Markelle Fultz seems like a can’t-miss prospect, which is why the Sixers — stocked with assets to wheel and deal heading into the 2017 NBA Draft — made the move to trade up to No. 1. Now we wait to see if Fultz is as good as advertised. The Sixers, historically, haven’t done so great in the first round of the NBA Draft. And even when they find a top prospect, they’ve had to wait before he can actually play.
And yet, things seem to finally be coming up Sixers. How’s this for being able to Trust the Process? The Sixers have the top pick in the draft after trading the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder to Boston, thanks to the pick swap with Sacramento and a trade with Orlando that got them Dario Saric and the rights to their first rounder this year or next (heavily protected) back. #PickSwap. They had given that pick up in the awful Andrew Bynum deal.
The Sixers have been patient — very patient — building this roster through the draft. Add Fultz and the Sixers have a homegrown core of young players that could be the foundation of success for years to come.
Fultz and Ben Simmons, last year’s No.1 pick, will be the primary ball handlers for the Sixers next year. Joel Embiid — the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft — and Saric — picked 12th the same year before being dealt to Philly — anchor the paint and Jahlil Okafor — also picked 3rd in 2015 — is also still on the Sixers’ roster. So there’s that to deal with.
But even with Okafor, should he not be dealt before the season begins, the Sixers have an incredible amount of young talent on hand. Now, to be fair, we have no idea how Fultz will play in the NBA, nor do we have any clue how Simmons will fare in even one regular season game, let alone a full season. And speaking of full seasons, the Sixers haven’t gotten one of those out of Embiid yet, and he’s been in the NBA for three years.
Still, think of this: The Sixers drafted three first rounders last year and have two guys up for Rookie of the Year and neither of those finalists were the guys taken last season! Only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot saw time last year, as Simmons sat the whole season and the other first-rounder, Furkan Korkmaz, stayed overseas to play.
There has never been a more exciting era for the Sixers in the NBA Draft. Here is an updated list of first-round picks the Sixers have made since 1985. (Note: Both Saric and Nerlens Noel came in draft-related trades and were technically not drafted by the Sixers.)
Sixers first-round picks by year (NBA Lottery era)
Ben Simmons – 1st pick; 2016 NBA Draft
We have no idea what Simmons will be. Based on the hype and a few scrimmages, he could be the second-coming of LeBron James, but until Simmons steps on the basketball court for a meaningful minute, let alone a game, he’s nothing but potential.
Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot – 24th pick; 2016 NBA Draft
TLC was a nice surprise as a rookie. It was somewhat unexpected that he came over from Europe last year, and he had a number of games early in the season in which he didn’t play. But as his rookie year rolled on, he got more time and even some starts, and showed he can be a productive slasher to the hoop and can really help the Sixers push the pace. He still needs to bulk up to be a viable NBA wing player, but he showed more than fans could have expected in his first season.
Furkan Korkmaz – 26th pick; 2016 NBA Draft
Korkmaz stayed in Turkey after being drafted, but hopes to cover over soon, saying recently his goal has always been to play in the NBA. He can shoot, which is something the Sixers need, but by the time he comes over, there may not be as much room for him as there was for TLC as a rookie.
Jahlil Okafor – 3rd pick; 2015 NBA Draft
Okafor led the Sixers in scoring as a rookie and, depending on who you ask, could either be a solid offensive piece on a good team for many years to come or is a one-dimensional big man with too many holes in his game to be a star. After two years, we’re leaning toward the latter, and when the Sixers couldn’t trade him at the deadline but dealt Nerlens Noel instead, fans were not happy. I’m surprised he’s still on the roster, and may be traded by the time you’re done reading this piece.
The wait and see on his career, and where that is, is a fascinating story.
Joel Embiid – 3rd pick; 2014 NBA Draft
He’s either Hakeem Olajuwon or Greg Oden. There is no in between. And after finally getting on the floor for 31 games last season, we still don’t know which he’ll be. When on the floor, Embiid is as dominant a big man as we’ve seen in years, but his inability to stay healthy, despite a minutes restriction and avoiding back-to-back games, is a concern that will shape the future of the franchise for years. He’s the key. He just has to stay on the floor.
Elfrid Payton 10th pick; 2014 NBA Draft (Swapped for Dario Saric)
The Sixers got the Payton pick in 2013 after trading Jrue Holiday for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel. After taking Embiid third, the Sixers snagged Payton just to flip him to Orlando for Saric. Payton was on the All-Rookie team his first year and has shown promise, but Saric — with Embiid — is a finalist for Rookie of the Year and looks to be an important piece for the Sixers’ future.
Michael Carter-Williams – 11th pick; 2013 NBA Draft
MCW was a good pick, won Rookie of the Year and then got traded in the most Process-forward thinking of the Sam Hinkie era.
The Carter-Williams trade netted the Sixers the Lakers’ pick, and while it didn’t convey this year because LA landed inside the top-3, the rights to it next year is what helped get the trade for Fultz done. It took a while, but Sam Hinkie looks like a genius for how that deal worked out. MCW played last season with the Bulls, his third team in four years.
Maurice Harkless – 15th pick; 2012 NBA Draft
Mo Harkless was taken in the 2012 draft and never played for the Sixers, but did spend the entire summer with the team, as he wasn’t traded until August 10 in the mega-deal that shipped Andrew Iguodala to the Nuggets, Nikola Vucevic to Orlando, Dwight Howard to the Lakers and Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to the Sixers, among about ten other players and draft picks.
The trade was a disaster for the Sixers. Harkless played three seasons with Orlando before being traded to Portland for a 2020 second-round pick.
Nikola Vucevic – 16th pick; 2011 NBA Draft
Vucevic played one season in Philly before getting dumped in the horrible Bynum trade. He played in 51 games for Philly, scoring 5.5. points and grabbing 4.8 rebounds. In Orlando, Vucevic has turned into a 15 and 10 guy, averaging nearly 19 points in 2014 and 2015 before a bit of a step back last season. Bynum never played for the Sixers. Never forget that.
Evan Turner – 2nd pick; 2010 NBA Draft
Turner played three-and-a-half uninspiring seasons in Philly after being taken second in the 2010 draft. The 2010 draft had one clear college star in John Wall, but the Sixers passed on the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward and Paul George that season, all who became stars. In retrospect, this is one of the worst picks in Sixers history.
Jrue Holiday – 17th pick; 2009 NBA Draft
Holiday played four years in Philly, making one All-Star team, so it’s hard to say his potential was untapped. Injuries aside, he has been productive for New Orleans, though he’s never played more than 67 games for the Pelicans. Meanwhile, Noel — who the Sixers got when they dealt Holiday in 2013 — was very good for the Sixers defensively, and started to come into his own on the offensive end before they traded him to Dallas at the deadline. This remains a smart trade for the Sixers, even if Holiday was on his way to something good here.
Marreese Speights – 16th pick; 2008 NBA Draft
Speights played three years with the Sixers before getting traded for two second-round picks in 2012. He eventually found his way into the rotation for the Golden State Warriors where, as a role player, he won one title and was part of the best regular season in NBA history. Then he left before they won another title.
Thaddeus Young – 12th pick; 2007 NBA Draft
Thad Young went 12th the year Greg Oden went first and Kevin Durant went second. That was a fun draft, with some nice players and a lot of really big misses. Thad was not a miss, and had a productive career in Philly for seven seasons.
Young has been part of two huge NBA trades too. He was first part of the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Love to the Cavs, the first pick to Minnesota — where they took Andrew Wiggins — and a 2016 first rounder to the Sixers (they won’t get Wiggins). Then Thad was traded to the Nets as part of Kevin Garnett’s homecoming to the Timberwolves.
It’s a shame the Sixers didn’t have better pieces around him, as Young could have been a really nice complimentary player that was good value at that spot in the draft.
Daequan Cook – 21st pick; 2007 NBA Draft
The Sixers got the Cook and Petteri Koponen picks in the 2006 trade that sent Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller and Joe Smith. On draft day, Cook was sent to the Miami Heat for Jason Smith and a 2009 second-round pick.
Petteri Koponen – 30th pick; 2007 NBA Draft
The last time the Sixers had three first-round picks, before last season, they took the last on Finnish prospect Petteri Koponen, who they flipped on draft day for Derrick Byars and cash. He has never played in the NBA, while Byars played two career games in 2011-12, for the Spurs.
Thabo Sefolosha – 13th pick; 2006 NBA Draft
Sefolosha was dealt on draft day in 2006 to the Bulls for the draft rights to Rodney Carney, cash and a wasted second-round pick in 2007. Two years later he was shipped to OKC where he had a solid career before moving to Atlanta in 2014.
Andre Iguodala – 9th pick; 2004 NBA Draft
Andre Iguodala was the second-best player taken in the 2004 draft, and maybe the best depending on how you feel about Dwight Howard’s career. The problem for Iggy in Philly was that he never could go from being the ultimate role player to a bona fide star. His shot wasn’t good enough and he was on a team that asked him to do way too much offensively. But as everyone in the NBA has seen the last few seasons in Golden State, if a team needs a lock-down defender who can handle the ball, distribute and get to the bucket, he’s one of the best in the game.
He was never a star, even though the Sixers had to pay him as one, but on the right team, he was a key championship piece, twice, and an NBA Finals MVP. It’s a shame it never happened here. And with the payday he wants after winning another title, it won’t be here again.
Jiri Welsch – 16th pick; 2002 NBA Draft
Welch never played for the Sixers, traded on draft day to the Warriors for future picks that, themselves, never panned out. Welch played in 247 career NBA games for four teams.
Samuel Dalembert – 26th pick; 2001 NBA Draft
Dalembert played just 34 games as a rookie then was out with a knee injury the entire next season — THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME TO THE SIXERS BIG MEN — but in his eight years in Philly, he was very productive as a rim protector and rebounder who added enough scoring to keep teams honest. He wasn’t great, but he was a piece the Sixers needed, even as the rest of the team was broken apart by Larry Brown’s tinkering. Frankly, if Embiid ends up having the same length of a career as Dalembert, it would be considered a huge success.
