The Philadelphia 76ers have had the day of the 2014 NBA draft circled for about a year now. Even the Sixers' entire 2013-14 season was a prelude to June 26, 2014, which everyone knew as early as the last NBA draft. But now that the day which will change the Sixers has finally arrived, the uncertainty of what Philadelphia will actually do is greater than ever.
For about a year, the Sixers faithful have anticipated getting someone like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid to build around in the next decade. However, the new consensus among NBA draft experts is that Philadelphia will settle on Australia's Dante Exum with the third pick, which may not sound as enticing after all this buildup.
This fate may have been sealed the second Embiid suffered a foot injury last week, making himself too risky for the Cleveland Cavaliers or Milwaukee Bucks to take with the first or second pick. As such, Wiggins or Parker will be snatched up by the Cavaliers and Bucks in some order before the Sixers can get to them, unless general manager Sam Hinkie has another draft shocker up his sleeve.
Hinkie put his stamp on the Sixers in his first draft last year, when he traded All-Star Jrue Holiday away to pick the injured Nerlens Noel, while also taking future Rookie of the Year Michael-Carter Williams. With that precedent, Philadelphia is waiting for Hinkie to make another massive gamble or shocking move, if it gets the Sixers high enough to take Wiggins or Parker.
Of course, he could also stun everyone by taking Embiid anyway, bringing yet another oft-injured big man to Philadelphia. Hinkie might even go so far as to trade Carter-Williams, if he gets the right offer. If he crafts a sweet enough deal for the Cavaliers -- one that may even help them in the forthcoming LeBron James sweepstakes -- anything can happen.
One way or another, the Sixers have to make a splash in this NBA draft, after a year of waiting and tanking. But even if they stay put and take Exum, along with another big name with the 10'th pick, it may not seem worth it to many without either Wiggins or Parker.
Philadelphia's biggest night of basketball since Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals starts at 7 p.m. est on ESPN.