Ming, there's a Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and for every Greg Oden, there's a Nerlens Noel"

I think you're right about Embiid being the guy Philly more or less had to take at 3, but is this part really true? I think Embiid was worth taking a shot on, but I suspect that if you went through the history of 7 footers with foot injuries the number of them that worked out wouldn't be 50%.

DMtShooter said...

You've got a point, but the other aspect of this is the massive changes in sports medicine. If there were a statistically significant number of 7-foot guys with this kind of issue, we could make a more educated guess. There's not. Comparing Embiid to Sam Bowie and Bill Walton is comparing a 20 year old man to a 50-year-old, and a 70-year-old. No one does that.

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