Bryan Colangelo facing his first tough draft decision with Sixers

This NBA draft may go a long way toward defining Bryan Colangelo's tenure as the 76ers' president of basketball operations.

Nights like the one that will come June 22 are a reason Sixers ownership felt the need to break from asset-building president/general manager Sam Hinkie. Stockpiled with future draft picks, the 76ers decided to replace Hinkie with a proven basketball mind to make tough decisions.

That's not to say that Hinkie didn't make any tough ones. He traded away then-all-star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel on the night of the 2013 draft.

The Sixers had top-three selections in each of the next three drafts. In each one, they didn't have to make tough decisions.

The 2014 draft was regarded as a three-player affair with Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker. Even with a broken right foot, Embiid was thought to be far superior to any draft prospect not named Wiggins and Parker. So with those two off the board, the Sixers did the obvious and drafted Embiid.

The following summer, Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, and Jahlil Okafor were regarded as the top three prospects. The Sixers went the safe route by selecting Okafor third over Kristaps Porzingis after Towns and Russell went first and second.

The 2016 draft was Colangelo's first with the team. The Sixers were awarded the first overall pick. He had to decide between the super-hyped Ben Simmons or the good but undersize and raw Brandon Ingram. Colangelo did what most would have done by selecting Simmons.

Now, he's faced with a decision that is arguably tougher than parting ways with Holiday, who had an injury history the Sixers concealed from the Pelicans.

The Sixers, once again, have the third overall pick. The Boston Celtics are expected to take Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to draft UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball.

As a result, it can be argued that the draft will actually start with the Sixers. And unlike in the previous three seasons, it's not an obvious pick.

Duke small forward Jayson Tatum is the latest prospect some folks believe the Sixers are leaning toward drafting.

Before him, Kansas small forward Josh Jackson, Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox, and Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk were all linked to the Sixers.

In the next 11 days, we'll probably hear more names in addition to possible trade scenarios. Colangelo has done a good job of keeping his preference in house.

"I almost feel like at No. 3 with the group of players that we're talking about with various levels of talent, it's hard to go wrong," he said this past week.

The main variable could be how long it takes the pick to make an impact, he said.

Colangelo has a tough decision to make.

The Sixers have gone on record about adding shooters to play alongside Simmons and Embiid. Yet they would also benefit from adding a point guard just in case they decide to scratch the Simmons experiment. Right now, T.J. McConnell is the lone true point guard on the roster. The Sixers could also go the best-available rout and take Jackson or Tatum.

One league scout has an idea whom the Sixers should take.

"What do the Sixers need?" asked the scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

My quick response was shooters.

"Well then, they should take Tatum," he said. "He's a good shooter and would be the best player available if they're serious about Ben Simmons playing point guard."

The scout added that he doesn't think the Simmons point guard experiment is going to work. But he still thinks Tatum would complement Simmons and Embiid as a small forward.

The scout doesn't think Tatum has to be a superstar to play for the Sixers. Embiid and Simmons will fill those roles. But Tatum may still be good enough to score 14 points as a third option.

While he's a solid midrange shooter, Tatum shot just 34.2 percent on three-pointers. So he'll need to improve in that area in addition to his burst and footwork. However, he is smooth and versatile.

But you can find reasons the Sixers should and shouldn't select all of the top draft prospects outside of Fultz.

That's why the team brought in Colangelo.

As a two-time NBA executive of the year, he's known for making great moves. His critics often point to his drafting Andrea Bargnani with the first overall pick in 2006 with the Toronto Raptors. The Italian never lived up to being a first pick. Yet several of his other draft picks and trades led to the Raptors' becoming one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams.

Now, he's faced with making the right decisions for the Sixers.

"If it's the vision of where we want to take this basketball team, again, talent versus fit is something that we clearly always look at," Colangelo said. "But we're a young team, the stage where we are. You can't necessarily choose one or the other.

"Right now, what we're looking at is a situation that again the group of players that are available to us at No. 3 is probably going to be able to address both with the same decision."

He added that the Sixers are looking for versatile players. Colangelo wants athletic guys who are capable of playing multiple positions.

So how many versatile players are projected to go at the top of draft?

"Quite a few, actually," Colangelo said. "Quite a few."

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.philly.com/sixersblog

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