Sixers hold open practice at the Palestra
Andrew Wiggins is widely expected to go No. 1 overall in the NBA draft next summer. (USA Today Images)
Winless for Wiggins. Riggin’ for Wiggins. That’s what they’re calling it these days. ‘It’ being the tanking NBA teams are expected to enact this season in order to land the NBA draft’s grand prize: University of Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
The 76ers are less than two weeks away from embarking on their 2013-14 campaign and no, Sixers head coach Brett Brown and general manager Sam Hinkie are not tanking. They are simply strategically filling out the Sixers' roster with players who have upside, but are not impactful. Fourteen of the 20 players currently on the roster have two years or fewer of NBA experience.
Whether by design or not, it is clear that the Sixers are not going to be good this season. The hopes are that the team’s lack of difference-makers positions the franchise to pursue the draft’s Golden Ticket in Wiggins or simply to position themselves for another one of the can’t-miss prospects the experts are touting.
In a recent radio interview, Brown told host Jim Rome that it was “probably highly unlikely” that the Sixers' franchise big man, Nerlens Noel, will contribute this season. Hearing that seems like another cannon blast to the 76ers' Titanic of lowered expectations. Although the rose-colored or, better yet, realistic perspective is that the 2014-15 season could be monumental in rebuilding the third-winningest franchise in NBA history.
Is it all going to be worth it? You have to look only as far as the Oct. 14 Sports Illustrated cover to grasp the hype enveloping Wiggins. So, in a word: Yes, it is worth it.
Wiggins is not the lone marquee name in next year’s draft and, to his credit, the native Canadian isn’t creating a nationwide buzz just between the end lines. According to Bleacher Report, quoting a source, Adidas could offer Wiggins as much as $180 million to sign a sneaker endorsement deal and Nike is expected to match any offer. It’s all conjecture at this point, but $180 million before playing a single NBA game? That’s some Golden Ticket.
Granted, there is a precedent for this type of deal. Many of us remember Nike backing up the Brinks truck for LeBron James when he left high school and went straight to the pros, but the consensus then was James was the best thing since pants with pockets. And he was as advertised, if not more. Is Wiggins that? General consensus has it that Wiggins could be a once-in-a-generation type of player. The 6-foot-8, 18-year-old looks every bit the part.
So what do Sixers fans have to look forward to? The team will likely have two lottery picks next season, enough money to sign at least two top-notch free agents and Noel playing his first full season in South Philly. The toughest part? Getting there. It may be a very long season. Let’s hope there’s a Wiggins at the end of the rainbow.