76ers

History says Sixers shouldn't trade for No. 1 pick

ap-nba-stern-daugherty.jpg

History says Sixers shouldn't trade for No. 1 pick

The NBA draft is quickly approaching and the rumor mill is heating up. For the Sixers, all the speculation is about whether the team will trade the No. 3 and/or the No. 10 picks in order to get the top overall pick.

The Sixers covet Andrew Wiggins from Kansas, the rumor grist suggests, and they will do anything to get him.

But history shows that the Sixers should probably sit tight and make their top picks. They have seven of them, after all, and there could be many suitors looking for one of those five second-round picks the team possesses.

So as all the wrangling, bluffing and posturing is passed around about physical results and trades, let’s look at how the Sixers messed up the No. 1 overall pick and let a Hall of Fame-caliber player walk away because the team’s owner was really bad with people skills.

The No. 1 overall pick has been traded exactly two times in NBA history. In 1993, the Magic drafted Chris Webber and shipped him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks. With those picks, Todd Fuller (1996), Vince Carter (1998) and Mike Miller (2000) were drafted.

Strangely, the 1998 pick was traded by the Magic to Washington. Washington traded the pick to Golden State and the Warriors selected Carter only to immediately trade him to Toronto. It was a convoluted mess. However, Carter is 37 and still playing. It seems like he’ll keep going forever.

The other time it happened was in 1986 and it involved the Sixers, a guy from La Salle named “Jellybean,” Moses Malone, Jeff Ruland and a deal that should still make Philadelphia basketball fans crumple in the corner in the fetal position while rocking back and forth, crying and whispering, “Brad Daugherty … Brad Daugherty.”

Here’s how it went down:

In October of 1979, the San Diego Clippers traded their first-round pick in 1986 to the Sixers for Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. So as the Bryant family with a 13-month-old baby named Kobe packed up for the move to sunny San Diego, it was as if the trade was for nothing. After all, at that time of the NBA’s history, seven years may as well have been a millennium. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had yet to play a game in the NBA when the deal went down, and Michael Jordan was a junior in high school, still trying to prove that the coach at Laney High made a mistake in sending him to JV the year before.

By 1986, the Clippers moved to Los Angeles, where they were terrible. Even crazier, the NBA draft lottery was a matter of pulling a team name out of a hat. The Knicks, who finished the previous season with the worst record, got the No. 5 pick and the Celtics and Sixers, teams that appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals a couple months before the draft, got the top two picks.

Anyway, as fate would have it, Sixers owner Harold Katz invited the center Brad Daugherty to his house for an interview and a little hoops on the indoor court at his Main Line home. Apparently, Daugherty made such a poor impression on Katz that he traded the Sixers’ No. 1 overall pick to Cleveland for Roy Hinson.

That’s it. No future picks or cash or a handmade coupon for a free backrub. It was the No. 1 pick in the draft for Hinson.

Nothing else.

And since Hinson was on the way to Philly, Katz figured he ought to give the guy some space to spread his wings. So he traded three-time NBA MVP Malone, 1985 first-round pick Terry Catledge and a future first-round pick to Washington.

In return the Sixers got Ruland and Cliff Robinson. Robinson played two more NBA seasons before injuries forced him into retirement at age 28.

Ruland … well, yeah. He lasted five games in 1986 and 13 games in 1991. Then he was done.

Charles Barkley, in his second year with the Sixers, was excited about playing with Daugherty and Malone. Imagine the Sixers with Barkley, Malone, Daugherty, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney. Barkley thought about it and he was ready for a bright future.

Then he had the rug pulled out from underneath him.

"I didn't realize the Sixers were a bonehead organization. We had the No. 1 pick in the [1986] draft, and they traded Brad Daugherty. I'll never forget that," Barkley said on Monday's edition of Philly Sports Talk. "I was excited to play with Brad Daugherty, and I still had Moses (Malone), who was my mentor -- I thought we would have been an instant contender in the Eastern Conference. But they traded the [No. 1] pick and ended up getting Roy Hinson, who was a solid player, and they traded Moses, so I got really screwed in that deal -- I lost a center who was still playing well, I thought I was going to get a young guy who Moses could mentor like he did me and we would be a contender for the next 10 years, but the Sixers were just stupid.

"Our team went downhill after that. That was unfortunate because I wanted to win here in Philadelphia."

Hinson played eight years in the NBA and averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Daugherty also played eight seasons in the NBA and averaged a double-double -- 19 points and 10 rebounds. Barkley was gone in a whirlwind of controversy after the 1992 season and was able to pinpoint where it all went wrong in Philadelphia.

"The biggest mistake I probably made in my career: I should have got out of Philadelphia two years sooner because I went through three years where it was just brutal hearing about the rumors all the time," Barkley said on PST. "I was wasting my talent here because we didn't have a good team."

In other words, mess around with trading the top picks in the NBA draft at your own peril.

Is Sixers' Tobias Harris an All-Star? He's making a compelling case

Is Sixers' Tobias Harris an All-Star? He's making a compelling case

Around this time last year, Tobias Harris was leading the surprising Clippers to a strong start. Harris was averaging over 20 points a game while flirting with the 50-40-90 shooting line. He was a borderline All-Star.

Fast forward a year later and the 27-year-old resembles that player more now than he ever has during his tenure as a Sixer.

Harris added another impressive performance to his recent stretch of strong play in the Sixers’ 116-109 win over the Pelicans Friday night (see observations).

It wasn’t the cleanest performance for the Sixers, but Harris’ team-high 31 points helped the Sixers stay a perfect 14-0 at the Wells Fargo Center and become the only undefeated team at home in the NBA.

Every night is an opportunity for me to go out there and do the best I can to help our team win,” Harris said. "I’d love to be an All-Star — it’s a goal of mine as a player. I felt last year I was an All-Star in the beginning of the season. It didn’t happen that way. But I think each and every night, especially with our team, we have a nice amount of talent and I want to play at my best every single night to help us win games.

It hadn’t been the smoothest transition for Harris since he arrived in a blockbuster trade from Los Angeles.

The Sixers had just traded for Jimmy Butler a couple months prior and they were still trying to figure out how to use the mercurial star alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. With Harris, it was another mouth to feed and another piece to fit into the puzzle.

On paper, it looked like a master stroke by GM Elton Brand. Harris had become an elite three-point shooter and a go-to scorer for the Clippers. But the chemistry didn’t develop as quickly as they would’ve liked as Embiid missed a significant amount of time down the stretch with tendinitis in his left knee.

Over the last 16 games — and with Butler in Miami — Harris seems to have found his niche with the Sixers.

“Yeah, there’s definitely a comfort level, just being able to get familiar with guys on this team on and off the floor,” Harris said. “I think as a team, the comfort level from each and every one of the guys that’s on the floor is continuing to increase. I’m able to find ways to play with Ben in different pockets of the game, and Joel, also. There’s been a lot of things that I’ve liked. I’m going into games understanding more of what we need to do, where I’m at, where I’m going to get this play, that play, things like that.”

While the All-Star game doesn’t generally account for defense, that is likely where Harris has seen his most improvement.

In Friday night’s game, he was tasked with guarding former Sixer JJ Redick. As we saw during Redick’s time in Philly, that’s not an easy ask. Redick runs a marathon every game, navigating around screens and running dribble handoffs. Harris did a decent enough job, as Redick went 6 of 15 on the night.

Improving on the defensive end was Harris’ biggest point of emphasis this offseason. He went to Brett Brown before the season began and let him know that he wouldn’t be the weak link amongst a starting five that had elite-level defenders.

The notion of putting Harris on someone like Redick wouldn’t even have crossed his head coach’s mind last season.

“Could Tobias have done something like that last year? I didn't see him like that,” Brown said. “Maybe he could have, but I never saw him or played him like that and this year I do. And I think that it's part of your question about, 'Oh, he's having a great year,' and you go right to offense. I think he's having a hell of a year defensively.”

Harris is 13th in the conference in scoring and fourth among forwards. His 2.6 win shares are second-most among any forward in the East.

Throw in the last 16 games, where Harris has averaged 22.1 points and shot over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three, and the case is making itself.

