Bryan Colangelo: Sixers “trading the No. 1 pick is a highly unlikely situation”

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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.

One key reason NBA may return with 22 teams: Players want regular-season games

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Nothing is set in stone about an NBA return — at least not until next Thursday — but momentum seems to be building behind a plan that would bring 22 teams to the Orlando bubble.

That plan brings every team within six games of the playoffs when the season was halted into the competition, a total of 22 teams (13 from the West and nine from the East, the playoff teams plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington). There would be some regular-season games played, likely five to eight, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, then the playoffs with full seven-game series each round. Exactly what that play-in tournament would look and if the NBA would stick with the conference playoff alignment or seed 1-16 is up in the air (although the conference alignment seems to have more backing).

Why that plan? For one, it gets more cities and more fan bases involved — and it happens to bring Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into the mix, a big television draw. It also could help a few teams reach a 70-game broadcast threshold with local broadcasters.

Mostly, however, the players want it because they get some games under them before the playoffs start, something Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on at ESPN.

Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the National Basketball Players Association has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games to be played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams that prefer a tuneup before beginning the postseason, sources said.

A lot of players — influential players — have pushed for some regular season or meaningful games before the playoffs start. It’s about health, as trainers told us at NBC Sports, go from zero to 100 jumping straight into the playoffs and teams are asking for injuries. Players understand that.

Maybe only 20 teams end up in Orlando, that plan is on the table as well, but either way expect some regular-season games before the playoffs start. If the powerful players want it to happen, it will.

PBT Podcast: 2020 NBA Mock Draft crossover podcast, Part Deux

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We’re back at it… and not just drinking beer during a podcast. Although we do that, too.

For the third consecutive season, Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk and I collaborated for a first-round mock draft. Rob knows the prospects better than anyone; I provide some knowledge about what the teams might be looking for. The result is a unique listening experience breaking down who will be picked where based on fit.

The first ten picks can be found over on the College Basketball Talk feed.

Here we finish off the lottery and run through the entire rest of the first round.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.

Stephen Jackson speaks passionately at a rally in remembrance of his “twin” George Floyd

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Stephen Jackson, the former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, knew George Floyd from when he pair grew up near each other in Texas.

Friday, Jackson spoke about the man he called his “twin” at a rally Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda (an event with Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie in attendance. (Video via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, there is NSFW language involved.)

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin. A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background, to make it seem like the bulls*** that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

There has been a powerful reaction across the NBA world — and across the nation — in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (a 25-year-old black man killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood) and Floyd. In a sport with many black players, the murders of these men were reminders of the systemic race issues still part of American culture. LeBron James captured the feelings of many players and others when he took to Instagram.

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STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤

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Derek Chauvin, the man pictured kneeling on Floyd’s neck — which he did for more than eight-and-a-half minutes — was fired from his job in the Minneapolis Police Department and was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.