The Philadelphia Sixers have the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after utilizing a draft swap with the Sacramento Kings. This is the franchise’s third time picking third in the last four years. There are rumors that the team could deal the pick as a part of a larger package to get a more established player or to move down in the draft.
Having the third overall pick is a blessing. Picking that high in any draft provides a team with the opportunity to select a franchise player. The 2017 draft class is widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. That being said though, having the third overall pick has proven little success over the last ten years.
Over the past five drafts, the third overall picks have combined for a total of zero all-star game appearances. To be fair, all five of the selections are between the ages of 20 and 23, so the jury is still out on them. Jaylen Brown, last year’s third overall pick was considered a raw prospect that has shown a lot of upside. Before him though, came Jahlil Okafor in 2015.
Okafor, after a mere two seasons, has fallen out of the playing rotation in Philadelphia. While the catalyst for this was the emergence of the third overall pick in 2014, Joel Embiid, the snowball was already beginning to pick up speed toward the end of last season, with the Sixers center logjam. For Embiid, it looks like health and time are the only things slowing him from reaching superstardom.
Prior the Sixers selecting third overall in 2014 and 2015, the Washington Wizards had the chance to select Bradley Beal in 2012 and Otto Porter in 2013. Both players made significant strides in their game this year but still should be considered disappointments based on where they were drafted. Washington selected Beal overall Damian Lillard and Porter over Giannis Antetokounmpo, but hindsight is 20/20.
Before these third overall picks, teams had a little more success picking third. The Utah Jazz made Enes Kanter the third selection in the 2011 draft. He had limited success with Utah and they shipped him to Oklahoma City a couple years ago. Before him, there was Derrick Favors. Favors, in eight seasons, has only averaged double digits points three times and he took a step back this past season.
The Sixers will look to recreate the magic of the 2009 NBA Draft. Blake Griffin was the top pick, followed by Hasheem Thabeet and James Harden. Harden took his game to the next level this season and averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game. He’ll receive MVP votes as well. ‘The Beard’ is one of the best players in the league and the Sixers would be giddy to acquire a player who could develop the way Harden has.
Prior to Harden, the 2008 and 2009 third overall picks were O.J. Mayo and Al Horford. Mayo’s best season was his rookie year where he averaged 18.5 points a game. His game generally regressed over the span of his eight-year career, which seems to have ended in a two-year suspension for another drug related violation. Horford though, has appeared to elevate his game to the next level this season with the addition of a three point shot. Horford has been selected to four all-star games in his career and that number will probably rise before he calls it quits.
The last ten number three overall picks have combined to be selected for nine all-star game appearances. However, all nine of those were either from Harden or Horford. It’s a safe assumption that Mayo, Favors and Kanter won’t barring a drastic change. It’s still too early to predict the success of the picks from the past couple seasons, but they all need to continue to grow as players.
Philadelphia will look to recapture the success the Thunder and Hawks had when they drafted Harden and Horford at the draft next month. It’s hard to know who they plan on taking but fingers crossed the player will rival teammate Embiid in success not Okafor.