Embiid Shakes Up Sixers' Draft Plans

It seems like nothing ever goes right for the 76ers. Most of the time it’s their own fault, but sometimes – like this time – they couldn’t do a thing about it.

The Sixers own the No.3 overall selection in Thursday’s NBA draft and until about a week ago, things were lined up nicely for them. With more and more reports dribbling in that the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to pick center Joel Embiid of Kansas with the first overall selection, it appeared the Sixers were going to get one of the two players they coveted the most – swingmen Jabari Parker of Duke or Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.

Then came the stunning news – Cavaliers team doctors discovered stress fractures in Embiid’s foot that will sideline for at least six months, and now there’s no way the Cavs will risk the No. 1 pick on him. And that means there’s a good chance that Parker and Wiggins will go 1-2 to Cleveland and Milwaukee, which would leave the 76ers with … what?

There will be plenty of good players out there after Wiggins and Parker are snatched up, but with Embiid presumably out of the picture, there doesn’t appear to be a consensus as to who the third best player is. It could be Australian point guard Dante Exum, who dazzled scouts with his complete game, but hasn’t really tested that game against top-flight competition. So, like Embiid, drafting Exum that high and expecting him to be a franchise player is a gamble.

And that’s really going to be the question for the Sixers – do they gamble or do they play it safe? They could take a chance that Embiid isn’t as injury prone as he seems and draft him on his potential. They did that last year with Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel – he sat out the entire 2013-14 season as he recovered and rehabilitated from a serious knee injury. Several reputable mock drafts say the Sixers will take Embiid if he’s there and at least one report – citing unnamed sources – said the Sixers are still interested in the big man.

They could also take a chance that Exum is as good as advertised. That would give the Sixers a potentially formidable backcourt of Exum and Michael Carter-Williams, or give the Sixers the freedom to do something that’s been rumored for months – trade Carter-Williams for either a veteran big man or more draft picks.

In fact, with the third and 10th overall selections, and with Embiid’s injury throwing their draft board into disarray, the Sixers could make all sorts of deals, especially if they’re willing to include veteran forward Thaddeus Young in any trade.

Of course, the Sixers could choose to play it safe and simply take the player whom they believe is the third best player in the draft, or at least the best player who suits their needs the most. And there are a bunch of them, including several power forwards, a position where the Sixers need help (OK, they need help everywhere, but you know what we mean) — Noah Vonleh of Indiana, Julius Randle of Kentucky, Aaron Gordon of Arizona and Adreian Payne of Michigan State. All of them should be solid players in the NBA and some of them could become stars, but there are no sure things.

As for the Sixers’ 10th overall selection, the mock drafts indicate they’ll take shooting guard Nik Stauskas of Michigan, although forward Doug McDermott of Creighton is also getting some votes. What the Sixers do with the third overall pick, of course, will influence what they do with the 10th pick.

So, the Sixers could go in several directions on Thursday night. Let’s just hope they don’t head in the same direction they did two years ago when they drafted Evan Turner. That was a wrong turn they can’t afford to take again.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

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