NEW YORK – The 76ers head into Thursday night’s NBA draft with a variety of options.
They can stick with the No. 10 pick and select Villanova swingman Mikal Bridges — if he’s still available — so they can have a reliable body off the bench who can make shots and defend.
Assuming Bridges is off the board, they could opt for a point guard such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander if they are not convinced that Markelle Fultz can bounce back from his disastrous rookie season.
They could also turn to Kevin Knox if Bridges is gone at No. 10, or trade up to take Michael Porter Jr., or trade down to go for Zhaire Smith.
Whatever they do, one thing is certain: Co-owner David B. Heller, coach/interim general manager Brett Brown and the rest of the front-office staffers involved in the draft process will face intense criticism or high praise depending on how it all shakes out a few years down the road.
“I will just say we are exploring a lot of options and movement in both directions,” said Sixers vice president of basketball operations Ned Cohen, whose squad has the 10th and 26th picks in the first round and Nos. 38, 56 and 60 in the second round. “So we are just trying to understand what options might exist.”
The Sixers traded the No. 39 pick to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night. That trade won’t become official until July 6. As a result, the Sixers will make the pick for the Lakers on Thursday.
One first-round option for the Sixers might be to trade up two to three spots to guarantee that they’ll be able to get Bridges, their targeted player. The 6-foot-7, 200-pounder could go anywhere from No. 7 to 10. However, the New York Post reported Wednesday evening that Bridges is the favorite to be picked by the New York Knicks at the ninth spot even if Porter is still available.
Bridges also was the main attraction for the New York press at Wednesday’s draft media availability at a Manhattan hotel.
Based on his responses, the 21-year-old would be happy to play for the Knicks or the Sixers.
“New York feels like a second home,” Bridges said. “Especially coming from Villanova. Coach [Jay] Wright loves New York, coming from Hofstra. A lot of Villanova guys work on Wall Street. I’ve probably been in New York more than any other state.”
In regard to the Sixers, Bridges said it would be “really cool” to be around the organization. He’ll tell you that his mother, Tyneesha Rivers, is a global vice president of human resources at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which includes the Sixers in its portfolio. He’ll mention that there are Villanova guys in the organization in CEO Scott O’Neil (Villanova grad), president of business operations Chris Heck (grad), assistant coach Billy Lange (former Wildcats assistant), Delaware Blue Coats coach Connor Johnson (former Villanova graduate assistant) and Sixers assistant equipment manager Dan Rosci (grad).
“Other than that, just The Process with them,” he said of his interest in playing for the Sixers. “How they got better. How their play fits how I play. Playing behind Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid], I feel like I can be a nice piece for them, especially more space for Ben or Joel.”
Bridges, who won two NCAA championships at Villanova, also likes that Brown is all about winning.
The Sixers could trade at least one of their three remaining second-round picks to the Knicks to see about swapping the No. 9 and 10 picks. As much as the Knicks rave over Bridges, they need a point guard.
If the Sixers really want to make a splash, they’ll move up in the top five to get Porter, a 6-11 small forward out of Missouri. However, the team would probably decide between former Kentucky teammates in 6-9 small forward Knox and 6-6 point guard Gilgeous-Alexander if it stays at No. 10 and Bridges is gone.
The fact that the Sixers are considering taking another point guard could be a sign that they’re concerned about Fultz regaining his shooting form.
Brown took a break from local draft preparations on Monday to visit Fultz, the 2017 first overall pick, in Los Angeles. Fultz is there trying to improve his shot under the supervision of Drew Hanlen. He played in only 17 games — regular season and postseason — this season.
The Maryland native played in the first four regular-season games before being sidelined for the next 68 with what the team called a right-shoulder injury. However, his shooting woes were actually mental, according to several sources.
Fultz later lost the backup point guard spot to T.J. McConnell in the postseason.
But the Sixers could move out of the 10th spot to trade down and take Smith, the former Texas Tech guard. He and Knox worked out twice for the Sixers.
The Sixers will get a 2019 second-rounder via the Chicago Bulls and cash in exchange for sending the No. 39 pick to the Lakers.
This was a good move for a squad that has to trade picks and/or stash some drafted players overseas from this draft.
That’s because the Sixers 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.