What will the 76ers do in Thursday’s NBA draft?
They could select 10th and 26th in first round and figure out what to do with four of their second-round selections at 38, 39, 56 and 60. The Sixers could opt to decide to trade both first-rounders and a roster player to move up into the Top 5 to nab Slovenia’s Luka Doncic or Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. Another option would be to just trade their first-round picks to move up just a few spots to maybe seventh or eighth to increase their chance of selecting Mikal Bridges.
Or they could offer a package that includes the 10th pick, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington or Dario Saric to San Antonio in exchange for disgruntled Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard, a top 5 player when healthy.
Expect the Sixers to do something.
They don’t have enough room on their roster to take in six draft picks and add quality free agents. Right now, they have 11 players under contract for next season. That’s doesn’t include 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden, who spent last season playing overseas for Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israel Premier League. The stretch-forward is expected to join the Sixers this upcoming season. That would leave just three full-time roster spots in addition to the pair of two-way contracts NBA teams are allotted.
So expect coach/interim general manager Brett Brown and Marc Eversley, the vice president of player personnel, to be inundated and busy making phone calls with teams looking to make draft-day deals.
Assuming the Sixers opt to keep their first-round pick, Bridges would be their best option. The Villanova swingman is also believed to be their targeted selection under that scenario.
A good two-way player, the 6-foot-7, 200-pounder can defend and is a good shooter. So that will spread the floor for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to operate. The added bonus is that the former Great Valley High School standout doesn’t need the ball to be effective.
However, there’s a chance that Bridges could be drafted before the 10th pick. He could go as high as seventh to the Chicago Bulls. So to be safe, the Sixers could consider trading the 10th and 26th pick to move up two or three spots to increase their chances of getting the all-American.
But former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said Friday on SiriusXM NBA radio that the Sixers have bigger goals.
“Philly is very much looking to move up to get somebody they think will go in the top five,” Griffin said.
Doncic and Porter are two intriguing players for the Sixers that could go in the Top 5.
The Sacramento Kings, with the second pick, and Memphis Grizzlies with the fourth, are reportedly considering taking Porter if they’re satisfied with his medical records. Last week, Porter canceled a workout because he was having muscle spasms, but has since been cleared to work out for teams. Another option and a safe pick for the Kings is drafting Duke power forward/center Marvin Bagley III or trading down. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are also considering trading the No. 4 pick and often-injured Chandler Parsons in exchange for a package that includes a lower pick somewhere in the 10-14 range, according to reports. The oft-injured Parsons is scheduled to make $24.1 million in each of the next two seasons.
That would enable to Sixers to go up and get Doncic or Porter.
>> READ MORE: Seven players the Sixers could consider in the NBA draft
Doncic, from Slovenia, will help the team now more than Porter will. Doncic 19, is arguably the better prospect. The 6-8, 225-pounder really knows how to play the game and can play multiple positions — point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
Meanwhile, Porter, a 6-11 small forward, had a microdiscectomy of his L3-L4 spinal disks that limited his one season at Missouri to three games. So there’s a level of risk involved in drafting the 19-year-old.
But Porter is the better fit for the Sixers. Doncic needs the ball. So does Simmons. Doncic is an OK shooter, but not a great one. Meanwhile, Porter doesn’t need the ball and is a matchup problem at the three. Maybe down the road, he can play some four.
The Sixers could, instead, try to make a play for Leonard, who wants to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Leonard controls his situation even though the Spurs don’t want to trade him within the Western Conference. That’s because trading for him would be risky without first getting a guarantee that he’ll agree to a contract extension. Leonard has a player option for the 2019-20 season. But he can dictate where he wants to go, knowing that potential trading partners are not going to give up a lot if he’s not going to re-sign there.
Leonard does have a great relationship with Brown from their days together in San Antonio. Philly would probably have to add its No. 10 pick along with some sort of combination of Fultz, Covington and Saric in exchange for a package that would include the two-time all-star and two-time defensive player of the year.
But as pointed out earlier, that would be foolish if Leonard is only going to be a one-year rental with his heart set on playing for his hometown Lakers.
Regardless of where they pick, look for the Sixers to do something to create space to ensure they’ll be able to sign free agents.
Like they’ve done in the past, the Sixers are considering using their later picks on a player who would play overseas for at least a season before joining them.
That’s what Saric did after the Sixers acquired him in a trade during the 2014 draft. The power forward played the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons for Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball Super League. He joined the Sixers before the start of the 2016-17 season.
The Sixers did the same thing in the 2017 draft with their second first-round acquisition Anzejs Pasecniks (No. 25) and second-rounders Bolden (36) and Mathias Lessort (50).
Pasecniks played for Herbalife Gran Canaria in the Liga ACB this season. And Lessort played for Serbian club Crvena zvezda.
The Sixers could also trade at least one of those second-round picks for cash consideration like they did last summer, dealing their 39th and 46th picks.
However, the teams involved last summer waited until the conclusion of the NBA moratorium period at noon on July 6, 2017 to finalize those deals.
That was smart by the Sixers. They would have received only $100,000 total if the deals had been completed before July 1, 2017. After that, they were able to take up to a total of $5.1 million in trades for the budget season, which runs through this month.
The Sixers drafted Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans with the 39th pick and sold him to the Los Angeles Clippers. Then they selected SMU shooting guard Sterling Brown at 46, and sent him to the Milwaukee Bucks.
If the Sixers are going to sell off picks again, those deals can’t be finalized until at least July 1.
So this is going to be interesting leading up to the draft.