Up Next

NBA

Pump the brakes, Sixers fans

You’re doin’ too much

One day after winning the top pick of the 2016 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers invited their fans to a rally that featured marching bands, cheerleaders and the unveiling of a massive banner displaying a No. 1 jersey. Towards the end of the rally at the Philadelphia Art Museum, the jersey was triumphantly carried up the same steps that Rocky Balboa ran up when training for his fight against Apollo Creed in Rocky.

What’s next? Maybe the Sixers will load that banner on a float and escort it along Broad Street during a ticker-tape parade that will culminate in the jersey being raised near City Hall. (That’s not planned, but it wouldn’t shock me if it was considered.)

The Sixers have the right to be pleased with the top pick. But this excessive celebration will look incredibly silly at the end of next season when the NBA playoffs begin and the Sixers find themselves, again, in the lottery.

Ben Simmons, the expected top pick, is one of the most versatile and gifted basketball players to come out of college in the last decade. He was — by far — the best player on the floor when I saw LSU live for the first time in November at the Barclays Center in a loss to Marquette.

But I also saw a player with flaws: a talented freshman who didn’t have a perimeter shot and who seemed reluctant to take over the game.

Can a guy who failed to take LSU to the NCAA tournament be expected to quickly change the trajectory of a Philadelphia franchise that won just 10 games last season, and hasn’t reached 20 wins the past three years?

Yes, you’d rather have the top pick than the 10th pick. And having to pick between Simmons and Brandon Ingram (if the Sixers go in a different direction with the top pick) puts the Sixers in a good place to vastly improve the team.

But didn’t the team feel the same way about Jahlil Okafor, when they selected him with the third pick, last year? And Joel Embiid, the third pick the year before?

A top pick brings extreme euphoria. As a longtime Knicks fan, I remember screaming and dancing in front of my TV while watching New York win the top pick in the 1984 draft and the rights to bring in the best player in basketball that year — Patrick Ewing.

But Ewing couldn’t take Rory Sparrow and Ken Bannister to the promised land that first season (it took three years for him to lead the Knicks to the playoffs), and neither will Simmons (or Ingram).

It’s not that Simmons or Ingram lack talent. But neither of the expected top two picks of the draft will have the immediate impact of LeBron James, who has been dominant since entering the NBA out of high school in 2003.

It’s been amusing this week to see the Sixers celebrate outside the Philadelphia Art Museum, to see its employees turn their draft night gathering into something resembling a mosh pit, and to even see the ecstatic reaction of coach Brett Brown the moment his team won the pick (was that a black power salute, Brett?).

My advice to the Sixers: Enjoy the moment and the days leading up to June’s draft. But tone it down. By the end of next season — with the possibility of yet another lottery pick — your extreme enthusiasm will be significantly curbed.

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at The Undefeated. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright, and watching the Knicks play an NBA game in June.