By Joe Giglio
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the 2014 NBA Finals play out, it’s impossible for Philadelphia basketball fans to ignore the truths at hand, especially when it comes to hope for the future of the Sixers franchise under general manager Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown.
On one hand, the Miami Heat have exactly what the Sixers tanked for last season–star power. Specifically, star power that was once dissected atop an NBA Draft. In 2003, it was clear that LeBron James was the best player, but debate raged beyond the No. 1 overall pick, including talents like Marquette’s Dwyane Wade and Georgia Tech’s Chris Bosh.
While Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker may indeed become as accomplished as Wade, Bosh and fellow 2003 lottery pick Carmelo Anthony, it’s instructive to look to the other side of the Finals when thinking about Hinkie’s upcoming draft strategy.
Tim Duncan was once the No. 1 overall pick. Like James, he’s been an all-time NBA great and continues to be a franchise rock, nearly 17 full years since the Spurs selected the senior power forward from Wake Forest.
Beyond Duncan, however, is a deep, versatile roster that any team in basketball would love to have. As contributors like Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Patty Mills and Matt Bonner make contributions in the NBA Finals, don’t ignore the draft position of each of those players.
Ginobili: 2nd round, 59th overall in 1999
Green: 2nd round, 46th overall in 2009
Mills: 2nd round, 55th overall in 2009
Bonner: 2nd round, 45th overall in 2003
Over the next two weeks, NBA Draft debate will commence on the lines of 94WIP. Will Hinkie trade up for Wiggins? Could Michael Carter-Williams actually be sacrificed in a trade? Which athletic wing or shooter should the Sixers take at No. 10?
With two lottery picks (No. 3 and No. 10), it’s easy to focus on two potential stars headed to the Wells Fargo Center to form a nucleus with Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. If everything goes perfectly, the four young talents will approximate what the Oklahoma City Thunder once had with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
Of course, things rarely go as planned. Oklahoma City is a model to hope for, but success in San Antonio, where Brett Brown honed his craft for years, could be a more appropriate way of modeling a franchise.
Armed with a whopping five second round picks, the Sixers can own a portion of the draft that only die hard fans truly pay attention to on a yearly basis. For the average Sixers fan, interest will wane after Philadelphia makes its second of two first round selections.
Yet, if Hinkie and company hit on one or two of those later picks, major contributors to the next winning Sixers team could arrive. It’s easy to dismiss second rounders because of how star power dominates the NBA, but there’s value to be had with five potential shots at a draft dart board.
Most draft debates will revolve around the big names, leaving out potential late picks like Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early, Michigan’s Mitch McGary, UConn’s DeAndre Daniels, North Carolina’s James McAdoo and Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane.
As you might surmise, all of those players have flaws. From concerns surrounding size, athleticism and upside, there’s a reason that four of the five very likely won’t go in the first round (with Early as the possible exception) and none have been discussed as lottery picks.
Once upon of time, of course, the same concerns and draft reports were filed about players like Ginobili and Green.
In order to graduate from laughing stock to contender to championship-caliber team, the Sixers need a star like Wiggins, Parker or Embiid to emerge as a dominant force. Beyond that, securing a solid contributor in the second round could significantly alter the future for a contending Sixers team.
Joe Giglio is a host on WIP and WFAN, and covers MLB as a Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Find him on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports. Catch Joe’s next show on WIP Sunday night at 11 p.m.
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