The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, but a recent string of futility has them once again at the bottom of the standings. After a season that saw them lose a franchise record 26 games in a row, the losing culture has created shaky fan support. But there is optimism for the future of the Sixers, as the next few years could see them go from worst to first in a historically weak Eastern Conference.
The Sixers struck gold in the draft last season with Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams as the 6’6 point guard had an outstanding season, winning the Rookie of the Year award. Philly might be poised to have another strong draft with two lottery picks, one being in the top five. Philadelphia has made some great first picks in the draft (Jerry Stackhouse), and some that didn’t pan out (Evan Turner) so let’s look at the top draft picks in Sixers history. This list will concentrate on 76ers draft picks only, so no Philadelphia Warriors or Syracuse Nationals.
10. Andre Iguodala
The number 9 pick in the 2004 NBA draft, this 6’6 point forward made an immediate impact on the Sixers coming out of the University of Arizona. He became a starter early into his rookie season and averaged a career best 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in 2007. He made his first All-Star team in 2012, but was never the primary scorer Philadelphia needed and was traded to Denver in the offseason.
9. Jerry Stackhouse
Taken with the number three pick in the 1995 draft, Stackhouse led the 76ers in scoring his rookie season with 19.2 points per game, earning him a spot on the All-Rookie First Team. He was hailed as the savior of Philadelphia until the Sixers drafted a guy named Allen Iverson the next season, and Stackhouse was promptly traded to the Pistons.
8. George McGinnis
McGinnis would likely be higher on this list had he not spent the majority of his first years in the ABA with the Indiana Pacers. After the ABA-NBA merger, McGinnis landed with the Sixers and along with another former ABA star Julius Erving, led them to the 1977 NBA finals. A three-time NBA All-Star, McGinnis averaged 20.2 points and 11 rebounds for his career.
7. Doug Collins
Coming out of Illinois State University, Collins was taken number one overall by the 76ers in the 1973 NBA draft. A lifetime Sixer, he went on to average 17.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game for his career, making four All-Star teams along the way. He contributed to the team that went on to lose to Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1977 NBA Finals.
6. World B. Free
Born Lloyd Bernard Free, the man that would change his name to World due to his all-world skills was taken in the second round of the 1975 draft. He played four seasons for the Sixers from 1975-78, and averaged 20.3 points for his career. His patented high-arching jump shot helped him accumulate over 15,000 points when he retired.
5. Andrew Toney
Taken with the 8th pick in the 1980 draft, Toney was an integral part of Philadelphia’s last championship team. In 1983 Toney along with Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones and others helped the Sixers defeat the Lakers in the Finals. Nicknamed “The Boston Strangler” for his dominance in the playoffs against the Celtics, particularly in the 1983 Eastern Conference finals where he averaged 26.4 points including 34 in Game 7. A two-time All-Star, Toney is regarded by Charles Barkley as the most talented player he ever played with.
4. Maurice Cheeks
The general of many of the strong 76er teams of the early 1980’s, Mo Cheeks was drafted with the 36th pick in the second round of the 1978 draft. Cheeks became known for his court vision and tenacity on defense, leading Philadelphia to three trips to the NBA Finals in four years. He was a key component of the 83’ championship team, and made four straight All-Defensive teams (1982-86). When he retired in 1993, he was the NBA’s all-time leader in steals and was second in career assists.
3. Billy Cunningham
Drafted number five overall in 1965, Cunningham had a major role on Philadelphia’s 1967 championship team that featured Wilt Chamberlain and Hal Greer. Initially providing instant scoring off the bench, when Chamberlain was traded to Los Angeles in 1968, Cunningham became the centerpiece of the Sixers offense averaging 24.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. The 6’6 forward was a four time NBA All-Star and averaged 21.2 points and 10.4 rebounds over his nine years in Philadelphia. Cunningham was also the head coach of the last Sixers championship team in 1983.
2. Charles Barkley
In 1984 the 76ers drafted a little known forward out of Auburn with the fifth overall pick. Seen as overweight and too undersized to play his position (he was listed at 6’7 but was more like 6’4) Barkley went on to dominate the power forward spot for the next 12 seasons. Drafted onto a team full of veterans just coming off an NBA championship, Barkley quickly made an impact averaging 14 points and 8.6 rebounds his rookie season. When Doctor J. retired and Moses Malone was traded, he began to establish himself as one of the top power forwards in the NBA. “The Round Mound of Rebound” made 10 straight All-Star appearances from 1987-97 and was at the top of the league in scoring and rebounding for the majority of his career. He won a gold medal as a part of the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics, but was traded to the Phoenix Suns shortly before the games began. Barkley won his only MVP award that season, taking Phoenix to the NBA Finals where they fell to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. He remains one of the greatest players in league history to never have won a championship.
1. Allen Iverson
There really is no debate as to which the greatest Sixers draft pick is. Taken number one overall in 1996, Allen Iverson took the basketball world by storm the minute he stepped onto the hardwood. Averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game, he ran away with the Rookie of the Year award in one of the strongest draft classes in league history. “The Answer” soon began to dominate opposing guards with his toughness, cat-like quickness and mid-range jump shot. He reinvented the crossover as a ball-handling weapon, and soon became one of the more dominant players in the NBA. Iverson won four scoring titles and is the only Sixer on this list to win an MVP award in a Philadelphia uniform. Iverson took the Sixers to the Finals in 2001 during his MVP campaign, where they lost to the Lakers in five games. Making 10 straight All-Star appearances (2000-2010) A.I. is sixth all-time in regular season scoring average (26.7) and is second to only Michael Jordan in playoff scoring average (29.7). Iverson’s style and flare affected a generation of basketball fans like no one since his Airness, and he will go down as maybe the greatest small guard to ever play in the NBA.