Over the last two seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers have been a terrible basketball team – or as Sam Hinkie likes to call it, “rebuilding.” Their draft model has been simple: take the best player available. On the surface, this is a great model, right? If you have little NBA talent you want to take the best NBA talent you can get in the draft. Except the problem for the Sixers is the best player available for them lately has been nothing but big men, and big men who aren’t ready to play in the NBA yet.
Spare the “position-less NBA” narrative. The narrative works when you are the Warriors, Spurs or Cavs. It doesn’t work if you send out a lineup consisting of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and the newest rumor, Kristaps Porzingis.
By all accounts, Porzingis is a top three player in this draft, maybe higher. He has shot up draft boards in the weeks approaching Thursday’s draft. Right now he may even be the hottest name in the draft, and a recent report says the Sixers are “leaning towards” drafting him with the third pick. Not so fast, Sam.
Around this time, smokescreens are used by nearly every general manager in the league. This is no different. Let’s be honest, where does Porzingis fit with Philadelphia? Even if Embiid has a serious injury, they’ve stocked up on big men. Maybe Hinkie knows something about Saric that the rest of the NBA doesn’t. But I’d say this looks like a smokescreen directed right at Rob Hennigan and the Orlando Magic.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic would take Porzingis at No. 5 if he’s available. I’d guess Hinkie is trying to bait Hennigan into moving up to the third spot, as it’s a win-win for both parties, right?
If they move up, the Magic get exactly who they want in Porzingis. By moving back, the Sixers would likely still get a point guard to replace the recently traded Michael Carter-Williams. That is, assuming the first two picks are Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. The Knicks would take either D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay (or trade?), leaving the Sixers with one of the top-tier point guards.
Of course, the Magic don’t have to make the move. They can roll the dice and hope Hinkie does the right thing and drafts a point guard with the third pick. However, they have to entertain the idea that he’s just crazy enough to take Porzingis, leaving them in a position of uncertainty.
Hinkie is known for making trades, and he surely will do some moving on Thursday night. Conventional logic suggests that the team is in dire need of a point guard. Porzingis would be a nice piece to the puzzle, but as the roster is constructed, he doesn’t really fit. After years of putting fans though the ringer, getting criticized on both a local and national level, Hinkie needs to draft for need over value. Good news for him, in this case need and value are equal if he takes one of the point guards with the third pick.
Fans of the team taking Porzingis will likely be on the fence about their draft pick. There’s reason to be excited; plenty of it actually. He’s drawn comparisons to Dirk. However, thanks to his European predecessors, there’s likely going to be some trepidation when he walks across that stage.
“What if he’s another Darko?”
“Andrea Bargnani didn’t work out.”
If the Sixers get Porzingis, good for them. He has all of the tools to be a staple for the organization for years to come. But it’ll raise eyebrows because the Sixers need help at point guard. Eventually they’re going to have to address needs beyond their big men, but as for now, Hinkie may think Porzinigis is too good to pass up.
If you’re playing NBA Draft Bingo, I hope you have a Hinkie square.