Joel Embiid was feeling himself, and his Philadelphia 76ers, after the draft lottery.
Though the Los Angeles Lakers’ top-three-protected pick didn’t convey, the Sixers were able to execute their pick swap with the Sacramento Kings, vaulting into the top three selections themselves. With Markelle Fultz still expected to go first overall, this puts them in prime Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson territory.
It also, according to Embiid, adds another ingredient to a cocktail that’s fated to take down the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Per the Philly Inquirer‘s Mike Sielski:
— Mike Sielski (@MikeSielski) May 17, 2017
To Embiid’s credit, the Sixers are perfectly set up to pop just as the Cavaliers, presumably, peter out in LeBron James’ old age. They have a buffet of top prospects in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, plus this year’s pick. They own the Lakers’ selection free and clear next year. Nik Stauskas might be an actual NBA player. Richaun Holmes might be better than Nerlens Noel. The Sixers will likely end up having more cap space than any other team in the league. Maybe Justin Anderson starts hitting threes.
There is ample reason to be excited.
But there’s also cause for skepticism.
Simmons missed his entire rookie season with foot surgery, while Embiid himself has made just 31 appearances through his first three years. And soon enough, the Sixers will have to reconcile reinvesting in some of these assets. Embiid and Stauskas are already extension-eligible. Justin Anderson will follow suit next year. Robert Covington will need a substantial raise before 2018-19. Richaun Holmes will need to get paid by 2019-20, which is also when Simmons and Saric will be extension-eligible. There are a lot of moving parts, and no guarantees.
The Sixers’ future is beyond promising, but their status as Cleveland’s successor is far from locked down.