May 17, 2016
The third time was the charm. As it turns out, Dikembe Mutombo’s famous deleted tweet proved prescient: The Philadelphia 76ers will indeed have the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
The Sixers came out on top of the NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday night in New York, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, who will select second and third in June's draft, respectively. With the top pick in the draft, it is widely expected that the Sixers will take either LSU's Ben Simmons or Duke's Brandon Ingram.
"As I said up there, and I'll say it as many times as people will listen: I'm just thrilled for the city of Philadelphia,” Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters after representing the team on national television. “Our fans deserve this. It's a big night.”
And all of the speculation about the Sixers potentially moving the pick? That doesn't seem to be the case at No. 1.
"It's pretty obvious that the answer is yes [to keeping it]," Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters. "A lot of people jumped on the notion that we talked about looking at all alternatives as open to moving the pick. I think, again, you have to look at every single option and everything in front of you. But, the bottom line is, now that we're sitting in the number one position, it changes the dynamic."
Brown wasn't the only relieved person in the studio, as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak will likely pick whichever one of Simmons or Ingram falls to No. 2. By finishing in the Top-3, the Lakers were also able to keep the pick that the Sixers are owed for another year.
The Lakers pick was acquired from Phoenix (after originating with the 2012 Steve Nash trade) at the 2015 trade deadline in a deal that saw 2013-14 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams shipped out of Philly. With the lottery results, the pick will be again Top-3 protected in 2017 and then unprotected in 2018 if it again doesn't convey.
"Don't I look excited?" Kupchak said. "It's nerve-wracking. For everybody up there, you don't want to be there."
The Sixers were represented on stage by Brown, who received a two-year contract extension this past season. And unlike Colangelo (and unlike Sam Hinkie in a way, as Brown had to coach the team every night), he has been here through a ton of losing. In three years, Brown has a combined record of 47-199.
"Our process was questioned at times, fair enough," Brown told reporters. "But I feel like with what we were building around us, on the court and off the court, that we were doing the right thing to give ourselves a chance for genuine longevity."
2016 marked the third consecutive year that the Sixers played the lottery hard, but the first that they finished with the worst overall record (and therefore had the top odds heading into the night’s proceedings). The last two seasons, the Sixers finished third in the lottery, which allowed them to select centers Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the draft (one year after taking another center, Nerlens Noel, sixth overall). Embiid has yet to play a game through two seasons, and Okafor’s rookie year was marred by a series of off-court incidents in Philadelphia and Boston.
Things could be looking up, though. A couple of those centers were excited at how the night unfolded, especially Embiid:
LETS GO! #1— Jahlil Okafor (@JahlilOkafor) May 18, 2016
The #3 Pick from the 2014 draft is gonna be ready too... Let's get it— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 18, 2016
Celebrating with a Pitcher of Shirley Temples #ShirleyTemplesdidthis— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 18, 2016
LETS ****** GO.... #1 PICK— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 18, 2016
The last five first overall picks were Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns. As you can see, it's possible to draft a stud or outright bust in the top spot. Since 1985, the top pick in the draft has performed the best over the first five seasons according to win shares (per FiveThirtyEight).
Hinkie, the former general manager and president of basketball operations who was the architect of the last three seasons (aka “The Process”), resigned in April after ownership expressed their desire to restructure the front office around him. The Sixers settled on Colangelo, advisor Jerry Colangelo’s son, to replace Hinkie as the team’s lead basketball decision maker.
Exactly a decade ago, only months after accepting the job as the Toronto Raptors’ president and GM, Bryan Colangelo represented the team at the lottery when they landed the first overall pick. In that draft, Colangelo selected Italian forward Andrea Bargnani. The move is largely seen as a mistake, because although Bargnani hung around in the league for a decade, he hasn’t come close to the success enjoyed by LaMarcus Aldridge, that year’s second overall pick.
Colangelo’s lottery luck continues to be excellent. Now we’ll get to see if this pick turns out better for the Sixers than the one he made for the Raptors.
"A lot of work to do over the next 40 days or so," Colangelo said. "There's a lot to do and we have our sleeves rolled up."
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann