Reminder: At least one of the top three picks in this NBA draft will probably be a miss

Reminder: At least one of the top three picks in this NBA draft will probably be a miss

Sixers fans were told exactly what they wanted to hear yesterday with the new draft workout roundup from ESPN's draft guru Chad
Ford, who was privileged to attend workout sessions by the year's likely top three selections: Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Amazingly, all three appear to have helped their draft stock with their performances--Embiid looked healthy and measured well, Wiggins had improved his fundamentals and appeared more explosive than ever, and Parker dismissed notions that he was overweight by showing up in good shape and going harder in the workout than anyone Ford had seen since Damian Lillard.

"All three players are worthy of the No. 1 pick in the draft," concludes Ford at the column's end. "It seems there will be no losers on draft night."

This is all pretty nice for the Sixers, especially if primary target Wiggins ends up falling to them at #3. (Ford now views this as a distinct possibility, saying that one source told him that it's between Parker and Embiid for Cleveland at #1, and that he thinks Wiggins isn't in Milwaukee's top two a spot later.) It seems like no matter what happens, all three teams in the draft's top tier should be walking away with an All-Star caliber player they can build their team around for the rest of the 2010s.

Sounds cool. But in the NBA, things don't usually turn out like that.

If you look back at the last 20 or so years of draft history, focusing on just the top threes, there's almost always at least one selection that stands out as a disappointment of some degree. It's exceedingly rare that all three players pan out the way the teams that originally drafted them hoped. In fact, this millennium, we've yet to have a single top three that produced three All-Stars--you have to go back to '99 with Elton Brand, Steve Francis and Baron Davis for that, and of those three, Davis was the only one who made the All-Star squad with the team that originally drafted him. ('94, with Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill, was the last time all three players made All-Star with their original club, and even then, behind-the-scenes turmoil with the Mavs forced Kidd to be traded the next summer.)

For whatever reason, it's just hard for teams to go three-for-three up top. You had Blake Griffin and James Harden go #1 and #3 in 2009, but in between them was Hasheem Thabeet. 2008 produced the best class in recent memory, including Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, but Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo still dragged down the average at #2 and #3. Kevin Durant and Al Horford both became franchise players from 2007, but the man drafted above them, Greg Oden, barely cracked triple-digits in games played. Four future Hall-of-Famers went in the top five in 2003, but loitering in their midst at #2 was Darko Milicic. And our old friend Kwame Brown went first overall ahead of Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol in 2001.

There's probably some logical reasoning of mathematical variance as to why this has so long been the case, but the simpler explanation is just that there's just very, very few sure things in the draft, often not a single one in a year, and never as many as three. Nobody picking in the top three thinks that their guy is gonna be the guy who busts or underwhelms, but every year, there's a player who ends up struggling to adjust to the pro level, or who gets hurt early in his career, or who never matures and develops as a player and/or person, or who just wasn't really ever as good as the team who drafted him hoped he would be.

And so this year, we have Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. From these workout reports, from what we've seen of them in college, and what we hope to see of them in the pros, right now we're feeling like we can't miss with any of them. But time and time again throughout the history of pro basketball, we've been shown that one of the top guys always ends up disappointing, and this year is not likely to be an exception.

Maybe Embiid's back will flare up early in his pro career, and he'll end up suffering through an Oden-like injury history that leaves him unable to ever be a real contributor of any importance on the NBA level. Maybe Wiggins will turn out to be the next Marvin Williams (#2, 2005), seemingly gifted with the body and all the skills needed to reach NBA stardom, but never figuring out (or caring enough to figure out) how to maximize them to reach his highest ceiling. Maybe Parker will be the reincarnation of our dearly departed Evan Turner (#2, 2010), an extremely talented offensive player in college who just can't figure out how to translate his game to be similarly effective in the pros.

There's obvious precedent for all of them, enough to scare Sixers fans into wondering if putting all our eggs in the lottery basket was really even the way to go in the first place. But that's just how the draft works, and Sam Hinkie is probably more acutely aware of this than anyone. All he can do is put the maximum amount of research into all three players--as well as potential reach candidates like Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon--and minimize his chances that the player he takes is the one of the three who never reaches his potential with the team that drafted him.

The truth of the situation is that Ford is basically right: There will be no losers on draft night. Every team in the top three will walk away with a player that they have cause to be very excited about adding to their team. The loser will come three or four years from now, when one of those players has, in all likelihood, gotten badly injured, or failed to improve their numbers from their rookie campaign, or feuded with their coach and teammates and implicitly or explicitly demanded a trade. We hope it won't be us with our guy, but we won't know until then, and we definitely won't know on June 27th.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 3

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Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

Jeremy Hellickson did everything he could Monday night to stop the bleeding a rough road trip through Detroit and Chicago provided the Phillies.

But the usually consistent Hector Neris had his worst inning of the year and Washington pounced.

The Nationals scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning and snapped a four-game losing streak to the Phillies with a 4-3 win on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.

Jayson Werth’s two-out RBI single plated the tying run in the top of the eighth to even the score at 2-2. Neris then walked Chris Heisey to load the bases for Daniel Murphy, who homered earlier. He delivered with the crushing blow, a two-run single that put the Nationals ahead for good.

Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Phillies have had success against at Citizens Bank Park, worked around back-to-back doubles by Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard to start the ninth inning and to pick up his 14th save of the season.

Papelbon fanned pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph with a slider, blew a fastball by Cesar Hernandez and got Tyler Goeddel to line out to second base to end the game.

The Phillies, now losers in eight of 10, saw their record fall to 26-25. On Tuesday, they’ll try to avoid falling to .500 for the first time since April 26.

Starting pitching report
In a pitcher’s duel against Washington’s Tanner Roark, Hellickson was dominant in seven innings of work. He needed just 79 pitches in those innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning.

For the fifth straight time, Hellickson held his opponents to three runs or less. He struck out eight Nationals and scattered just three hits while not issuing a walk. Hellickson left the game in line for the win, but the Phillies' usually efficient bullpen faltered.

Hellickson struck out the side in the sixth inning, which ended with Werth swinging through a breaking ball.

Bullpen report
Neris entered Monday having not given up a run since May 6, a streak of nine and 2/3 innings. He started off by striking out Wilson Ramos with his nasty splitter.

Neris then walked Danny Espinosa before getting pinch-hitter Clint Robinson to line out for the inning’s second out. But command continued to be an issue. Neris walked Ben Revere to keep the inning alive for Werth, who made him pay. And then Murphy made it worse.

Jeanmar Gomez came on to clean up the eighth inning and then pitched a perfect ninth inning.

At the plate
The Phillies used their small ball ways to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the second. Back-to-back one-out walks of Hernandez, who would steal second and reach third on a wild pitch, and Goeddel put runners on the corners for Hellickson, who executed a perfect sacrifice safety squeeze bunt to score Hernandez.

After Washington tied the game at 1-1 on a Murphy home run, the Phillies struck back in the bottom of the sixth with a Freddy Galvis homer on a 1-2 slider down in the zone. Galvis went down to get the pitch and drove it to the right field seats for what turned out to be the game-winning run.

Howard, who was given the start at first base after sitting Sunday, was 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts and a long flyout to deep right-centerfield before he smashed an RBI double to follow up Franco’s double to kick off the ninth inning.

In the field
Howard’s leaping catch of Ramos’ line drive to end the second inning helped keep the Nationals off the board early.

Goeddel, who made that game-ending throw to the plate a few weeks back, again showed off his arm in the top of the seventh inning. With Bryce Harper on first base after being hit by a Hellickson fastball in the knee, Murphy, moments after hitting a home run foul and out of play, drove a pitch toward the gap in left-centerfield.

Goeddel closed on it and quickly fired to first. Harper, slow getting back to the base, was doubled off as Howard deceptively waited to show his glove until the ball neared. Washington manager Dusty Baker challenged the play, but a review that lasted two minutes and 15 seconds confirmed the call on the field.

Franco made a catch in the eighth inning similar to Howard’s. Robinson sent a line shot over the head of Franco, who made a full-extension grab with his glove. He appeared to injure his left shoulder on the play but remained in the game.

Asche on the way?
Cody Asche, who continues to work his way back from an oblique injury, went 1 for 4 Monday afternoon with a home run - his second during his rehab assignment - in Lehigh Valley’s 6-4 win over Norfolk.

Asche’s 20-day rehab assignment concludes Wednesday. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the club would look at Asche then and said it's a “possibility” the 25-year-old joins the Phillies after.

Up next
The Phillies continue their 10-game homestand on Tuesday with Aaron Nola (4-3, 2.86 ERA) facing off against Washington’s Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52).

NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.