If I had a seat at the table in the Sixers' war room later tonight, my vote would be for Derrick Favors with the number two pick. This isn't exactly a surprise to anyone who's been reading the blog for the past month or so. I said it right after the lottery and nothing has changed my mind, after the jump, I'll tell you why.
When I look at this draft, the top tier holds three players: John Wall, Evan Turner and Derrick Favors. Wall is probably slightly above, basically because I believe he possesses the skill and athleticism to be a true superstar in the league, and I think there's a high probability he reaches that level. Turner has the skill but not the athleticism, Favors has the athleticism, but not the skill. Both Turner and Favors have a chance to reach the superstar, or "number one" or whatever you want to call it, level, but I'd say Wall has a better chance.
If you believe in the tier approach to drafting, and you believe Turner and Favors are both in the same tier, then this pick should come down to team needs and fit. Unfortunately, the Sixers have more needs than they know what to do with. When I boil it down to this level, same tier, both at a position of need, I have to take a step back and evaluate four things. (1) What is the absolute best the player could become in the NBA? (2) How much of an impact would this ideal version of the player impact the team? (3) How likely is the player to reach, or at least approach his ceiling? (4) If the player doesn't fully develop, what type of player will he be? (worst-case).
The answers to these four questions are what make me firmly believe Favors is the right pick.
- Ceiling - A disruptive defensive player who controls the lane, uses his exceptional size, wing span, quickness and jumping ability to cut the lane off to opponent drivers and neutralize their best offensive big on a nightly basis. A big body to set devastating picks, convert on rolls to the hoop, run the floor, finish on the break and work in the low post effectively. 20+ points/game on extremely efficient shooting, 12+ rebounds/game, 2+ blocks/game. A force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor.
- Impact - The easiest route to a championship is on the back of a dominant big. The easiest way to build a dominant defensive team is to rely on the last line of defense. A fully realized Favors is a cornerstone.
- Likelihood - This is a two-part question. I think it's extremely likely Favors reaches his potential on the defensive end. He's got the mindset, he's got the size, he's got the athleticism. I don't think this is an if, I think it's a when. On the offensive side, he's going to have to put in a ton of work. He's raw right now. He doesn't have a jumper, he's a bit too turnover prone, but I believe he's got the coordination, footwork and aptitude to develop a low-post game. Will he get there? I'd put the odds at probably 50/50 that he winds up a 20 PPG scorer in his prime.
- Downside - Worst-case scenario, I believe Favors is a defensive anchor for the Sixers for the next decade if they draft him and hold on to him. A guy who dominates the paint on the defensive end, but struggles to create his own shot on offense. He never becomes a true low post threat, but still scores his points off offensive rebounds, lobs, dives to the hoop off the pick-and-roll. Essentially, he's an efficient vulture on the offensive end who is only as good as the opportunities his teammates create for him.
I like the answer to those questions, but it's when I look at the team that the choice becomes clear to me. Favors won't turn 19 until the middle of July. If the Sixers draft him, they could potentially have the point guard and center positions locked down with two-way studs for the next decade. If you're looking shorter term, they'd have potentially elite defenders at the point, on the wing and at center. Guys who can guard multiple positions, guys who make plays to not only get stops, but ignite offense going in the other direction. With that type of core in place, you can make tradeoffs at the other two positions. You can live with a weak defender who can shoot to stretch the floor. You can live with a soft-ish PF to operate away from the hoop. A core like this makes it much, much easier to round out a roster in a cost effective way.
Ultimately, though, I am a risk-averse person when you're talking about high picks like this. Draft history is littered with athletic bigs who didn't pan out. Personally, though, I think the bust potential is much higher for a guy who comes in as an offensive player and teams think he'll just pick up defense as he goes than a guy who is a defender first. It's easier to develop a go-to move than to teach someone to want to defend. And in Favors case, with the Sixers, the easy opportunities would be plentiful on the offensive end. With Jrue and Iguodala feeding him for dunks I don't think he'd struggle to score points. The confidence would be there, the baseline would be set off the garbage hoops that went to Dalembert in the half court (and more of them), and the intense pressure of being a number two pick would never mount, simply because even if he wasn't a great offensive player, the players around him could make him look like one.
From that point, it would be up to the coaching staff and Favors himself to shift the focus from outside in, to inside out. Whether he can ever make that transition will probably define his overall value. A solid starter in the league for a decade, an All Star, First-team all defense, All NBA, MVP? The sky's the limit, and the floor is still an impact player, just not the focal point of a contending team.
Check out the video below. Also make sure you take a look at Statman's breakdown of the Sixers' recent draft history. I'll have a post on Turner later, then a poll and then a live blog of the draft tonight starting at 6:30pm. Post any/all rumors you find in the comments, make sure you include links.