76ers

The 10 best draft picks in Sixers history

The 10 best draft picks in Sixers history

In sports, we often talk about building through the draft. 

Sure, a shrewd trade or free agent signing can help put a team over the top, but generally a decent core has to be in place. Good draft selections helped usher in some of the best eras of Sixers basketball.

With that in mind, we take a look at the 10 best draft picks in Sixers history. 

10. Andrew Toney, 1980, first round (8th overall)
Toney was a two-time All-Star and big part of the Sixers’ last title in 1983. Drafted out of Louisiana-Lafayette, “The Boston Strangler” averaged 15.9 points a game in his eight-year career. There are many who believe Toney was on a Hall of Fame path before a foot injury forced him into retirement at the age of 30. If only Toney’s career wasn’t cut short, he’d likely be much higher on this list.

9. Doug Collins, 1973, first round (1st overall)
While our freshest memories of Collins are as the Sixers’ head coach, he had a productive NBA career after coming out of Illinois State. Collins averaged 17.9 points a game and helped usher in arguably the greatest era of Sixers basketball. Unfortunately, Collins also succumbed to foot and knee injuries. He retired in 1981, just before the 1983 championship, at the age of 29.

In a draft that didn’t boast much talent, the Sixers did well in 1973. After taking Collins, they selected George McGinnis — who spent four years in the ABA before two All-Star seasons with the Sixers — and Caldwell Jones in the second round.

8. Ben Simmons, 2016, first round (1st overall)
Sure, this is a little bit of a projection, but it’s hard to argue with the returns on Simmons so far. In his third NBA season, he made his second All-Star appearance and appears well on his way to All-Defensive Team honors. Though it’s early in Simmons’ career, he is the franchise leader in assists per game and assist percentage. The team also won 50 games in both of his first two seasons and was on track to be at or near that mark again before this season was suspended.

7. Joel Embiid, 2014, first round (3rd overall)
Much like Simmons, there’s a bit of projection, but Embiid’s first four NBA seasons have been dominant. His 24.1 points a game trail only Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson. He also has the highest usage rate and rebounding percentage in team history. He’s a three-time All-Star and has been named Second Team All-Defense and All-NBA in each of the last two seasons.

While Embiid was supremely talented coming out of Kansas, it took some guts to take him given his injury history. Injuries have haunted him in his young NBA career, but he is on an extremely special trajectory. After seeing what’s become of the careers of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, this pick looks even better.

6. Allen Iverson, 1996, first round (1st overall)
While there may be better players and better value draft picks on this list, there is nobody more beloved than A.I. Iverson is all over the Sixers’ record books. He’s the franchise leader in threes made and steals per game. He’s second in points — both total and per game — minutes, steals and usage rate. He also led an improbable and memorable run to the Finals in 2001. Though it may have been a no-brainer to take the 6-foot guard from Georgetown, Iverson’s Hall of Fame career gets him on this list.

5. Charles Barkley, 1984, first round (5th overall)
“The Round Mound of Rebound” struggled to get on the floor his rookie year coming out of Auburn because he was “fat and lazy.” But once Barkley’s career took off, he became a perennial All-Star and bona fide superstar. Sir Charles was a six-time All-Star and is third in franchise history in rebounds and fifth in points. Unfortunately, the Sixers failed to surround Barkley with enough talent and he was traded to Phoenix in 1992 before finishing his Hall of Fame career in Houston. 

4. Maurice Cheeks, 1978, second round (36th overall)
If you’re going off sheer value, you could make an argument for Cheeks in the top spot. Easily the greatest NBA player to ever come out of West Texas A&M, Cheeks was a five-time All-Defensive team pick, a four-time All-Star and a world champion in 1983. Cheeks has the most steals and assists in franchise history. Getting a Hall of Famer at 36th overall? Not too shabby.

3. Chet Walker, 1962, second round (12th overall)
Selected by the Syracuse Nationals — who became the Sixers the following season — Walker had an excellent career. Only John Havlicek scored more points in the 1962 draft class. The Bradley product was a three-time All-Star with the Sixers and helped the team win its first title in 1967. Unfortunately, Walker was traded to the Bulls during his prime and went on to make four more All-Star teams in his Hall of Fame career. 

2. Billy Cunningham, 1965, first round (5th overall)
Cunningham is the only person on this list to be involved in both Sixers championships. After a stellar career at UNC, “The Kangaroo Kid” joined Walker, Hal Greer and Wilt Chamberlain and helped form one of the best starting fives in NBA history that won it all in 1967. Cunningham is in the top 10 in just about every stat in team history and was a four-time All-Star in Philadelphia during his Hall of Fame playing career.

It’s fair to note that if the Sixers never draft Cunningham, they don’t get the best coach in their history. Cunningham coached and won the most games in team history. His .698 winning percentage and 66 playoff wins are also franchise-best marks. He took the team to the Finals three times, winning it in 1983.

1. Hal Greer, 1958, second round (13th overall)
Greer’s resume speaks for itself. The Marshall product, who was also selected by the Nationals, went on to become the franchise leader in points, field goals made, games and minutes. He was a key cog on that 1967 championship team. He made 10 All-Star teams during his 15-year career, all spent with the Sixers/Nats.

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2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

Payton Pritchard

Position: PG
Height: 6-2
Weight: 190
School: Oregon

The NCAA Tournament being cancelled will likely affect several draft prospects. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard seems to be one of them. The senior guard led the Ducks to a 24-7 record and the team won the Pac-12 regular season title with a 13-5 mark. Pritchard leading a strong tourney run could’ve helped his draft stock.

As it stands, Pritchard’s resume is still pretty darn impressive. He was a consensus All-American in 2019-20 and won Pac-12 Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5. points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his final collegiate season.

Strengths

Pritchard has a reputation as a tireless worker and dogged competitor. As mentioned, he was the true leader of an Oregon team that had a chance to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament. He excelled in a much larger scoring role his senior season.

He seems to have the ball on a string with advanced handling skills. His father told a reporter that his son practices dribbling “until his hands bleed.” While he’s not the most explosive guard, his ability to change speeds and understanding of when to do so is a huge asset.

He also has good vision and awareness. Despite a high usage rate, Pritchard’s turnover numbers didn’t grow exponentially. He averaged 4.6 assists and two turnovers a game during his time in Eugene.

Outside of a down season in 2018-19, Pritchard has proven to be an elite shooter. He’s fearless with unlimited range. This play against Washington in overtime got a much deserved “ONIONS!” call from Bill Raftery.

That game was sort of a microcosm of Pritchard. Oregon struggled against Washington’s zone for much of the game. Pritchard patiently picked his spots but took over at times when his team needed him to.

Despite being just 6-foot-2, Pritchard is solidly built and did flash potential as an off-ball defender with 1.5 steals a game. He’s also a solid rebounder for his height, which helps him be able to push the pace.

Weaknesses

The height will likely be an issue at the next level. He also doesn’t have long arms or the lateral quickness it would seem to take to defend NBA guards. It’s hard to gauge against the zone, but he may also struggle to battle through screens.

He’s not particularly athletic or explosive. Though his ball handling skills are excellent, he does struggle to turn the corner on quicker defenders. The lack of explosion also led to him struggling to finish against length at the rim.

While he has NBA skills, he does not possess a strong physical NBA profile.

Fit

As a player that can play with and back up Ben Simmons, Pritchard could be a decent fit. Pritchard's ability as a shooter and advanced ball handling would mesh well with Simmons' elite ability as a screener and roller. Simmons’ size and defensive prowess could help cover Pritchard’s deficiencies. 

While he took on a scoring role this season, Pritchard isn’t the type of player to force things. As a point guard that likes to push the ball up the floor, he could fit in well with the Sixers’ pace and space style.

Because of his lack of height and athleticism, he will likely be around for the Sixers in the middle of the second round. He seems worth a flyer there because of his steady improvement and work ethic. He's not the type of player you bet against despite his physical limitations.

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Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

The coronavirus pandemic has altered our everyday lives. It’s caused many to self-reflect and find out new things about themselves.

So, what has Joel Embiid found out about himself with all this time on his hands while the NBA season is suspended?

“I’ve discovered that I’m not that good at video games,” Embiid said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Zumoff.

The All-Star center, whose game of choice is still FIFA, went on to explain the evolution of his player in career mode. That’s not to say Embiid hasn’t been taking the situation in our world seriously. Embiid pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts back in March.

Even as the NBA appears to be closer to a return, Embiid is still emphasizing safety — though he misses playing in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

“First of all, I want everybody to remain safe. I want to be safe,” Embiid said. “This is nothing to play with. You don’t know what can happen. But when the time is right and everything is safe and I can be on the court, I feel like what I’m going to be missing the most is just being out there, winning for the city of Philadelphia, representing the city of Philadelphia, and just going out there and dominating.”

The 26-year-old felt like he was turning a corner before the stoppage. He had two of his more dominant outings of the season after the All-Star break, including putting up a career-high 49 points against the Hawks.

It was an odd first half to the season, but outside of a shoulder injury that cost him five games, Embiid was looking more like his old self after the break.

“I feel like before the season got shut down, I was on that path,” Embiid said. “Especially after that All-Star Game, my mentality just completely changed. First part of the season, it wasn’t up to my standards — not even close. I was on that path to just changing all that and making it happen.”

Of course, what would an article about Joel Embiid be if health and fitness level weren’t mentioned? Embiid’s career has been mired by injuries. When he’s missed time, whether because of injury or load management, he’s admitted that he can get out of shape quickly. He hasn’t played a game since March 11.

GM Elton Brand said earlier this month that he “wouldn’t bet against” Embiid coming back ready to play. His head coach took it even a step further.

“Joel's always a topic. We get it,” Brett Brown said back on May 15. “The importance that he represents as being a complete parallel to can you win a championship or not, is real. I've had many conversations with Jo. I spoke with him 30 minutes ago, and he's got a real desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he's been in the league.”

No matter what the format looks like, the Sixers won’t have an easy road ahead if/when the NBA resumes play. It seems like they could meet the Celtics in the first round, a team that knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs in 2018.

Like anyone missing basketball, Embiid watched “The Last Dance” documentary. There are some parallels to be made as Embiid and Ben Simmons have had their share of disappointment in the postseason. Much like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did with the “Bad Boy” Pistons, the Sixers’ All-Star duo may have to overcome their playoff boogeymen in Boston and Toronto.

Embiid believes he can push his teammates the same way Jordan once did.

“I did watch it. It was interesting,” Embiid said. “I saw a lot of similarities and a lot of people have told me that. … I can also be that guy, I just need to keep putting in the work and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

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