CAMDEN, NJ – At last, it’s time to get some clarity. Well, almost time.
At this point, a few anxious hours (likely) still remain between now, when you’re reading this article, and the NBA’s annual draft lottery, set for Tuesday at 8:00 pm est inside the New York Hilton Midtown hotel.
Once again, the month of May has brought with it favorable probabilities in respect to the 76ers’ chances to improve their talent base. The big question, however, is just how much the young, up-and-coming organization will be able to do so.
Posting a 28-54 record last season, the Sixers were destined to head into Tuesday’s festivities with relatively decent odds, one way or the other. Throw in the possibility that two enticing trade conditions could finally come to fruition, and the anticipation and payoff surrounding the Sixers’ lottery outcomes very well might be at their highest levels to-date since the team began rebuilding in earnest four years ago.
Just for the sake of review, let’s review the lay of the land. When accounting for the guaranteed pick swap they obtained from the Sacramento Kings during the 2015 off-season, the Sixers are facing the odds listed below for each of the first three picks in the 2017 draft:
• 1st: 14.7%
• 2nd: 15.1%
• 3rd: 15.4%
But, as we all know, there’s much more to it than that, due to another trade from 2015, this one having gone down at the NBA’s February deadline. Should the Los Angeles Lakers land outside of the draft’s top three spots, its pick will automatically go to the Sixers, therefore giving the Sixers shots at the following:
• Two picks in top 4: 8.7%
• Two picks in top 5: 39.6%
• Two picks in top 6: 52.3%
• Two picks in top 7: 53.1%
The Sixers are bidding to become the fifth team in the last half century to hold number one pick back-to-back-years. Never before has the squad snagged a top-three choice four years in a row.
At the very least, the Sixers will wind up the seventh overall pick Tuesday – nothing lower – in a draft that Bryan Colangelo believes has multiple top-10 prospects who “could become potential All-Stars.”
“This season, the lottery day itself is a benchmark of sorts for where we go from here,” Colangelo said last Thursday in Chicago, during the NBA’s draft combine. “We’ve got a scenario this year where it appears we can either end up with worst case just the seventh pick, or we could end up with the best case where we’re one and four. That’s a large swing in terms of what we would be bringing into our group.”
As Colangelo pointed out, the lottery indeed has the power to broadly shape the Sixers’ personnel path in the immediate future. He understandably called Tuesday “a really important day for the franchise.”
“We could go a couple different directions here,” said Colangelo. “We’ve talked about how the draft might affect our free agency planning, we’ve talked about how having one pick and getting the right player might dictate a move in a particular direction in free agency. So there’s a lot of variables that need to be worked out between now and June 22nd [the date of the draft], and then there’s even more variables that need to be worked out between now and June 30th, when free agency officially opens at 12:01 am.”
The high stakes of Tuesday’s affair haven’t been lost on the Sixers’ head coach, entering his fifth year with the team.
“There’s an element of anxiety,” Brett Brown told NBA TV Thursday at the combine.
In previous off-seasons with the Sixers, Brown has been blunt when talking about the emotions he feels on lottery night, readily admitting there’s no shortage of nerves.
During his brief interview on NBA TV, though, Brown appeared to shift his tone ever so slightly. There seemed to be a greater sense of peace about him.
“This is now our fourth year experiencing this, and you learn that you let it play out,” said Brown. “The whole ping-pong ball and order of draft night is something I think over time you learn to just let it take its natural course.”
Once their spot (s) in this year’s draft order is (are) finalized, the Sixers can then proceed to build upon draft preparations that much more. Based on where prospects are projected to fall, Colangelo and his staff will be better equipped to plot out pre-draft workout schedules at the team’s training complex in Camden, decide which players might warrant special visits, and whose medical information to request.
“We’ve been pretty energized all year,” said Colangelo. “We’ve had multiple scouting retreats where we bring everybody in, spent time talking about the players that we have targeted as prospects. You like to narrow down the focus to players that might fit what we’re looking to do, what we’re looking to add.”
Sometime Tuesday evening, around midway through the 8 o’clock hour, the Sixers will get the clearer view they seek, and another key draft lottery will be in the rearview.