The 2021 Philadelphia 76ers exist as a team certain to make the playoffs and hopeful they can battle their way to a championship. That scenario seems likely to hold for years to come as long as the duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons remain together in the City of Brotherly Love. But times weren’t always so bright. In very recent memory, the Sixers had one of the worst multi-year stretches that any professional sports team has endured while adopting an extreme tanking strategy championed by Sam Hinkie.
Hinkie’s philosophy to rebuilding in the modern NBA was very polarizing and disliked by many around the league. His front office’s obvious attempt to lose as many games as possible over a number of years certainly led to a rule change where teams with the worst records are not guaranteed the coveted top spots in the draft each off-season.
Built into an effective tanking strategy is the ability to draft studs when you do have a prime lottery pick. As the Sixers have transitioned away from perennial bottom-feeders of the league, their picks have slowly slid further and further away from the top. However, it’s still crucial to obtain value from the draft no matter where you’re picking. Below, I’ll grade the last five Sixers’ drafts.
2016 NBA Draft
1st Round Selections: Ben Simmons (pick 1), Timothé Luwawu Cabarrot (pick 24), Furkan Korkmaz (pick 26)
2nd Round Selections: None
Letter Grade: A
While Simmons has yet to develop a reliable jump shot, he compensates for that flaw by serving as the NBA’s most dynamic swiss army knife and very well could already be the best defender in the entire league. He’s a statsheet stuffing monster who always finds a way to positively impact the game and get all of his surrounding teammates involved. There’s no longer any discussion about who the alpha on this Sixers team is (It’s Embiid). When you take a player with the first overall pick, he’s expected to be a star. Simmons is a superstar.
Luwawu Cabarrot only played limited minutes for the Sixers during his rookie season before being dealt to the OKC Thunder but Korkmaz was a terrific find at the back of the first round. He provides sharpshooting off the bench for the Sixers current squad and helped send a recent game to overtime with this heroic shot.
2017 NBA Draft
1st Round Selection: Markelle Fultz (pick 1)
2nd Round Selection: Jonah Bolden (pick 36)
Letter Grade: F
This is a draft the rival Boston Celtics will hold over the head of Philadelphia for a long time. Not only did Boston trade down from the number one spot to the number three spot, but they also got the player they were gunning for all along, Jayson Tatum, who is easily the jewel of this draft class. Meanwhile, it never worked out for Fultz in Philadelphia. A scapular muscle imbalance rendered his shooting motion impaired and the team was heavily criticized for how his recovery was handled. Fultz’s sole highlight in Philadelphia was capturing the record of youngest player to record a triple-double (it was broken this season by Lamelo Ball) but he was ultimately dealt to the Orlando Magic for Jonathan Simmons and future picks.
And Jonah Bolden? Yeah, I haven’t heard of him either.
2018 NBA Draft
1st Round Selections: Zhaire Smith (pick 16), Landry Shamet (pick 26)
2nd Round Selection: Shake Milton (pick 54)
Letter Grade: B-
Though Zhaire Smith was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 16th pick of the 2018 NBA draft, he was immediately dealt to Philadelphia in a trade, along with the Miami Heat’s 2021 first round pick, for Mikal Bridges whom the Sixers had just taken with the 10th pick. He ultimately had very minimal contributions during his time as a Sixer before being traded to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Tony Bradley. Landry Shamet is another player who wasn’t long for the Sixers as he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers on February 6th of 2019. He was key role player with that squad last season but now plays for a rival Eastern conference team, the Brooklyn Nets.
Meanwhile, Shake Milton burst onto the Sixers scene last year amid a slew of injuries to their starters. He’s a spark plug scorer that coach Doc Rivers turns to when the offense needs a jolt of energy. This year he is averaging just over 13 points and 3 assists per contest which is good value for a pick near the back of the second round in just his third season.
2019 NBA Draft
1st Round Selection: Matisse Thybulle (pick 20)
2nd Round Selection: Mariol Shayok (pick 54)
Letter Grade: C+
Shayok mostly spent time playing for the Sixers’ G League affiliate the Delaware Blue Coats and was waived during the offseason following his rookie year. However, Matisse Thybulle was a decent find with the 20th pick in the draft. Thybulle is a defensive menace whose steals relative to the amount of possessions played are actually among the league’s very best. His offensive game still leaves a lot to be desired. Currently he plays only 18 minutes per contest for Philadelphia.The jury is still out with Thybulle as he would be a really valuable asset if he there was improvement to his offensive skillset.
2020 NBA Draft
1st Round Selection: Tyrese Maxey (pick 21)
2nd Round Selection: Isaiah Joe (pick 49)
Letter Grade: B
While It’s far too early to hand out a confident letter grade for draft picks this recent, Maxey has shown promising flashes. So much so that his potential inclusion in a hypothetical Harden-to-Philadelphia trade was rumored to be a major point of contention between Houston and Philly. Maxey currently logs 15 minutes a game for the Sixers and posts respectable scoring average of 7.6 points for that amount of time. He should only get better as he gains more experience under his belt.