9. Selecting Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz
In the 2016 NBA draft, the Sixers had three first-round picks, including the first overall selection. Though Joel Embiid had yet to suit up, things were finally looking promising for Philadelphia with the arrival of Ben Simmons and the Embiid debut looming.
While one could easily list the selection of Simmons as a mistake, he was undeniably a rising star in the league at one point who was at the very least, the second-best player on the first-seeded team in the Eastern Conference before his collapse. The mistake was not moving off of Simmons earlier, but that will be addressed later.
The real mistakes happened with their other two first-round draft choices, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz. In Bryan Colangelo’s defense, these two were fine prospects and fit the mold of the type of players you should surround Simmons and Embiid with (though as was discovered through Burnergate, he likely was not thinking about how to maximize Embiid).
Neither Luwawu-Cabarrot nor Korkmaz panned out.
Both players were viewed as extremely athletic wings that could shoot proficiently, with Luwawu-Cabarrot projecting to be a plus defender. However, as they made their way to the NBA, the difference in athleticism compared to Europe became stark, and their shooting did not quite translate. Despite two trade requests, Korkmaz is of course still on the roster, while Luwawu-Cabarrot was traded to the Thunder in 2018 and has not played in the league since 2022.
While remaining in the NBA rotations for a few years after being drafted is no small feat, the Sixers missed out on a future All-NBA player, a future All-star, and the rookie of the year by taking these two. Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray, and Malcolm Brogdon were taken shortly after and would have been a seamless fit with the Sixers.
Embiid and Siakam appear to have a close bond as the two faces of Cameroonian basketball and could have been a formidable duo in the frontcourt. Murray would have been a near-perfect point guard to play alongside Simmons and Embiid, but there were questions over his jump shot, though the Sixers were so confident in Ben Simmons being able to handle point guard duties that they did not seem to consider that a need. Brogdon would have also been a nice piece to have over the years with his shooting and creation abilities, but the Sixers chose a different direction.
To be fair, Siakam came out of nowhere and the Raptors have a knack for developing these young talents that the Sixers do not seem to have (or they have been investing in the wrong players). Siakam could have easily flamed out here and while Brogdon would have been an upgrade, it is not incredibly significant.
The biggest blunder is passing on Dejounte Murray twice.
Murray was a highly touted prospect who struggled with efficiency during his lone year at Washington. Despite the inefficiency, he had the size, athleticism, defensive prowess, and creation ability that was already far ahead of Korkmaz, and Luwawu-Cabarrot. It was unclear why Murray fell so much on draft night, and he quickly made teams regret it. Drafting Murray could have prevented the Sixers from investing in another Washington point guard, Markelle Fultz, the following year.
The Sixers made a huge mistake that would have altered the course of the franchise and missed out on a potentially all-time great defensive team with a trio of Embiid, Simmons, and Murray.