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.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night's start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds' win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don't think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero — Tommy Joseph — with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back to the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three groundball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "so if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds' starter kept the ball down and didn't allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on groundballs and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies' aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count, and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time, we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday's starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, when he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego — 6.19 — and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games — five losses — and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We're better than this. I know we're better than this. We've just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it's something we've got to do. Today wasn't too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice groundball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It's hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it's all because we're missing good pitches to hit. We're getting pitches to hit and we're not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We're trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it's tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We're just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."