I’ll try to make a concerted effort to write often about the 76ers in the coming weeks. This off-season, for a team with six draft picks and cap flexibility, has a monumental sense of importance. It could be helpful to have a general manager in charge, but there really wasn’t much of an option. Moving forward with everybody but Bryan Colangelo, with head coach Brett Brown leading the way, made the most sense until free agency is completed. Although different from draft nights in the recent years, Thursday night has a considerable amount of hype building up for the 76ers. Having the 10th pick, along with an additional first rounder and four second-round draft picks, creates a rather busy Thursday night. There’s a slim chance all six picks become players for the 76ers Thursday night, instead trading a couple seconds for future seconds, or attaching the second first-round pick with Jerryd Bayless could be possibilities. There’s this rumor that Philadelphia wants a top-five pick, but for sanity sake, let’s assume the 76ers do not trade the 10th overall pick Thursday night.
Mikal Bridges has been the name floated for a long time now. Aside from the obvious local ties, which shouldn’t play a factor at all, although it does help to know what type of person Bridges projects to be. It’s all about the basketball fit, and Bridges, one could argue, would be most ideal. He’s a capable shooter with the size to at least potentially defend NBA wings. It’s a pretty clean fit. If Bridges is indeed the pick, nobody could really fault the 76ers. The upside, per say, might not be there since he’s already 21. Most teams picking in the lottery typically lean to best available. It makes sense. Lottery teams need all the talent in the world to be competitive. The 76ers were one of eight teams to win a playoff series two months ago, so this isn’t necessarily about snagging the guy with the biggest upside.
In addition to Mikal Bridges, the names Miles Bridges, Kevin Knox, Wendell Carter and Lonnie Walker have been mentioned. Barring a trade, or an unexpected drop from a projected higher pick, it appears one of these five players will be a 76er Thursday night. Just a few days ago, I was enamored with the idea of Knox in Philadelphia, and maybe I still am. The issue, besides the fact he might be picked before Philadelphia, resides in his position. Dario Saric already eats up a ton of four-man minutes, assuming Markelle Fultz can be relied upon, Ben Simmons will play some four moving forward. Is there room for Knox? He’s not this quick-footed player. He’s definitely a capable three at times, but he possibly projects best as a four, sometimes even a five, with his height and frame. Drafting Knox, who the 76ers have worked out twice, including one time privately, means Philadelphia has a strong interest in drafting him. (Or, it’s a ploy to trick the Knicks into drafting him, so Mikal falls to 10?!) Knox isn’t a guy who’d expect to make any real impact immediately. Granted, most rookies, especially ones drafted towards the backend of the lottery, save Donovan Mitchell, make little to no impact their first season in terms of winning games. It’s just, once April 2019 happens, the 76ers need as many bodies capable of slowing down the Boston Celtics trio of wings. Which is why it’s hard to ignore Mikal Bridges at 10. It makes too much sense.
LeBron James will be a Laker. Paul George will either be a Laker or in Oklahoma City. This summer’s free agency, however, remains ultra important for the 76ers, despite their seemingly inability to land a big fish. The past six weeks or so, since the Celtics beat the 76ers in five games, should resonate strongly with the 76ers front office about how to construct this team moving forward. Brown failed to make the adjustment of starting a secondary ball handler, TJ McConnell, until it was too late. Simmons needed somebody, preferably Fultz, and that’s a different story, to make things easier for him as the Celtics built a wall and did whatever it wanted defensively, welcoming Joel Embiid post-ups ad nauseam. The thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was Boston’s wings. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were just tremendous. Gordon Hayward makes Boston even scarier. Danny Ainge could try to trade for Kawhi Leonard this summer, which clearly the 76ers can do, but without a future commitment from Leonard there’s no sense of Philadelphia trading for him, plus why give up on just turned 20-year-old Fultz?
Having said this, Philadelphia needs to add two-to-three wings this summer. Definitely not Marco Bellineli. Bringing back JJ Redick is expected as should Ersan Ilyasova. I’ve been under the assumption it’s always been a wink-wink deal for additional years for Redick. (Although that was before the knowledge that Bryan Colangelo married The Screen Slaver’s cousin.) Trading the remaining year of Bayless’s contract becomes a necessity. Philadelphia will have enough cap space to make competitive, one-year offers to one of Wayne Ellington, Will Barton and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. It’s essential Philadelphia keeps flexibility for next summer in this scenario, because it’s the final year before Simmons can be extended, which means no more max cap space for a hopefully long time.
There remains so much intrigue on the 76ers roster. Furkan Korkmaz is young, turning 21 in July. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot flashed something his rookie year before an injury-plagued sophomore campaign. Justin Anderson also dealt with injuries at inept times this past season. Throw in Bridges, or a wing drafted 10th overall, and there’s a crowd fighting for minutes, along with Redick and a presumed added wing as well as starter Robert Covington. Competition is good. It’s healthy. Let’s see who earns these minutes next to Simmons, Saric and Embiid, and hopefully Fultz. I’ll remain bullish on Fultz until otherwise, because why the hell not? These hypothetical trades I see involving the 20-year-old irritate the hell out of me. Let’s see what he’s capable of this season. He played 17 total games, including the playoffs, his rookie season. Give him time.
This time of year, across the NBA, will be hectic. Philadelphia, of course, will be no different. This dream of James or George will remain until reported otherwise. The 52-win, three-seed achieving season was the most enjoyable year since Allen Iverson led a miserable team three wins from a damn championship. I’m ready for summer league. I’m ready for the rumors, and the alleged meetings. The unofficial beginning to the offseason might have begun in San Diego Tuesday night with Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich meeting. But the real thing really begins Thursday night.
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