Darryl Dawkins was ahead of his time
The late Sixer might have had a Hall of Fame career had he come out of high school now and not in the 1970s.
THINK OF these measurables for an NBA prospect: an 18-year-old man-child who is 6-11, chiseled like Adonis, with strength and power that rivaled Hercules.
That player would be a certain lottery pick in the NBA draft, possibly the No. 1 overall pick.
In today's NBA, the team drafting such a player would have all the support mechanisms in place to give that player the best chance to develop on and off the court.
In 2015, an NBA team has all the tools to help that player have the dominating career his physical attributes indicate he could.
Had Darryl Dawkins entered the NBA of the 21st century, it is possible, maybe probable, that he would have had a Hall of Fame career.
That's how much physical ability the man who would become known as "Chocolate Thunder" had when he entered the draft out of Maynard Evans High School in Orlando, Fla.
However, Dawkins, who passed away yesterday at 58, made that jump in 1975 - two decades before Kevin Garnett opened the floodgates for high school players declaring for the draft and forced the NBA to adjust for talented but inexperienced prospects coming into the league.
In the last three drafts, the Sixers have acquired three teenage big men - Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. There is a plan in place to maximum the long-term production for each.
The Sixers, just like every other franchise in the NBA, know what to do because they now have had nearly two decades to learn what to do.
That wasn't the case in the mid-'70s when the Sixers selected Dawkins fifth overall.
In 1971, Spencer Haywood had successfully challenged the NBA's rule that college underclassmen were not eligible to play in the league until their college class graduated. But the NBA still required players who would be considered underclassmen to meet the criteria for "hardship."
Not many college underclassmen applied, much less high school seniors.
There were no guidelines for a guy with the physical maturity of a man but the mental and social skills of a teenager.
At that time, the Sixers were making things up as they went along with regard to handling the young Dawkins, which isn't to say he was a troublemaker.
Still, just think about how we talk today about how these one-and-done players would benefit from maturing another year or two in college before stepping into the NBA.
Think about all the pitfalls that still exist despite the NBA's transition programs geared at teenagers coming into the league.
Now, imagine giving an 18-year-old pro-athlete money in the 1970s - the wildest, craziest, most outrageous era of the NBA - and then expecting him to act and perform like a professional.
The 1970s are viewed as the decade that nearly destroyed the NBA until the arrival of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson revived it in 1979.
Without guidance, Dawkins was almost set up to not be able to reach his full potential.
On Comcast SportsNet's "Philly Sports Talk" yesterday, former teammate Steve Mix talked about the overwhelming pressure Dawkins faced as a top draft pick on a team trying to win a championship.
He talked about Dawkins' tremendously physical skills and his fun-loving personality that endured him with his teammates.
Just imagine if Dawkins just had a little "better work ethic," he added.
I could say, just imagine if Dawkins' NBA was better prepared to guide him from raw talent to polished pro.
Dawkins averaged 12.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in a 14-year career with the Sixers, New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons.
Although he is best known for naming his powerful dunks, including the two that helped bring about breakaway rims, Dawkins had great low-post moves and a jump shot that extended to 18 feet.
Many of the big men entering the game today do not have the raw skill set that Dawkins did at the same age.
NBA drafting is all about upside today. The Sixers are presently devoting about 99.9 percent of their energy and resources to player development.
It's scary to think of what could be done with an 18-year-old Dawkins coming out of the 2015 draft.
"A 6-11, physical, athletic, rim-protecting, running 'big,' " said former Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski. "In the up-tempo style of today's NBA, the big fella would have no problem.
"[Dawkins] would be making a lot of money coming into the league right now."
There is no way to know for sure if Dawkins could have had more than just a fine NBA career. Perhaps Hall of Fame greatness was not in him.
Still, we do know that timing and circumstance can affect what might or might not have been concerning pro athletes.
Darryl Dawkins entered the NBA about three decades before the NBA was prepared to deal with Darryl Dawkins entering the NBA.