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May 18, 2016

Now, all the Sixers have to do is pick the right player

Trust the process. The Sixers’ unofficial slogan took on a life of its own through all of the losing over the past few years, even if it was mocked from every angle as players, coaches, and fans went through a whole lot of very real pain. 

“Where are the results?” critics would ask.

Well, the Sixers aren’t there yet, not even close. Just because they landed the top pick in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery doesn’t mean that the franchise’s fortunes have reversed. Bryan Colangelo has to get the pick right, and even then, there might be a ceiling on whoever he picks. As prospects, Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are generally considered to be a level below former No. 1 overall picks Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis.

Then again, Joel Embiid was on that level before getting injured and he hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, Embiid is dunking in practice and tweeting about Shirley Temples at this very moment. Maybe Simmons and Embiid revolutionize the NBA as a 4-5 pick-and-roll combination surrounded by long shooters at the 1-3 positions. Maybe Ingram becomes a dominant wing scorer than can play inside-out with Embiid. Maybe only one of the players pans out, and the other completely washes out of the league for whatever reason. Maybe nobody becomes a legitimate star, whatever that means. 

Bad stuff can happen. This is The Process in a nutshell: If you’re willing to embrace uncertainty and take as many calculated risks as humanly possible, good stuff can happen, too. 

Take last night. The Sixers had a 26.9 percent chance of landing the top overall pick, which isn't great odds. Last night, lady luck smiled on Brett Brown and Co. Just remember that this wasn’t the first big swing the Sixers took at the lottery, which they’ve now played hard for three consecutive seasons. Last year, the Sixers had a 15.6 percent chance at the top pick. In 2014, it was 19.9 percent. This was not their first rodeo.

If the Sixers were a baseball player, their plate approach (lottery) is the same as Matt Stairs’: I have to swing as hard as I can and come out of my shoes. We’ll see if Hinkie/Bryan Colangelo can find the equivalent of that majestic homer at Chavez Ravine.

Colangelo has now been placed in both a terrific and tough position: He has to figure out what to do with the top pick. This is his show now. 

Just remember that the Sixers are only on the clock because of an organizational philosophy Hinkie brought to Philadelphia three years ago and steadfastly stuck to until the moment he resigned last month, no matter the circumstances. 

And here are a few more thoughts on the lottery:

The Simmons-Ingram debates will be fun

Forget about the Sixers’ future for a second. Step back and realize the next month is going to be fun. We’re going to argue about basketball players that could be playing for the Sixers at this time of year in a few seasons. Talk radio can lay off the unending Sam Bradford discussion for a little while and focus on hoops. 

If you’re a basketball fan in Philly, June 2016 should be a great time.

If the pick is Simmons, that’s way too many bigs

Let’s hold off on this topic for another time, though. 

Simmons to L.A.? 

Over at The Vertical, Nick DePaula had an interesting article a few days ago about Simmons’ shoe contract negotiations. Basically, Simmons and his agent (Rich Paul, LeBron’s friend) want to sign with Nike. Problem is, Nike is offering less money than Adidas:

As it stands, Simmons has five-year endorsement offers from adidas and Nike. Adidas is offering a $10 million deal that also includes a $2 million signing bonus and a $1 million incentive bonus for being named Rookie of the Year. There are also several other on-court performance triggers that would provide Simmons with elevated marketing, extra resources and possibly his own signature shoe should he play at an All-Star level.

Nike is offering $7.5 million over five years with fewer performance incentives than the adidas contract structure. Nike, which presented second to Simmons last week, has shown an unwillingness to budge, sources said. Both offers are considered fair for a top pick.

The thought was that the Los Angeles market and Lakers #brand could possibly force Nike to up its offer. Would Paul try to steer Simmons away from the Sixers over a shoe contract or any other reason? It would be ironic if the Colangelos, who have been lauded for their relationships around the league, ran into the same problems that Hinkie was routinely criticized for.

Future drafts also set up well

Mitch Kupchak was grilled on the lottery show, but the Lakers ended up making out very well. Not only did they get to keep their pick, but it should also be whichever of the Simmons/Ingram duo the Sixers decide to pass on. What the Lakers do with the pick and in free agency remains a mystery. There is a chance that they’re much improved next year under rookie head coach Luke Walton, free of Byron Scott.

But with a potentially loaded draft class next year, I’d rather take that risk than talk myself into someone who dropped to the fourth pick.

In other news, the Kings stayed in the Top-10, which affects their trade with Chicago. 2017 is now a make-or-break year for the Bulls-Kings pic debt (which originated with a bad J.J. Hickson trade way back when), which now means that the Sixers will get the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-round pick completely unprotected, according to Real GM.


2019 is still pretty far in the future, but if the Sixers are on the path toward contention and Kings are still in the lottery at that point, that could be a huge deal. The Sixers received that pick just for taking on Nik Stauskas and the manageable contracts of Carl Landry and Jason Thompson.

Sam Hinkie isn’t running the Sixers anymore, but for better or worse, the moves he made are still going to have an impact for years to come.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann