The NBA Draft: Where busts happen. When picking a player in the draft, a lot needs to be taken into consideration–not just a players basketball skill, but his intangibles and whether he is a good fit for the roster. Draft picks can go wrong, draft picks can go right. Few franchises know this as well as the Philadelphia 76ers. Here’s the Sixers’ five best and worst draft picks, ever.
5. Jrue Holiday – 17th in the 2009 NBA Draft
A shining light in an otherwise gloomy 2012-13 for the Philadelphia 76ers, Jrue Holiday out of UCLA is looking like a steal every time he takes to the hardwood. There’s no doubt it was a risk to take him–he was one of the youngest players in the draft and there were questions about his natural position. Holiday has repaid the faith shown in him with a string of impressive performances and an All-Star berth. This will move up the list as the years progress if Jrue can make a dent in the postseason.
4. Andrew Toney – 8th in the 1980 NBA Draft
Known as ”The Boston Strangler” for his clutch performances throughout the ’80s during the intense rivalry between the Sixers and the Celtics, Toney went onto win an NBA championship in The City of Brotherly Love as part of the famous Philly team that included Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks.
3. Maurice Cheeks – 36th in the 1978 NBA Draft
Even in today’s NBA, second-round picks can be hit or miss. Cheeks was definitely a hit. He ranks fifth all-time in steals and 10th in assists. Maurice Cheeks was part of the famous Sixers team that dominated throughout the ’80s. Sure, he wasn’t the most talented player on the roster, but he was a lockdown perimeter defender and an unselfish player on the offensive end of the floor.
2. Allen Iverson – 1st in the 1996 NBA Draft
The years after the ‘Charles Barkley era’ were tough times for Sixers fans. The team was poor; attendance dropped and the Sixers became irrelevant. Enter AI. He single-handedly dragged the franchise around with an endearing courage and grit on the court, combined with irresistible quickness and street-ball handles. His greatest game came in the 2001 NBA Finals, in which he dropped 48 points as the Sixers stole a game against the juggernaut Los Angeles Lakers. He never won a championship, but his name will forever be etched in 76ers folklore.
1. Charles Barkley – 5th in the 1984 NBA Draft
In an era containing Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley was a star. That tells you all you need to know; the larger-than-life character; the stocky frame; the ability to snatch rebounds; the way in which he ran the floor for a power forward–Sir Charles was a revolutionary. During his stint in Philadelphia, he was named to the All-NBA First Team four times and picked up an All-Star Game MVP. A return to Philadelphia is likely–perhaps in a front-office type of role. Many Sixers fans are still kicking themselves that the team traded him away when they did.
5. Leo Rautins – 17th in the 1983 NBA Draft
Rautins averaged 1.7 points per game as a Sixer. He simply couldn’t play. In fact, the Sixers let him go after just 29 games–for a first-round draft pick. Quite the fall from stardom. Leo Rautins didn’t last much longer in the NBA–he was waived soon after.
4. Larry Hughes – 8th in the 1998 NBA Draft
Hughes was a very solid player on the defensive end of the floor. Perhaps he wasn’t exactly the worst player in the world, but when you look at who the Sixers passed on–this pick looks all the more horrific. Allen Iverson and Dirk Nowitzki could have been paired together and it could have been oh, so different.
3. Al Henry – 12th in the 1970 NBA Draft
When a first-round pick lasts just two seasons in the NBA, it can only be two things: He had horrible luck with injuries or he was a bust. Henry falls under the latter category. Averaging just four points and three rebounds per game, Henry didn’t live up to the expectations and no other team saw anything in him to sign him.
2. Leon Wood – 10th in the 1984 NBA Draft
Wood only lasted one-and-a-half years in Philly before being traded. However, it wasn’t the worst draft pick, they managed to get some value and he was a fairly solid NBA player for a number of years. What makes this pick so bad–in hindsight–is that he was picked before John Stockton. Imagine John Stockton and Charles Barkley on the pick-and-roll.
1. Shawn Bradley – 2nd in the 1993 NBA Draft
A 7’6” center, Bradley never lived up to the hype or the intrigue. Being a second-overall pick standing at 7’6” and only managing to grab seven rebounds a game is criminal. His slight frame was the undoing of him. Stronger, quicker players could bully him and he ended up looking like a bit of a circus act. One to forget for Sixers fans. He was traded during his third season; a reminder that height isn’t everything.