The Sixers have made so many outstanding draft picks over the years. They’ve selected players like Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks, Billy Cunningham and, more recently, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
But there were also plenty of misses which produced plenty of lean years for a franchise rich in history.
Here are the top five most regrettable draft picks in team history.
5. Keith Van Horn, 1997, No. 2 overall (Trade for Tim Thomas (No. 7), Anthony Parker (No. 21))
If the Sixers had just stayed at No. 2 and taken Van Horn, that likely would’ve worked out better. Instead, they traded the rights to the Utah forward to the Nets along with a couple veterans for two first-rounders and shooting guard Jim Jackson. With those picks, they selected Villanova’s Tim Thomas and Anthony (don’t call me Tony) Parker.
The Sixers have passed on ‘Nova players in recent years — outside of selecting and then trading Mikal Bridges — but perhaps this is one time they should’ve gone in a different direction. Thomas was an OK player, but he was traded by the Sixers after just 94 games. Some guy named Tracy McGrady went a couple picks later. Parker turned into an OK player, but only after spending six years playing in Israel. They traded Jackson after just 48 games.
While the Nets didn’t necessarily win this trade, the Sixers could’ve done better in the 1997 draft.
4. Markelle Fultz, 2017, No. 1 overall
Maybe Fultz should be higher on this list, but I have a confession: I didn’t hate this pick when they made it. Fultz was the consensus No. 1 pick. Look at any mock draft from the time and you’ll see Fultz as the top pick — even when the Celtics still held the top spot. It’s easy in hindsight to talk about how bad this pick wound up being, but Fultz was highly regarded and seemed to perfectly complement the skillsets of Embiid and Simmons.
Now, if you want to question Bryan Colangelo’s decision to do a deal with the dev… I mean Danny Ainge, fair enough. Perhaps Colangelo should’ve known better when he saw that Ainge and the Celtics were so willing to move off the No. 1 pick and place Fultz into their rival’s lap.
3. Sharone Wright, 1994, No. 6 overall (and B.J. Tyler, No. 20 overall)
Wright was considered a good prospect and showed flashes during his rookie year. Much like a bunch of the players on this list, Wright’s tenure wasn’t long. Maybe there’s something to be said for the team realizing their mistakes? He played 125 games over two seasons with the Sixers before being traded to the Raptors.
After Wright, five solid NBA players — Lamond Murray, Brian Grant, Jalen Rose, Eric Piatkowski, Aaron McKie — and an NBA All-Star in Temple’s Eddie Jones came off the board before the Sixers picked again at 20. With that pick they chose B.J. Tyler, who played just 55 NBA games — all in his rookie year with the Sixers. They passed on Wesley Johnson, Monty Williams and Charlie Ward, who all became decent NBA players.
The Sixers whiffed on Wright and missed on two guys right in their own backyard. They also missed on their second pick in the first round. Then they got nothing to show for trading Wright, whom they drafted a year after they took the No. 1 guy on this list.
2. Larry Hughes
I feel a little bad having Larry Hughes this high on the list. In a lot of other drafts, getting a guy that wound up having a career like Hughes’ at eighth overall is a win — but not in 1998. The next two picks were Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. Ouch. Hughes played just 100 games for the Sixers and was dealt as part of the Toni Kukoc trade.
Again, Hughes had a decent career. In 13 NBA seasons, he averaged 14.1 points a game. He even made an All-Defensive Team in 2004-05. His only crime was being selected in front of two likely first-ballot Hall of Famers. What if the Sixers had drafted Nowitzki or Pierce to pair with Allen Iverson? It’s best not to torture yourself.
1. Shawn Bradley, 1993, No. 2 overall
Bradley was 7-foot-6 and moved decently for such a large human. He was a shot-blocking machine at BYU. You could see why he was intriguing. The issues were that Bradley spent just one year playing college basketball, then spent two years serving a Mormon mission in which he did not play basketball. Bradley was selected second overall, sandwiched between Chris Webber and Anfernee Hardaway. Bradley blocked a ton of shots but was pushed around on the block by stronger players. He was also posterized perhaps more than any player in NBA history. After 143 games with the Sixers, Bradley was — you guessed it — traded to the Nets in the deal that brought Derrick Coleman to Philly.
Hardaway’s career was mired by injuries, but he was a four-time All-Star and might’ve been even better if he stayed healthy. Even if the Sixers took Kentucky’s Jamal Mashburn, who went fourth overall to the Mavericks, it would’ve been a better pick than Bradley. The picks of Bradley and Wright set the team back, but luckily their pick in 1996 changed everything.
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