The Sixers threw away the 2013-14 season in what many suspected was an attempt at maximizing their chances of winning the 2014 NBA draft lottery.
So now that they’ve landed the No. 3 pick, instead of No. 1, can we say that the shameless tanking, the 26-game losing streak, and the endless nights of Brandon Davies bricked jumpers were all worth it?
Well, we can’t answer that without a time machine. But if we’re to value process over results, I’ll say yes.
The goal of this season wasn’t to land Andrew Wiggins. It was to develop players, preserve cap space, and maximize the value of the 2014 lottery pick. Sure, the Sixers wanted to win the lottery, but by finishing with the second-worst record, they not only earned a 19.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick, but they also earned a 0 percent chance of landing picks No. 6 through 14.
That top-five insurance is particularly valuable considering this draft class (based on questionable reports and big boards) appears to have a four-player top tier: Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum.
Yes, rookies are unproven and unpredictable, and even the top ones in this year’s crop have their flaws; Wiggins lacks assertiveness, Embiid has a questionable back, Parker can’t play defense, and Exum can’t shoot. But the 2014 class is, collectively, as good as any in years past.
That’s why much of this year’s anti-tanking rhetoric — “you’re throwing games just for a 25% chance of getting Andrew Wiggins!” — was a farce. With a draft class this deep, it was never just about landing one prospect. It was about building the value of an asset, one that the Sixers can and will use to either land a top prospect, trade down, trade up, or trade away altogether. (Kevin Love, anyone?).
And hey—it’s not like Cleveland is immune to screwing up the No. 1 pick. The Wiggins dream may still live on.