Speedy Claxton – 20th pick; 2000 NBA Draft
Claxton played one season with the Sixers before getting dealt to the Spurs, then bounced around the NBA for another five years. It really felt like he was here longer than that.
Larry Hughes – 8th pick; 1998 NBA Draft
Hughes played 100 games over two seasons with the Sixers before getting traded in a deal that brought Toni Kukoc to Philly. Hughes was a young kid with tons of potential the Sixers thought could be the complimentary piece to Allen Iverson that Jerry Stackhouse had refused to become. But Hughes had family issues that he could never seem to escape on the court, and his raw potential never truly manifested.
- Round 1; Pick 9 – Dirk Nowitzki
- Round 1; Pick 10 – Paul Pierce
Keith Van Horn – 2nd pick; 1997 NBA Draft
Another guy selected to be the complementary piece to Iverson. Or so we thought. Van Horn was traded after the draft to the Nets for Jim Jackson, Eric Montross and just-drafted Tim Thomas in an eight-player deal. A few years later he was dealt back to the Sixers, playing just one season in Philly. Thomas never lived up to his potential, while Chauncy Billups was taken one pick after Van Horn and Tracy McGrady, taken out of high school, went ninth overall in that draft.
Allen Iverson – 1st pick; 1996 NBA Draft
The Answer. Then, now and forever.
Iverson was the face of the franchise for a decade, and became one of the most beloved Philly athletes in history. He will forever be a part of the franchise, too, as his legacy is uniquely tied to both Simmons and Fultz. Only Iverson, Simmons, soon-to-be Fultz and Doug Collins in 1973 were drafted first overall by the Sixers and played for the franchise. Let’s hope the two new top picks have a career close to what Iverson had.
Jerry Stackhouse – 3rd pick; 1995 NBA Draft
Stackhouse averaged 19.2 and 20.7 points per game in his two years in Philly, but he just could not play with Iverson, and there was no way Pat Croce was going to keep him around after putting the entire franchise on The Answer’s back.
Stack was dealt with Eric Montross to Detroit for Aaron McKie and Theo Ratliff and a 2003 first round pick the Sixers eventually dealt for a Serbian forward who never played. Ratliff proved to be the perfect piece to an Eastern Conference Championship puzzle, while McKie was a vital role player for years. Who knows how Stackhouse would have fared had he stayed in Philly, or had the team not gotten Iverson in the draft. At the time, it was a good pick, even with the fact Philly legend Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett went right after him.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t as good a pick as I want to remember, considering who the Sixers could have had.
Sharone Wright – 6th pick; 1994 NBA Draft
The Sixers picked in the top 10 every year from 1992 through 1998 and part of the reason is because they wasted picks on guys like Shawn Bradley and Sharone Wright, who they took with the sixth pick in the ’94 draft. Wright played not quite two full seasons with the Sixers, averaging 11.5 and 6, then was dumped for Tony Massenburg and Ed Pinckney in 1996.
B.J. Tyler – 20th pick; 1994 NBA Draft
Tyler played one season for the Sixers before getting nabbed in the 1995 Expansion Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He never played for Toronto.
Shawn Bradley – 2nd pick; 1993 NBA Draft
In the 1993 NBA Draft, Chris Webber was selected first overall by Orlando then swapped for Penny Hardaway who was taken at No. 3 by Golden State.
Rather than take Hardaway and screw up that trade deal, the Sixers opted for rail-thin giant Shawn Bradley, who played just three years in Philly, traded in 1995 to the Nets in a deal that brought Derrick Coleman to Philly for the first of two mercurial runs.
Clarence Weatherspoon – 9th pick; 1992 NBA Draft
Taken ninth overall in the draft led by Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning, Clarence Weatherspoon was a productive if undersized big man for the Sixers for most of six seasons. It didn’t help that he looked just like Charles Barkley, but lofty expectations were backed up with a 15-and-8 tenure in Philly; not great numbers but solid, albeit on some really bad teams.
Kenny Payne – 19th pick; 1989 NBA Draft
Payne played parts of four seasons for the Sixers, averaging 3.5 points in 8.1 minutes per game in 144 career games. He was wholly unremarkable.
Charles Smith – 3rd pick; 1988 NBA Draft
Charles Smith was taken third overall in 1988 and flipped on draft day to the Clippers for Hersey Hawkins (drafted sixth that day) and a 1989 first rounder. Hawkins played five seasons for the Sixers, making one All-Star game, before being traded to Charlotte in 1993. Smith played four years with the Clippers before going to the Knicks and Spurs. He is most known for this:
Christian Welp – 16th pick; 1987 NBA Draft
Welp played two seasons with the Sixers before getting dealt to the Spurs; a throw in with Maurice Cheeks and David Wingate for Johnny Dawkins and Jay Vincent. He averaged 12 minutes per game with the Sixers.
Terry Catledge – 21st pick; 1985 NBA Draft
Catledge played one year with the Sixers before getting dealt in 1986 along with Moses Malone and two first round picks to the Washington Bullets for Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland.
Why did we even bring that up? God, the Sixers have had some terrible draft-related trades. Let’s hope there aren’t any in 2017.