You don't need much more ammunition," Brown said. "I mean, he's been so steady and just responsible, reliable, go-to guy. I put him kind of in a bunch of different spots — middle pick-and-roll, iso, three balls, making his free throws, plays that back down pound, pound game and can jump over people, smaller people. He's having a hell of a year.

A good enough year to be in Chicago on Feb. 16 for the All-Star game?

There’s a strong case to be made.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

After unusual path, showman Norvel Pelle doesn't 'mess up' his moment

After unusual path, showman Norvel Pelle doesn't 'mess up' his moment

Norvel Pelle is not the typical NBA player.

A native of Antigua and Barbuda, Pelle was a top recruit out of high school — that part was normal. Then his path went sideways.

The wiry center never played college basketball because of eligibility issues. He traveled to Delaware, Italy, Taiwan and Lebanon before signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Sixers this summer and reaching Friday night, where Brett Brown turned to Pelle, in his third NBA regular-season game, as Joel Embiid’s main backup. 

“It’s just knowing that this opportunity is once in a lifetime,” Pelle told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I worked hard to get here and I can’t mess up. So, just getting the jitters out — obviously there are going to be jitters regardless, but just meditating and staying positive throughout the whole thing.”

In 12 minutes, Pelle was exceptionally active. He had six points, five rebounds, three blocks and a handful of altered shots. Every time Pelle has stepped on an NBA floor, it seems he has been immediately challenged by players on a mission to embarrass him. It hasn’t always gone his way. Julius Randle slammed one in over Pelle in his NBA debut in New York and Kevin Porter Jr. dunked on Pelle last Saturday and then flexed in his face despite the Cavs trailing by more than 40 points. 

A member of the G League’s All-Defensive First Team last season, Pelle sees no shame in taking the occasional ferocious dunk to the face. He’s a showman who enjoys playing to the crowd and feeds off its energy, and he never likes to show any fear. 

“Next play,” he said of his mentality. “Next play, next play, next play. At the end of the day, I’m a shot blocker, so if I get dunked on, I get dunked on — that’s my mentality. Next play.” 

After picking up two early fouls, Pelle waited out a series of pump fakes from former Sixer Jahlil Okafor to record his first block of the night, leading to a Ben Simmons dunk. He then denied a slam attempt by Brandon Ingram, creating a fast break that concluded with a James Ennis three. 

“You know every game he's going to bring you energy,” Simmons said following the Sixers' 116-109 win over the Pelicans (see observations). “He loves blocking shots, just risking his body for those blocks and protecting the rim. I love having him as a part of this team.”

Both Simmons and Brown said Pelle reminded them of Nerlens Noel. Like Noel, Pelle’s offensive game is not too extensive — it’s mostly screening and rolling, lob catching and energy. The defensive package, though, is intriguing.

“Just wanted to see what we have in him,” Brown said. “We had a little taste in New York. I wanted to see more. And I thought he was really good. I thought he was really good. He is sort of Nerlens like to me — rim protector, shot blocker, quick off the floor. I thought he was good.”

It’s uncertain whether Pelle could eventually have a consistent role with the Sixers. The man whose job he temporarily took Friday, Kyle O’Quinn, was signed this offseason to be insurance for Embiid. Al Horford should assume the primary backup center position once he returns from the left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness that’s sidelined him the past two games. 

Pelle’s two-way contract also means he can’t be with the Sixers for more than 45 days between the start of Blue Coats training camp and the end of the G League regular season, and he’s not eligible for the NBA playoffs.

Brown didn’t attribute Pelle’s five fouls vs. the Pelicans to being “undisciplined,” but the big man would likely need to refine his game a bit if he was tasked with a regular role.

Embiid wasn’t worried about any of that. 

“I told him if he got the minutes, he would probably lead the league in blocks,” he said. “He has a chance to become a fan favorite, so he should just keep doing whatever he’s doing.”

After all the empathic dunks and dramatic poses and swatted shots in foreign gyms, Pelle had time to reflect Friday night. 

“This was more than what I expected,” he said. “I’m appreciative of everything and everybody. I’m taking it day by day, moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity and just go out there and do what I have to do.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers