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.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg shut down Cleveland for seven innings and bounced back from his only loss this season, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday.

Strasburg (14-1) began the season with 13 straight wins before he was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21. The powerful right-hander shook off that blemish, holding the Indians to only three hits as the Nationals recovered after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth and losing on Tuesday night.

Washington rookie Trea Turner drove in three runs and Daniel Murphy hit his 20th homer off Carlos Carrasco (7-4), who nearly matched Strasburg but was done in by one bad inning.

Nationals reliever Blake Treinen stopped Cleveland's threat in the ninth, getting a game-ending double play for his major league save.

Strasburg walked one and struck out seven (see full recap)

Cardinals snap Familia's saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4
NEW YORK -- Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia's streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn't blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker's comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia's franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save (see full recap)

Padres hit 3 HRs to extend streak, beat Blue Jays 8-4
TORONTO -- Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots and the San Diego Padres beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

San Diego extended its club-record streak of games with at least one home run to 25. It's the longest run since the 2002 Texas Rangers set a major league record by homering in 27 straight.

Luis Perdomo (5-4) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Wallace reached base three times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on Rosales' homer in the third, connected off R.A. Dickey in the fifth and hit an RBI single off Joe Biagini in the sixth.

Dickerson homered for the fourth time in four games when he connected off Franklin Morales in the eighth. He is first Padres rookie to homer in four straight games.

Dickey (7-12) allowed seven runs, six earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer is winless in three starts and has allowed six home runs in that span (see full recap).

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”