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Smallwood: How Sixers have failed in recent drafts

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 and if were to release its annual rankings of NBA players today instead of before the 2016-17 season began, at least one Sixer likely would get a lot more respect.

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 and if were to release its annual rankings of NBA players today instead of before the 2016-17 season began, at least one Sixer likely would get a lot more respect.

Sixers rookie center Joel Embiid may not have played for the previous two seasons, but he is 58th in the top 200 players.

Embiid doesn't qualify for the statistical leaders because he's only played 15 games, but his 18.2 points per game would rank fifth among centers.

His 2.5 blocks per game would rank second to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, and he is actually tied for 13th with 38 blocks in his limited games.

Gobert is ranked 37th by, while Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns (11th), Detroit's Andre Drummond (20th), Indiana's Myles Turner (50th) and Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas (53) are all young centers ranked ahead of Embiid.

Based on that, Embiid likely would be 25th to 35th if the rankings were done today.

This year, gave more props to the Sixers' roster with nine players ranked in the top 200, which is up from two last season.

Rookie Ben Simmons, the rookie No. 1 overall pick, was the second highest Sixer at 120th.

The others are Nerlens Noel (126th), Dario Saric (145th), Jahlil Okafor (146th), Robert Covington (162nd), Sergio Rodriguez (168th), Ersa Ilyasova (170th) and Gerald Henderson (181st).

Besides the fact that two kids who had not played a single NBA game were the Sixers' highest-ranked players, what's disturbing is how a team in the middle of a massive rebuild has the perception of some key players trending in the wrong direction.

Noel was the first big acquisition when the Sixers started this rebuild in 2013. After an NBA first-team all-rookie showing in his redshirt first season, Noel was the highest-ranked Sixer for the start of 2015-16, at 76th. He dropped 50 spots for this season.

As the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, expectations were high for Okafor, who at 90th was ranked second to Towns (75th) among rookies. Towns is just outside the top 10 after a rookie of the year season while Okafor, who made first-team all-rookie, dropped 56 spots.

If the perception of Noel and Okafor among NBA general managers mirrors that of the ESPN panel, it gives credence to the rumors that Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo has overvalued Noel and Okafor and will have to lower his price to get a trade done for either.

Depending on how much validity you want to give the rankings, they do a decent job of explaining how the Sixers got to where they are presently. High picks don't mean much if the player evaluation skills are not top flight.

Obviously, Sixers management could not do anything about players already off the draft board, but their recent history includes some bad misses. The Sixers have had six lottery picks since 2010 - with four being in the top 3. They also had New Orleans draft Noel at No. 6 overall in 2013 as part of the deal for Jrue Holiday.

With the exceptions of Embiid and Simmons, there are players on whom the Sixers passed who are ranked significantly higher in 2016-17 than the players they chose.

In 2010, the Sixers took Evan Turner (currently 152nd) at No. 2 overall. The 2010 class included Indiana's Paul George (ranked 9th), Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins (13th), Utah's Derrick Favors (39th), Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe (43rd), and Boston's Avery Bradley (54th).

In addition to trading for Noel, the Sixers drafted Michael Carter-Williams (unranked) 11th overall. Left on the draft board where Gobert, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (19th) and Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (36th).

Taking a chance on the injured Embiid was the right move in 2013, but the Sixers also had the 10th overall pick. They drafted point guard Elfrid Payton (108th) but immediately traded him to Orlando for Saric and a future first-round pick. Currently, Saric is second to Embiid among rookies and his story is just starting, but with the 10th pick the Sixers could have had Utah's Rodney Hood (ranked 66th) or Minnesota's Zach LaVine (87th).

Considering that five players ranked in the top 54 were drafted after Turner, no recent draft mistake was bigger, but the most surprising potential draft mistake could come from last year.

Okafor was a consensus top 3 pick in 2015 and with the uncertain status of Embiid, it made sense to draft him. But with hindsight, now that Embiid seems healthy, the Sixers are jammed with three young centers on a completely unbalanced team. To take Okafor, they passed on New York stretch forward Kristaps Porzingis (ranked 33rd), Phoenix shooting guard Devin Booker (46th) and Indiana center Myles Turner (50th).

Right now, that's three top 50 players for what looks like an unneeded insurance policy in Okafor.

Again, this is only one evaluation and it changes yearly as young players develop. The ceilings for Embiid and Simmons also could make up for everything.

Still, if you do the math coming into the 2016-17 season, ESPN says that with the equivalent of seven lottery picks since 2010 (counting Noel), the Sixers have one top 100 player while cumulatively passing on 10 in the top 50 and three more in the Top 100.

That's not the best way to rebuild.