The Philadelphia 76ers went into Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery having a roster already loaded with young players: Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Nik Stauskas, Joel Embiid, Jerami Grant, and (if he comes over from Europe next season) Dario Saric are all 22 years old or younger. Stockpiling that youth was all part of the long game the Sixers were playing with “the process.” While current Sixers management wants to distance itself from the negative byproducts of that process, parts of that plan still drive this team’s future.
This June the Sixers will get even younger.
Philadelphia won the NBA Draft Lottery and landed the No. 1 pick, which they add to the No. 24 and 26 picks (Miami’s and Cleveland’s via trades) they already had — that’s three more guys fresh out of college added to the roster next season. That’s a lot of youth, maybe more than GM Bryan Colangelo is comfortable with.
“I’ve been quoted as saying you can only have so many developing players in your fold,” Colangelo said after his team saw the lottery balls bounce their way in a win. “There’s a lot to consider to finding a balance… I think there needs to be a blend of young talent and veterans on your roster, there needs to be a balance.”
Don’t think that means the Sixers are moving the No. 1 pick.
“I would say you never say never, but certainly trading the No. 1 pick is a highly unlikely situation,” Colangelo said.
Yes, Colangelo said last week that “nothing is off the table” with the Sixers picks, but he quickly clarified that he said that in response to a hypothetical question about what might happen if they had two of the top four picks (they would have had the Lakers’ pick if it had fallen to No. 4) and could package them for a quality veteran.
“I never said we would consider trading the No. 1 pick,” Colangelo said.
While reports have surfaced that the Sixers are leaning heavily toward taking Ben Simmons of LSU (and he is on top of most teams’ draft boards), of course Colangelo was not about to commit to one player or the other publicly yet. He probably will not before draft night.
Colangelo did say he and his team are already well into their deep dive on both Simmons and Brandon Ingram of Duke, the clear two players on the top of every team’s draft boards. They have seen both players play live as well as having watched a lot of video, Colangelo said, but now decision-making efforts move toward more finding out how they would fit in with the team and the city of Philadelphia beyond just basketball players.
“We’ve got extensive research done on Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons, and we will do more, and we will bring in both for workouts. We also interviewed Ingram in Chicago where he participated in some events,” Colangelo said. “We’ve got a lot of observations of who they are as basketball players, but we want to get to know them as people.”
Don’t, however, confuse Colangelo’s plan with that of his predecessor in the GM chair, Sam Hinkie. Colangelo will benefit from the trove of picks Hinkie amassed, but he’s not going to throw all those young players out there to learn lessons the hard way. Colangelo wants veterans who can both help the team win games — think journeyman point guard Ish Smith last season — and leaders in the locker room who can mentor all that young talent, guys such as Elton Brand last season.
“The Process” in its purest form is dead.
“We want to win basketball games, that is somewhat a transformational transition in thought here,” Colangelo said of the franchise’s mindset.
This is still a development process, the Sixers are not going to challenge Cleveland next season, but Colangelo has said it’s time to enter the next phase of rebuilding and start to win games.
However, first they are going to add more young players to the mix.