Who will be the better NBA player, Emmanuel Mudiay or D'Angelo Russell?
That is the great basketball debate in the Philadelphia area. The better guard, at least the one perceived to be better, will almost surely be whichever one is surrounded by a better cast and better coaches or stays healthier.
But when looking at scouting reports and media hype, you see that these two might be difference makers who could help turn a rebuilding team such as the 76ers into an eventual NBA champion.
"They are both going to be franchise players," said an NBA scout, who spoke to The Inquirer on condition of anonymity. "There's no bad pick between the two."
Neither is regarded as the best prospect in the NBA draft. That title goes to Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor. Some might argue that Kentucky center/power forward Karl-Anthony Towns is closing fast and could even surpass Okafor.
But unless the Sixers are secretly unhappy with Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid, they don't need to acquire a center for a third straight draft. And let's face it, the franchise traded point guard Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks last month for a reason.
The Sixers liked the reigning rookie of the year. But they realize they can upgrade the position with either Mudiay or Russell, a combo freshman guard at Ohio State. Mudiay just finished his season as a point guard for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Assuming they get a pick in the top three or four, the Sixers will have until June 25 to decide who the best option is.
"You can't go wrong with either kid," the scout said. "Whoever is on the board, that's who you take. One of them will still be on the board at three or maybe four.
"The Sixers just better have one of those picks."
The scout added that Mudiay and Russell are better than Carter-Williams.
"They are more devoted to their craft," he said. "And I think they both have a higher IQ."
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Mudiay is imposing, like Chester native and New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans.
The Congo native moved to Dallas in 2001 with his family to escape a war. Mudiay was rated the No. 2 college prospect in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com as a senior at Dallas' Prime Prep. After committing in August 2014 to play at Southern Methodist, he instead opted last summer to sign a one-year, $1.2 million deal to play in China.
Mudiay played in just 12 games - 10 regular-season and two playoff - because of an ankle injury. He averaged 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.6 steals.
"With Mudiay, he combines the physicality with quickness," the scout said. "He's very cerebral.
"He's also a very good kid off the court, a very high character, very focused, and driven. He wants to be the best."
Like Carter-Williams, he struggles shooting from long range. But his shooting woes could be easier to fix, considering he's four years younger than MCW.
"I like him more than Michael Carter-Williams, because he's more of a humble kid," the scout said. "He's more of a student of a game. I think he's more coachable.
"You'll never have to worry about him being disrespectful to staff."
The scout added that he had heard nothing negative about Russell.
The 6-5, 180-pounder is one of college basketball's elite players. The Louisville native is averaging a team-leading 19.1 points and 5.6 rebounds to go with 5.0 assists, 2.9 turnovers, and 1.6 steals. He is shooting 41.5 percent on three-pointers and 45.8 percent from the field.
"He has the ability to create separation and beat you off the dribble," the scout said. "He's always going downhill, always in attack mode. . . .
"I would like him to be more focused and tone down the flare for dramatics."
The scout added that Russell would become a better shooter over time and that his mechanics were good. He does take some tough off-balance shots when he could settle for easier ones.
"That's because he can," the scout said, explaining that Russell knows he's a high-risk, high-reward player susceptible to turnovers because he tries to make big plays.
But like Mudiay, Russell is just 19 years old and has a lot of time to work on his shortcomings.
So who do the Sixers believe will be the better NBA player? We may find out in three months.