History says Sixers shouldn't trade for No. 1 pick

History says Sixers shouldn't trade for No. 1 pick
June 25, 2014, 7:00 am
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The Sixers traded the No. 1 overall pick in 1986 after a meeting between eventual top selection Brad Daugherty (right) and former owner Harold Katz (not pictured) didn't go as planned. (AP)

The NBA draft is quickly approaching and the rumor mill is heating up. For the Sixers, all the speculation is about whether the team will trade the No. 3 and/or the No. 10 picks in order to get the top overall pick.

The Sixers covet Andrew Wiggins from Kansas, the rumor grist suggests, and they will do anything to get him.

But history shows that the Sixers should probably sit tight and make their top picks. They have seven of them, after all, and there could be many suitors looking for one of those five second-round picks the team possesses.

So as all the wrangling, bluffing and posturing is passed around about physical results and trades, let’s look at how the Sixers messed up the No. 1 overall pick and let a Hall of Fame-caliber player walk away because the team’s owner was really bad with people skills.

The No. 1 overall pick has been traded exactly two times in NBA history. In 1993, the Magic drafted Chris Webber and shipped him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks. With those picks, Todd Fuller (1996), Vince Carter (1998) and Mike Miller (2000) were drafted.

Strangely, the 1998 pick was traded by the Magic to Washington. Washington traded the pick to Golden State and the Warriors selected Carter only to immediately trade him to Toronto. It was a convoluted mess. However, Carter is 37 and still playing. It seems like he’ll keep going forever.

The other time it happened was in 1986 and it involved the Sixers, a guy from La Salle named “Jellybean,” Moses Malone, Jeff Ruland and a deal that should still make Philadelphia basketball fans crumple in the corner in the fetal position while rocking back and forth, crying and whispering, “Brad Daugherty … Brad Daugherty.”

Here’s how it went down:

In October of 1979, the San Diego Clippers traded their first-round pick in 1986 to the Sixers for Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. So as the Bryant family with a 13-month-old baby named Kobe packed up for the move to sunny San Diego, it was as if the trade was for nothing. After all, at that time of the NBA’s history, seven years may as well have been a millennium. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had yet to play a game in the NBA when the deal went down, and Michael Jordan was a junior in high school, still trying to prove that the coach at Laney High made a mistake in sending him to JV the year before.

By 1986, the Clippers moved to Los Angeles, where they were terrible. Even crazier, the NBA draft lottery was a matter of pulling a team name out of a hat. The Knicks, who finished the previous season with the worst record, got the No. 5 pick and the Celtics and Sixers, teams that appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals a couple months before the draft, got the top two picks.

Anyway, as fate would have it, Sixers owner Harold Katz invited the center Brad Daugherty to his house for an interview and a little hoops on the indoor court at his Main Line home. Apparently, Daugherty made such a poor impression on Katz that he traded the Sixers’ No. 1 overall pick to Cleveland for Roy Hinson.

That’s it. No future picks or cash or a handmade coupon for a free backrub. It was the No. 1 pick in the draft for Hinson.

Nothing else.

And since Hinson was on the way to Philly, Katz figured he ought to give the guy some space to spread his wings. So he traded three-time NBA MVP Malone, 1985 first-round pick Terry Catledge and a future first-round pick to Washington.

In return the Sixers got Ruland and Cliff Robinson. Robinson played two more NBA seasons before injuries forced him into retirement at age 28.

Ruland … well, yeah. He lasted five games in 1986 and 13 games in 1991. Then he was done.

Charles Barkley, in his second year with the Sixers, was excited about playing with Daugherty and Malone. Imagine the Sixers with Barkley, Malone, Daugherty, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney. Barkley thought about it and he was ready for a bright future.

Then he had the rug pulled out from underneath him.

"I didn't realize the Sixers were a bonehead organization. We had the No. 1 pick in the [1986] draft, and they traded Brad Daugherty. I'll never forget that," Barkley said on Monday's edition of Philly Sports Talk. "I was excited to play with Brad Daugherty, and I still had Moses (Malone), who was my mentor -- I thought we would have been an instant contender in the Eastern Conference. But they traded the [No. 1] pick and ended up getting Roy Hinson, who was a solid player, and they traded Moses, so I got really screwed in that deal -- I lost a center who was still playing well, I thought I was going to get a young guy who Moses could mentor like he did me and we would be a contender for the next 10 years, but the Sixers were just stupid.

"Our team went downhill after that. That was unfortunate because I wanted to win here in Philadelphia."

Hinson played eight years in the NBA and averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Daugherty also played eight seasons in the NBA and averaged a double-double -- 19 points and 10 rebounds. Barkley was gone in a whirlwind of controversy after the 1992 season and was able to pinpoint where it all went wrong in Philadelphia.

"The biggest mistake I probably made in my career: I should have got out of Philadelphia two years sooner because I went through three years where it was just brutal hearing about the rumors all the time," Barkley said on PST. "I was wasting my talent here because we didn't have a good team."

In other words, mess around with trading the top picks in the NBA draft at your own peril.