76ers seek cornerstone player with No. 3 pick in NBA draft
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers have scanned the scouting reports, conducted their interviews and watched all the film.
They have found the one bond that links all the top players available for Thursday’s draft: D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns and others all appear healthy.
No doubt, team president Sam Hinkie has checked for the smallest of hairline fractures, a tweak or a tear to an ACL, even a hangnail – any nick or knock – that would make that player more appetizing to the franchise. Under Hinkie’s watch, the 76ers have made a habit on draft night of acquiring players who make news their first season more for their X-rays than exciting plays as part of a long-term plan to lose games and stockpile young talent.
The Hinkie loyalists call the plan ”The Process.”
The rest of the nonbelievers enjoy the phrase, ”Tankadelphia.”
Either way, the next step comes in the draft, where the Sixers hold the No. 3 overall pick and five more in the second round.
The 76ers have a better chance of making the playoffs next season than Hinkie actually holding on to all six picks in their proper slots. He’s forged a reputation as a draft night wizard and no one knows what he’ll pull off from behind the curtain.
The Sixers need backcourt help and Russell, out of Ohio State, seems to fit the bill.
But what value does Hinkie place on the point guard? In his first bombshell move as president, he traded All-Star Jrue Holiday the night of the 2013 draft for the rights to Nerlens Noel. He did select point guard Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick of that draft, watched him win rookie of the year honors, then gave up on him after just 18 months in a trade deadline deal last season.
Noel sat out the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered at Kentucky. Hinkie knew Noel’s arrival would have to wait and gambled it would pay off – and it did. Noel averaged 9.9 points, 8.8 rebounds in 75 games and proved he could handle the load as one of the potential cornerstones of the franchise.
The 76ers picked third last season and went with Kansas big man Joel Embiid. Embiid already had back issues and broke his right foot before the draft. Again, Hinkie knew his top pick wouldn’t play a minute and again Hinkie picked his guy anyway.
Embiid not only didn’t play, the Sixers said earlier this month the foot ”revealed less healing than anticipated.”
His Philly future has gone from building block to a cloud of doubt that could impact this year’s selection. Could another big, like international prospect Kristaps Porzingis, be in the cards?
Impossible to predict. Hinkie isn’t afraid to wheel and deal, and few around the league believe the Sixers stand pat.
The Sixers whipped their fanbase into a frenzy last season when they held the No. 3 and No. 10 pick in the draft, giving fans hope that maybe the future wasn’t so far away. But Hinkie traded the 10th pick for Croatian forward Dario Saric, who went 12th to Orlando, and he could play in Turkey for up to two more seasons. Saric plays for the Turkish team Anadolu Efes.
Minnesota has the No. 1 overall pick and the Los Angeles Lakers pick second. The 76ers also are scheduled to have the 35th, 37th, 47th, 58th and 60th overall picks of the draft.
The Sixers ended the season on a 10-game losing streak and went 18-64, one win less than 2013-14, when they matched an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak.
”To coach a revolving door, that’s not what I’m looking for,” coach Brett Brown said at the end of the season.
Hinkie has refused to even hint at what the Sixers might do – the front office has gone silent since the draft lottery in May. Hinkie went into hiding, the Sixers refused to release names of prospects invited to workouts and they will close their practice facility to the media again Thursday night.
”We’re clearly building through the draft,” Hinkie said at the lottery. ”We’re clearly trying to find star players we can move forward with.”