If you were Czar of Philadelphia Sports and had the power to keep 10 local players for the rest of their careers, who would you lock up?
Just a few rules. Each must be no older than 25, which takes out Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson. No minor-league prospects. And no stacking, all four local teams must be represented. Okay? Here’s my list:
1. Carson Wentz, 24, Eagles
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The obvious choice. In his second season, Wentz is on pace for 41 TDs and 9 INTs. He could become our city’s first MVP since 2007 (Jimmy Rollins) and the Eagles’ first since 1960 (Norm Van Brocklin). When they erect his statue in South Philly someday, they’ll have to build a smaller one nearby dedicated to GM Howie Roseman for getting Wentz.
2. Ben Simmons, 21, 76ers
The last rookie before him to top 10 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in each of his first 10 games was. . . Oscar Robertson in 1960. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr last week compared Simmons to Lebron James and Magic Johnson. I’ll take either option.
3. Joel Embiid, 23, 76ers
Do you realize Embiid has still played fewer than 70 games between college and the NBA? That says two things: a) His amazing skillset figures to improve, and, b) We still must worry about injury. Embiid is the most magnetic, impactful player in every game. Here’s hoping we can eventually forget phrases like “load management.”
4. Ivan Provorov, 20, Flyers
He’s a future Norris Trophy winner and Flyers captain. Ivan the Terrific excels in every aspect – creating crisp passes, stifling shooting lanes and clearing the zone. He’s smart, tough and mature. The last Tier I obvious choice on this list.
5. Aaron Nola, 24, Phillies
Some dismiss Nola as a mid-rotation starter, but I foresee a Cy Young candidate. Consider that in 2017 he was among the top 10 NL pitchers in WHIP, Ks per 9 innings and fewest homers per 9 innings. Durability is the only issue, and I think Nola grows into becoming a workhorse.
6. Derek Barnett, 21, Eagles
He’s improving every week and has nine sacks/QB hits in the last four games. What impresses me is how Barnett’s array of moves and strategies alter series to series. It suggests a young player eager to put in film work and practice time.Don’t ever forget he was the prize for trading Sam Bradford.
7. Rhys Hoskins, 24, Phillies
Can we project a career based on 50 Major League games? Well, Hoskins led the minors with 67 homers and 217 RBIs over 2016-17. Then he became the first to go yard 18 times in his first 34 big league games. Almost as impressive: In an era of free swingers, he worked 27 walks in those 50 games.
8. Nolan Patrick, 19, Flyers
Sure, this one is entirely speculative and, yes, the kid already has an injury history. But Patrick was the top North American prospect in the 2017 draft because he’s a smart, skilled player with no real flaws. He’ll never lead the NHL in scoring, but he can become building block on a contender.
9. Tim Jernigan, 25, Eagles
Another brilliant Roseman move, he just re-upped for four years. With him, Barnett, Cox (26) and Brandon Graham (29), the Eagles could have the NFL’s top D Line going forward. Why the Ravens traded him here for a bag of beans remains a mystery.
10. Shayne Gostisbehere, 24, Flyers
I debated this last spot between him and Sean Couturier, two Flyers I project to have big upswings this season. Sure, Ghost has defensive lapses, but a point-per-game defenseman is a rare and wondrous thing in today’s stingy NHL.
Honorable mention: Couturier, 24, Flyers; J.P. Crawford, 22, Phillies; Ronald Darby, 23, Eagles; Markelle Fultz, 19, Sixers; Dario Saric, 23, Sixers; Nick Williams, 24, Phillies.
That’s my list. Who makes yours?