By Andrew Porter
“Isn’t it sad?”
“Isn’t what sad?” I asked.
“The best thing we have to look forward to in Philly sports are ping-pong balls.”
I started to think about it. No it’s not sad. It’s not sad at all. I don’t feel one bit of sadness. Rather, I could not be more excited for the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday and the future of Philadelphia 76ers.
The anticipation surrounding the NBA draft lottery in Philadelphia is high and it stems from the Sixers second-to-worst-place finish in 2013, combined with a top-5 protected first-round pick they acquired from New Orleans in last year’s Jrue Holiday trade. Two top-ten 2014 overall picks is very much a reality for the Sixers.
Other elements help create excitement as well, like new general manager Sam Hinkie hitting on the 11th pick in last year’s draft by selecting NBA rookie of the year, Michael Carter-Williams. Plus, the fact that the Sixers’ 2013 sixth overall pick, 6’11” center Nerlens Noel (who is a longtime friend and former AAU teammate of Carter-Williams), hasn’t seen live NBA game action yet. He has done nothing but work out and learn with promising first-year Sixers head coach, Brett Brown.
Additionally, the Sixers will have approximately $30 million in cap space to play with going forward, a number that will be among the highest in the NBA.
Lastly, the allure of the players the Sixers will potentially draft in the 2014 draft with two possible lottery picks, fuels it all for Sixers fans. Players like 18-year-old Andrew Wiggins (watch this ‘Sports Science’ video and check out this picture of his vertical jump) and 19-year-old, 6’8”, 235-pound Jabari Parker, have Sixers fans salivating.
With a successful 2014 draft, the addition of Noel to go along with Carter-Williams and at least two talented rookies, cap space, with Brown and Hinkie at the helm, you can foresee sustained success for this franchise going forward. You can picture the Sixers back in the playoffs and the Wells Fargo Center rocking again. You can understand this is the beginning and as season two of this journey gets underway, the Sixers have a clear direction—something not many franchises can say.
So, when my friend texted me that it is sad ping-pong balls are all we have to look forward to as Philadelphia sports fans, I told him, “I’m not sad, I can’t wait for Tuesday.”
Those ping-pong balls on Tuesday night will not represent an ounce of sadness of the Sixers’ recent past, but rather the excitement for the Sixers’ future. For us Philadelphia sports fans, Tuesday night could be a monumental in terms of building the groundwork towards something special in our city.
Other than Eagles, who don’t start playing games that count until September, we don’t have much to get excited about right now. The Phillies are riding an aging core and are on the verge of a complete downfall and the Flyers, well, they’re the Flyers—always good, never good enough. Therefore, Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery followed by the 2014 NBA draft in June might be the most sports pleasure we get until September.
Hinkie, Brown, and Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil have made it clear from day one—this is a process. Season one is in the books and was controversially deemed a “huge success” by Sixers owner, Joshua Harris. A 19.9% chance at the number one overall pick in 2014, the NBA Rookie of the Year, the removal of Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and Lavoy Allen, and one full year to develop their raw, future center. A “huge success” is accurate.
Year one was like a sacrifice bunt. The Sixers did their job and put themselves in position to score. Now, it’s year two and it is time to knock in the first run.
Of course, the Sixers could “strike out” by getting the fifth overall selection and lose their top-five protected pick from New Orleans completely. This is Philadelphia after all.
*I’ll be at the Liberty Ballers Sixers draft lottery watch party at Miller’s Ale House in the Northeast. Join us.
Andrew Porter is the Audio Roadshow Coordinator for SportsRadio WIP, editor and writer for The School Philly, and a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly. You can follow him on Twitter @And_Porter.