I have always loved the Philadelphia 76ers.
I would go to the old Spectrum in 1973 and buy a cheap seat and eventually end up courtside. If you think the 76ers are bad now, you have a short memory. The 1972-73 team was historically bad — winning just 9 out of 82 games. They were so bad that when I sat courtside I had to suppress the urge to yell “next!” like I did to play in pick-up games.
Things quickly got better. By the mid ’70s, the 76ers were a powerhouse in the NBA. I believe the same thing can happen with the 2013-2014 version of the 76ers.
In one of the deepest drafts in recent history, the 76ers will have two lottery picks. Given the current standings, if the ping pong balls fall the way they should, the Sixers will get the second and the 11th picks. They also'll also have two second-round picks.
If others can put together mock drafts based on the lottery odds, I can use them to put together a mock starting lineup for the 2014-15 season, so 76ers’ fans (yes, they exist) can see how quickly a blinding bright light can appear at the end of even the darkest of tunnels.
Center – Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, 6’11, 19 years old, 6th pick, 2013
Was considered by many analysts to be the best player last year’s draft, but teams were scared off by a torn ACL. Not the Sixers. Allowing Noel to sit a year and nurse his injury played nicely into their master plan of tanking the season to become a championship team. Noel has a ridiculous 7’ 4” wingspan and once he gets on the court regularly will lead the NBA in blocked shots quickly. He is a defensive gem who can also score in double digits.
Point Guard – Michael Carter-Williams, 6’5”, 22 years old. 11th pick, 2013
Carter-Williams is the favorite for the NBA Rookie-of-the-Year honors. The last 76er to win the award was Allen Iverson in 1997. Carter-Williams is averaging more over 17 points a game and is 11th in the league with 6.2 assists per game. Carter-Williams is a star in the making.
Small Forward – Andrew Wiggins, 6’8”, 18 years old, 2nd pick, 2014
The year started with talk of the “Wiggins draft.” The best high school player in the country was also considered the best NBA prospect in the country. But Wiggins's seven-foot teammate Joel Embiid has jumped ahead of Wiggins in most mock drafts, as Wiggins had a tendency to disappear in some games. But the quick small forward still has the most upside and will have time to grow on a young team of stars.
Shooting Guard – Zach LaVine, 6’5”, 19 years old, 11th pick, 2014
The UCLA guard can play either point or shooting guard. He has a nice pull-up jump shot and freakish leaping ability. The scouting report on NBADraft.net reads that he can win the NBA dunk contest next year. There will be a few shooting guards available when the Sixers get their second pick. This pick could also be James Young of Kentucky or Gary Harris from Michigan State. One mock draft has the 76ers getting Gary Harris with the 11th picks and then LaVine with the 32nd pick.
Power Forward – Thaddeus Young, 6’8”, 25 years old, 12th pick, 2007
At 25, Young will be the veteran of the starting lineup. But here is where things get interesting. The 76ers not only have a stockpile of draft picks in the next several drafts, they could also be 30 million dollars under the salary cap, which is enough money to bring a bona fide superstar to Philly. With a lineup of potential stars and that much cash, it may be difficult for one of the big-name free agents to pass up.
Who are those big name free agents, you ask? If you think the 2014 draft is deep, take a look at this list:
- LeBron James
- Carmelo Anthony
- Chris Bosh
- Gordon Hayward
- Zach Randolph
- Lance Stephenson
And that's just to name a few.
The lineup above and the potential addition of a star free agent mean three things.
- The 76ers can get good fast.
- They can be good for a long time.
- They will compete for a championship.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the race for the most ping-pong balls in the NBA Draft. The team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of getting the first pick, the second worst record has a 19.9 percent chance, the third worst has a 15.6 percent chance and so on. The system was set up to prevent teams from tanking the season to guarantee they'd get the No. 1 pick. You see how well that’s worked out.
Here are the current Tankapalooza standings:
|New York Knicks||21-36||9½||2-8|
Sure, the 76ers are 3 and a half games out, but no one is playing worse right now. We can do this.
Just suffer through the next 25 games and a wealth of stars awaits.
Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.