July 29, 2021
The NBA draft is just hours away from starting, and reporters around the league are already beginning to tip picks and get the ball rolling for teams further down in the draft order. With that in mind, and with the knowledge that everything could change at the drop of a hat if one executive changes their mind after lunch, let's revisit what we know heading into tonight after discussions with some folks around the league.
• The Sixers continue to explore opportunities to move pick No. 28 in various trade scenarios, whether to obtain a veteran player who can help now or as part of a deal to build up the war chest. The latter option could help swing the sort of star deal they're after at the moment, and Philadelphia continues to have a dialogue with teams leading into the draft. Discussions are expected to heat up again later this afternoon.
The most likely outcome remains a trade out of that spot in one form or another, though the Sixers will approach the evening with the same mentality they did last year, when Tyrese Maxey ultimately fell into their laps at No. 21. With many in the organization expecting Maxey to be a potential lottery pick, Philadelphia ultimately decided the value was too good to trade out of that spot in 2020. Given the deep class and the uncertainty surrounding it — league sources believe many teams around the league are over scrutinizing draft workouts as a result of COVID's impact on the college season — the Sixers are prepared to wait to see how the board shakes out unless someone makes a healthy offer ahead of the draft.
What are the Sixers looking for on draft night, should they sit tight and make their pick? They haven't done much tipping of their plans, at least compared to previous regimes, where draft promises became semi-public knowledge. But the bits and pieces that make their way out are all about supporting Joel Embiid*, whether that's putting more shooting around him or potentially adding more depth in the frontcourt, either to flank Embiid or provide young depth for when Embiid goes off of the floor. Philadelphia has at least a couple of guys in mind who would interest them at No. 28, with a source only willing to note said players would bring "unique" skills to the table.
(*Something noteworthy here — Simmons is still factored into Philadelphia's calculus, but there has been a small, yet still notable shift in how people with the team discuss potential roster moves, framing fit around the big guy first as opposed to a core duo. There's plenty of overlap in the skillsets of guys who can help both players, but it's still a departure from the organizational norm in past offseasons.)
• Keep a close eye on the international pool if Philadelphia's picks in the 50s are not moved as part of a package deal. With developmental reps still at a premium, taking a flier on a guy who wouldn't come over right away would allow them to preserve some immediate roster flexibility and, at the very least, rights to a player they might be able to throw in to a multi-team deal at a later date. The Sixers are confident in their international scouting department and would be comfortable going that way if bigger moves don't come to fruition.
• There is still a lot of chatter bouncing around regarding Ben Simmons, as you might expect. Multiple things can be true — the Sixers are asking for a lot in return for Simmons when they talk with teams about him, and other teams are doing their own purposeful leaking to try to drive the market down. There have been suggestions that Daryl Morey is effectively killing the market with the high sticker price he has put out there, but the existence of rumors outside of Philadelphia negates that idea.
In Portland, where the Blazers search for a way to improve the team to Damian Lillard's liking, there have been a few stray rumors about increased traction on a CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons swap. That suggestion is shot down just as quickly in Philadelphia as the godfather proposals have been by other teams reportedly in Simmons talks. Though the phones are more active this week as a general rule, there is absolutely no indication Philly thinks they need to get a deal done tonight. The most consistent message coming out of the Sixers in recent weeks, a message that has been doubled down on over the last 48 hours, is that they're not in a rush.
If a deal for a star player (and perhaps more) materialized for them on draft night, they'd give it consideration. But with the potential for bigger deals and bigger stars becoming available on the horizon, Daryl Morey is not expected to jump feet-first into a deal for the sake of making one. The Sixers are okay with letting this linger if that's what it takes to meaningfully improve the team.
For the heck of it, a couple of non-Sixers notes...
• The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the teams on everyone's radar today, with multiple sources indicating the Wolves are in search of a big move to push them back toward playoff contention. There's likely not a fit on Philadelphia's end, as the Wolves are said to be dangling draft picks as their primary form of currency, and their most valuable players are not really available (even D'Angelo Russell, who is liked by the brass and tight with Karl-Anthony Towns). Keep an eye on them anyway.
• Collin Sexton has been the big name in most talks centered around the Cavaliers this summer, but priority No. 1 at the moment seems to be figuring out how to find a new home for Kevin Love, a move which seems more urgent as they gear up for a likely selection of Evan Mobley at pick No. 3.
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