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May 12, 2016

Sixers might be better off with Lakers pick in 2017

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Last year, the Sixers’ unofficial pre-lottery motto was “1-6-11.” This year, it’s “1-4-24-26” (with an emphasis on the one and four).

How about 1-3-24-26? 

When Sam Hinkie traded for the Lakers’ protected first-round pick in 2015, the move was controversial. Some felt Hinkie gave up the Rookie of the Year too quickly, although Michael Carter-Williams hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in Milwaukee. Some felt the Lakers would challenge for a playoff spot after moving up in last year’s lottery. Not quite.

Heading into Tuesday’s lottery, the Sixers have a 44.2 percent chance of taking the 4th or 5th pick from the Lakers. Those are decent odds to land the very best picks that the pre-existing protections allowed. Mathematically, Hinkie’s decision to part with MCW and his shaky jumper still looks sound.

That said, the talent pool at the top of this year’s draft may not be cooperating. That is why it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for the Lakers to land in the Top-3 and the pick to roll over another year.

Specifically, I believe the Sixers’ best-case scenario on Tuesday night would be for them to land the top pick while the Lakers drop down to No. 3. Here’s why:

Questions past the No. 2 pick: Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram appear pretty solid in the top tier. Beyond them is where things start to get dicey.

Kris Dunn is a point guard with a questionable jumper and turnover issues. Is Jamal Murray a good enough shooter at the next level to overcome his defensive/athletic concerns? Is Buddy Hield a one-trick pony? Dragan Bender, who I would take if he dropped to No. 4, plays 12 minutes per game.  

One of these players could largely answer those general questions/concerns and become an impact player (again, I’m betting on Bender). There’s a chance that two or three solid rotation players could emerge from that group. It’s still not a particularly easy decision.

The 2017 class looks promising: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Josh Jackson. Don’t know who these guys are? YouTube them. They do good YouTube. 

Still need a point guard? We haven’t even gotten into Dennis Smith, Frank Ntilikina, De’Aaron Fox, or Lonzo Ball yet. Here is what ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote last week (Insider only) about the next crop of players from the Nike Hoop Summit:

I spoke with a number of NBA scouts about which high school players and newly eligible international players made the best impressions here and in the recent McDonald's game. NBA scouts are very, very excited about the incoming class of college freshmen.

"This year is loaded with some crazy talent," one NBA GM said. "This is the deepest class I can remember in some time. There isn't necessarily a lot of superstar power in the class, but it's very, very deep. I think 20 to 25 of these guys will play in the NBA in some capacity."

The Lakers’ pick would still be Top-3 protected in 2017, but there appears to be some solid depth in next year’s draft.

It’s hard to know what to make of the Lakers: Ditching Kobe Bryant (and his salary) should help, as should replacing Byron Scott with Luke Walton. The Lakers also have a plethora of cap space, but who are they bringing in that moves the needle? DeMar DeRozan? Maybe they throw a huge offer sheet at RFA Harrison Barnes? The past two summers, the Lakers have largely punted on free agency (outside of short deals to non-impact players) after striking out on stars. Will that change this time around? 

There are rumors that the Lakers would trade a top pick for an impact veteran, which make sense. After all, this is a franchise that isn’t used to being bad. Acquiring someone like Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins (although the latter would help with the Kings’ pick swap) would likely make the Lakers more competitive in the short term, if possible. There is some risk here from the Sixers’ standpoint.

It’s impossible to project draft classes. 2009 was considered a weak draft, and the 6’3” guard who is changing the sport saw six guys taken before him. Same goes for 2013, and there C.J. McCollum was last night, trading shots with Steph Curry at Oracle. 2014 was supposed to be loaded, and outside of Andrew Wiggins, that Top-10 looks absolutely cursed. 

If the Sixers land the 4th or 5th pick, it would be a fine outcome. Plenty of good players will still be on the board at that spot, perhaps even a star. Thing is, you very well might be saying the same at the 8th or 9th pick next year.

1-3-24-16? Sure, why not?

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann