When the NBA Draft began, the 76ers desperately needed a guard to run their offense.
They still do.
When the Los Angeles Lakers decided to select Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick, the Sixers quickly changed course and they went big. How can you blame them?
You take the best available player and worry later.
Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor was simple too good to pass up and he ultimately joined the Sixers at No. 3.
If Nerlens Noel, Okafor and Joel Embiid can all co-exist, it’s a very strong frontcourt for coach Brett Brown. Embiid’s recovery from a foot injury has been slower than expected, but if he can get healthy, it’s fascinating to project this group of big men down the road.
The Sixers have a bevy of picks next year, so a guard could be waiting.
For now, it’s about being happy and worrying later.
Okafor, who won a national championship at Duke, is happy to be the Sixers’ next big man.
“Now, they are saying, you don’t need a big man,” Okafor told reporters at his introductory news conference at PCOM. “But as far as I can remember, a big man has dominated the NBA. Tim Duncan won it (in 2014). It was all about the big men with Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett. So people get a little excited because what Steph Curry and those guys did was great. It worked. Their formula was fantastic. But as long as I can remember, big men have been dominant, and the results have been championships.”
Without addressing the backcourt, that need is still looming large.
Will it be figured out in next year’s draft? Or free agency?
“We want players that will fit our group over a long period of time,” Sixers GM & President Sam Hinkie told reporters. “Especially if we make some kind of big investment. It needs to be someone who might fit. You might guess that if we believe that that is a player that can help us, other teams might reach that conclusion, too. There’s often competition for those sort of things and the players need to make their own decisions.”
Overall, the Sixers’ draft class improved their roster, especially with the addition of Okafor.
In the second round, the Sixers selected the likes of Bowling Green forward Richuan Holmes, Lithuanian centerArturas Gudaitis, North Carolinaguard J.P. Tokoto and Serbian forward Luka Mitrovic. Gudaitis and Mitrovic are likely to be stashed overseas. Of this group, Tokoto appears to have the most upside.
The Sixers’ rebuild took an interesting turn with the addition of Okafor. This season may not produce many more wins than last year’s 18-64 mark. But stocking the roster with another talented big man who can play now is immense.
“One of the things about Jahlil is something we don’t see a lot in our league right now and it’s the ability of someone to draw double teams,” Hinkie told reporters. “That’s something he can do and you don’t find too many players with hands like his, who can catch so many balls thrown his way and can be a pick-and-roll player. That’s why you’ll see so many players who have played against him and so many coaches rave about him.”