10 best draft picks in franchise history, ranked

The Sixers have had their fair share of high draft picks in recent years, and it’s safe say that there’s been a mixed bag of results from those hauls. But for all the misses in that time, there have been a couple of notable hits – well, at least one, and harking back further than that, the Sixers have also picked up a couple of the game’s greats on draft night. These are the best ten draft picks in Sixers franchise history.

10. Jrue Holiday (Pick 17, 2009)

In what is a relative rarity on this list, Jrue Holiday hasn’t done his best work in Philadelphia, but given the player he has become, this was an excellent selection at pick 17. He played just four seasons with the team but got better in each of them, averaging 17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in the last of them while exhibiting the tenacious defense for which he is now so well-renowned. He has subsequently gone on to have a brilliant career in Milwaukee and New Orleans, so while the Sixers didn’t enjoy the spoils of their savvy selection, it was a good pick nonetheless.

9. Doug Collins (Pick 1, 1973)

Doug Collins was perhaps never the out and out superstar that a franchise invariably hopes for from a pick 1, but he was a very good player for them across his eight years in the NBA and played a key role in some successful Philadelphia teams. After a couple of dire seasons for the team in 1973-74 and 1974-75, they returned to the playoffs for the first time in five years in Collins’ third year with the team, with his 20 points per game a major reason why. That was the first of four consecutive All-Star selections for the 6’6″ guard, a period during which the Sixers won at least 46 games every year and made the NBA Finals in 1976-77. They would go on to do that once more in his time there, though unfortunately he just missed out on the ultimate success, which the team achieved two years after his premature retirement due to injury.

8. Andre Iguodala (Pick 9, 2004)

Andre Iguodala has enjoyed an illustrious career across a number of different franchises, but it was the Sixers who first drafted the defensive stalwart. And while the latter years of his career, and in particular his success with the Warriors, has been defined by that defense, he was more than capable at the other end of the floor during his eight seasons with the Sixers, too. He averaged close to 20 points per game to go with around six boards and five assists during the middle four years he spent in Philadelphia, and he was deservedly rewarded with an NBA-All Defensive Second Team appearance, and was voted an All-Star in 2012 – his last year with the team.

7. Maurice Cheeks (Pick 36, 1978)

Maurice Cheeks is the Sixers’ all-time leader in assists and was four times voted to the All-Star team during his 11 seasons in Philadelphia. All that for a guy the franchise picked up with the 36th pick in the 1978 draft. Cheeks was a valuable addition to a team which had already spent a number of seasons challenging for a championship, and with him at the helm they not only continued that trend, but finally broke through in 1982-83 in their third NBA Finals appearance in four years. Cheeks was an important part of that team, and in the team’s 4-0 sweep of the Lakers in the Finals averaged 15.3 points, 6.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game. He was a really important player in a period of great success for the Sixers, and that he was picked so late makes this an even better selection.

6. Chet Walker (Pick 12, 1962)

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After displaying plenty of ability in his first couple of seasons, Chet Walker was forced to play second fiddle throughout the rest of his seven years with the Sixers because of the addition of a guy by the name of Wilt Chamberlain. But he did a pretty damn good job of it, combining with Chamberlain to make one of the best front courts of all-time. That front court helped them to 68 wins in 1966-67 in what was one of the best teams of all time, a team that ultimately beat the Warriors 4-2 in the NBA Finals. He made one of his seven All-Star appearances that year and took his game to another level in the Finals, averaging 23.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in the six-game series.

5. Hal Greer (Pick 14, 1958)

Chamberlain and Walker weren’t the only stars on that dominant 1967 team. In his ninth season playing for the Sixers, Hal Greer also played a pivotal role, and making this selection even better was the fact that he went on to play another six seasons with the team after the championship. All in all he played for 15 years for the Sixers, establishing himself as one of the greats of the franchise with an illustrious career which included, aside from that championship, 10 All-Star appearances, seven selections on the All-NBA Second Team, and an All-Star Game MVP to boot. He also led the team in scoring during their playoff run in 1967, and unsurprisingly had his jersey retired by the team after his career.

4. Billy Cunningham (Pick 5, 1965)

Yet another member of that 1967 championship team, Billy Cunningham has left an indelible mark on the Sixers franchise both as a player and a coach. He spent seven years with the team after being drafted with the fifth pick in 1965 and proved himself to be a prolific scorer on a team full of them, showcasing that ability with the first 50-point playoff game in franchise history in 1970. All up, his career with the Sixers yielded 654 games in which he averaged a 20-point double-double and four assists. After retiring at the conclusion of the 1975-76 season, Cunningham also went on to coach the franchise for eight years between 1977 and 1985.

3. Charles Barkley (Pick 5, 1985)

The first half of Charles Barkley’s illustrious 16-year career in the NBA was spent in Philly, after he was selected with the fifth pick in the 1985 draft. During his time there – and after he left – he racked up awards like they were going out of fashion, and by the end of his career was an 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA player, and MVP. A lot of that damage he did with the Sixers. His numbers were pretty wild basically from his second year onwards, during which he averaged 23 points, 14.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists, while in his third he averaged 28.3, 11.9 and 3.2. Those numbers would go on to become commonplace for Sir Charles, who has long been the number two player on this list – and would likely still be there if he wasn’t traded to Phoenix in 1992.

Sixers fans have long been told to Trust the Process, and while that process has endured plenty of speed bumps, Joel Embiid is helping to make it all worth it. The Cameroonian big man has developed into the dominant force in the NBA after an injury-riddled start to his career, and the 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists he managed in 2022-23 saw him collect the first of what could easily be multiple MVP Awards across the course of his career. Injuries mean that nine years after he was drafted, he’s still played just 394 games for the team, but averages of 27.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists across that time suggest he’s been pretty effective when on the court. Of course, the major thing missing from Embiid’s record at this point is success in the playoffs, something he’ll need if he’s to get near the number one name on this list.

A championship also happens to be the one thing missing from Allen Iverson’s resume, but while he couldn’t bring the ultimate success to the Sixers, he nonetheless lives on in the hearts and minds of fans all around the City of Brotherly Love. Iverson won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1997 with ridiculous first season numbers of 23.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists and never looked back, going on to play for the team for ten memorable seasons. He was a perennial All-Star during that time, and in 2001 won the MVP in his first of two consecutive seasons averaging over 31 points, and the fourth of nine consecutive seasons averaging at least 26. Iverson put the Sixers back on the map after they’d spent numerous years prior in the doldrums, and for the time being at least, is clearly the best draft picks the Sixers have ever made.

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