On Thursday night, a select group of people will be huddled in a room at the 76ers’ complex in Camden, making decisions that could affect the future of the franchise.
At the head of that group is Brett Brown, the long-tenured head coach and newly appointed interim general manager, wielding more power than he ever has. Signing off on the decisions Brown makes are owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
But it won’t just be the three of them in the draft-night war room. A diverse team of basketball minds will be scrutinizing every pick, every deal, every player that the Sixers target. Not only will the decisions have implications for the team’s roster, but possibly for the longevity of the front-office positions held by many in that room.
“This is different than our first few years,” Brown said last week when discussing the draft process.
>>READ MORE: What will the Sixers do on draft night?
It’s different not only because of the position of the franchise as a contending team but also because of the trust being handed to him and the team of executives that will be behind closed doors on Thursday.
There’s Marc Eversley, the vice president of player personnel; Ned Cohen, vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff, and Alex Rucker, the vice president of analytics and strategy. All three were brought in by Bryan Colangelo in a semi-remake of the front office. There is Vince Rozman, the senior director of basketball operations, a holdover from the Sam Hinkie regime, and capping things off is Elton Brand, general manager for the Delaware Blue Coats.
For the past few weeks, it has been the job of those five individuals to get Brown up to speed on the scouting material, checklists, and player reviews that have long been in the works. That catching up and scouring of material will continue from now through Thursday.
Brand, Eversley, and Rozman have attended combines, pro days, and various workouts around the country in preparation for the draft. Along with Cohen, Rucker, and the Sixers’ coaching staff, they’ve been watching film with Brown, going over any and all possibilities.
Since the Sixers have plans to land at least one big name during free agency, six draft picks (10, 26, 38, 39, 56, 60) is too many and they expect for the deals to come rushing in.
“Right now we’re evaluating the entire landscape, there’s going to be a lot of deal flow coming in,” Brand said Monday. “So we have to be prepared to strike and make sure we have the advantage there whatever happens — if we take the picks or possibly sell a pick or whatever we do with it.”
The Sixers have already decided who their main targets are in the draft, who it is they want to join the roster for the 2018-19 season, but those decisions did not come lightly and they weren’t initially unanimous. Brown said last week that there was a heavy amount of scrutiny and homework that was going on and that everything was on the table. Brand echoed those sentiments.
“There were voices saying, ‘Hey, we need to go with potential,’ and ‘Hey, we need to get fit right now,’ or ‘Hey, this player can grow’ and the intel about attitude,” Brand said of the discussions among the front office. “We’ve taken it all together and built the best process for us.”
On Friday, Rozman said that these last few days leading up to the draft were more about tying up loose ends and being able to sit down and talk with some of the prospects. Both Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech) will have a second workout with the Sixers on Tuesday, indicating that there is more to see and talk through with a couple of standouts.
Once the workouts are over and the war-room door is closed, the Sixers will look to their main targets, make phone calls, or wait for the phone to ring.
As the draft progresses, there will be scouting material that has informed Rucker and the analytics team, intel from the workouts that Cohen, Rozman, and Eversley will take into account, development strategies that Brand has implemented, and the overall feel and expectations of head coach.
But there is a reason that each draft workout ends with a private discussion between player and coach. Brown wants to make a connection and feel as if he knows who he is getting when the Sixers decide on a draft pick. And the war-room discussion will probably end much the same, with a one-on-one discussion between Brown and another team, or Brown on the phone telling a player that he is a Philadelphia 76er.
How it all pans out after the draft and free agency are said and done will decide the futures of not only the players but the front-office players who made the decisions.