Despite it taking place over four years ago, the 2014 NBA draft continues to look better by the day for the Sixers.
Of course, that’s the draft in which the Sixers selected Joel Embiid at No. 3 and dealt the No. 10 choice (Elfrid Payton) to the Orlando Magic for the rights to Dario Saric at No. 12 along with a pair of draft picks.
Even recapping that first-round haul for the Sixers should bring a grin across your face.
That’s mainly because of what is transpiring with the careers of the other players from that draft class.
The latest move was the No. 2 overall pick that night, Jabari Parker, being allowed by the Milwaukee Bucks to sign an offer sheet to join his hometown Chicago Bulls earlier this week.
Now think back to 2014. Remember when people were hoping and praying the Sixers would be able to move up a spot or two to snag Parker or eventual top pick Andrew Wiggins? Recall how some didn’t want to touch Embiid, who was coming off a back injury at Kansas and suffered a broken bone in his foot during the pre-draft process? Add on those that weren't supportive of grabbing the then-mysterious Saric (you know he's never coming over, right?).
It’s unlikely you’ll hear those individuals speak up now. Not with Embiid as the Sixers’ All-Star anchor in the middle and Saric serving as a rock-solid forward next to him.
And they’ll be even quieter once you factor in the statuses of those other 2014 selections.
Look at Wiggins. Yes, he’s found a home in Minnesota and even signed a $146 million extension prior to last season. However, his inconsistency has been maddening at times and even forced Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to recently say he’s not ready to give up on the 23-year-old swingman.
When it comes to Parker, the Bucks let him walk for a reason. The combo forward suffered two torn ACLs in his four-year stint in Milwaukee. And while he was a solid contributor when on the floor, it was clear the Bucks now run through budding star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Even after that trio at the top, things aren’t exactly booming career-wise for the players that followed in the draft.
Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 overall pick, inked an $80 million deal this summer to remain in Orlando for the next four seasons. However, the team has a 114-214 record since Gordon was drafted.
The Jazz committed $33 million over three years to guard Dante Exum earlier this offseason. But realistically, the team had so much confidence in the oft-injured fifth pick in ’14 that it drafted Donovan Mitchell and acquired Ricky Rubio from the Timberwolves just a year ago.
There are plenty of solid players after the top five from the 2014 draft, but none of them are the caliber of Embiid and few measure up to Saric.
Things really get hairy when you take a look at the middle of the lottery. Former Sixer Nik Stauskas, who was taken eighth, is now on his fourth NBA team. Noah Vonleh was picked ninth and is now playing for his third franchise. Payton was the Sixers’ pick at No. 10 before being shipped to Orlando. He signed to join the New Orleans Pelicans in free agency earlier this month, which marks his third team in four years. And the 11th name called that night, Doug McDermott, will suit up for his fifth NBA team when next season rolls around.
In all, only 10 of the 30 players taken in the first round in 2014 are with the original team they suited up for on opening night (that includes Marcus Smart and Clint Capela, who remain on the market as restricted free agents).
Two of them are Embiid and Saric, who are still helping the Sixers climb from the cellar just a few years ago to the top of the NBA food chain.
Not a bad draft haul at all and it looks even better now.