The 76ers won their 35th game Tuesday night against the Hornets. The last time Philadelphia won at least 35 games in a season was lockout-shortened 2011-2012. With 19 games to go, the 76ers have an opportunity to surpass their highest win total since 2004-2005 when they won 43 games. In 2002-2003, the 76ers won 48 games. Only six of Philadelphia’s next 19 games come against teams currently in the postseason, which means the 76ers could very well have their best season since Ben Simmons was six.
I’ll post four of these between now and June 26. The first one will only feature the 14 lottery teams, but I’ll breakdown why each player fits that team.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid, Kansas C
The Cavs have passed up on Jonas Valanciunas, Andre Drummond and Nerlens Noel in recent drafts. Cleveland couldn’t possibly pass up on another, right? It’s going to come down to Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. But before any workouts take place, Embiid provides the Cavs with a franchise center, which immediately helps Kyrie Irving this season. Embiid won’t miss anytime with his back injury. He’ll be cleared to workout for teams, and his back shouldn’t be a problem at all. It’s different from Noel last year. Embiid will be healthy, and be able to play in October. The Cavs need help at the three (depending on if Luol Deng leaves or not) and the five.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas F
The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of my favorite players. He has incredible length, and can be a real difference maker on defense. His offense, however, might not develop as good as his defense. The Bucks have two legit options here: Wiggins or Jabari Parker. Parker would help their poor offense this season, but Wiggins provides the best long-term solution. The Bucks should take Wiggins. Imagine a defense featuring Wiggins, Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders?
3. Philadelphia Sixers – Jabari Parker, Duke F
I’ll say it right now. Don’t be shocked if Philly picks Dante Exum right here, especially with so many good power forwards potentially available at the 10th pick. But right now, Parker’s the choice for Philadelphia, and I’m totally fine with that. Parker’s biggest issue is his defense. But on offense? He’s the most NBA-ready prospect. Parker instantly makes Philly a better team. I would love to see Parker in a Sixers uniform.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, Australia G
I think you needed a top-four pick in this draft. The first four guys are in the first tier, and then there’s a drop-off in talent after Exum. Orlando gets a combo guard who will get chance to play point guard. The Magic have been looking for a point guard for the last couple seasons. They’re fine with Jameer Nelson, but he’s getting older. Exum could learn under Nelson.
5. Utah Jazz – Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G
Utah traded for Trey Burke last draft. Burke had a fine rookie season, so Smart wouldn’t replace Burke at point. Smart can be the two-guard, and Utah could have an offense similar to Phoenix. I think it’s fun when teams play two guards who can handle the ball.
6. Boston Celtics – Julius Randle, Kentucky F
Boston might trade this pick to try and get Kevin Love. Love reportedly has expressed interest in Boston. Randle, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon or Doug McDermott wouldn’t surprise me here. The Celtics need talented players to help them immediately. Randle and McDermott are both NBA-ready, where as Vonleh is still a work in progress.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Doug McDermott, Creighton F
Kobe Bryant needs guys who can score the basketball right now. McDermott has the potential to be the best scorer in this draft. The Lakers aren’t used to drafting this high, so I doubt they’d want to wait for Vonleh to develop.
I should have never made a full playoff prediction. I should have been patient and simply done a round-by-round preview. Although my NBA Finals is still intact (Miami/San Antonio), I only correctly picked one second round matchup (Oklahoma City/Los Angeles). Basically, I did awful. I’m happy I wrongly selected Chicago over Washington though because I’m loving how this Wizards team plays. It helps when you have a great, hungry point guard, and a solid rotation. Based solely on starting fives, Washington and Portland have two of the best. Trevor Ariza might be slightly overpaid (he’ll be even more overpaid this summer), but he has made the Wizards a lethal three-point shooting team because of his corner spot. Nene gets paid big bucks, but people, myself included, tend to forget about him since he’s usually injured. Marcin Gortat really did wonderful things against Joakim Noah. He had some solid offensive games in that surprisingly short series. I’ll breakdown each series, and provide a prediction.