The Sixers brought in a half-dozen prospects for pre-draft workouts on Tuesday, among them top-15 projections in Lonnie Walker and Miles Bridges.
But the big story, I think, is still Brett Brown in his new interim general manager role, an unfamiliar platform for him to stand on just ten days out from the draft.
Brown spoke to the media for 15 minutes after the workout and reiterated that he’s got a good group of people around him, a collection of basketball minds that will provide decision making “firepower” this summer. To that end, he says he’s comfortable handling trade offers and other negotiations and won’t be conservative going into the draft.
“Nah, I think anything’s on the table,” Brown said. “I think anything is on the table. I feel like we will be bold, we will be smart. Nobody is going into this with any other attitude than we will do our homework and we’ll be aggressive. I feel like the firepower, again, so that I’m clear, the firepower I have around me, and I’m in the role that you guys know – we have Marc Eversley leading the scouts, we have ownership that studies this, I think Alex Rucker and Ned Cohen are great. It’s stuff you spitball and go through, but nobody is going into this conservative. There will be an attitude and a boldness that if we feel we have to do something and it’s smart, then that’s what we’ll do.”
That’s good to hear, but any concerns from you, the fan? Do you feel comfortable with a head coach and a group of player-personnel executives handling the salary cap, agent talks, and trade negotiations? What happens if someone makes an offer for pick #10? It’s all worth thinking about.
The Sixers have six selections to work with, so I asked Brown what he was looking for specifically in this draft, and he gave a sort of non-answer while alluding to wing depth.
“I think that we all know what that means. It goes deeper than me sitting here and saying, ‘we need 3 and D players.’ We all get that. You all see reality when you watch the playoffs, what the defense is doing to the three point line, what the defense is doing to pick and rolls, what the offense needs to punish that. We felt it in some real ways vs. the Celtics. I think at my press conference when the season ended I said it – and I’ll say it again – where you ended, what you remember when the season ended, the things that hurt, the things we struggled with, that’s where we’ll begin. I can get into coach speak as long as you want, but that’s kind of the big picture. Where we ended the season, we will begin. When you look at the NBA playoffs, it just further exposes that. It further confirms it to me of what do we need to start a year? What do we need to grow a team? So this thing, ‘what do you need in a player?’, somewhere in all of that you’re going to get more detail of what we’re looking for. It’s easy to start to start with ‘3 and D’ but it goes way deeper than that for me.”
I’ll bite; the Sixers need bench scoring, that’s for certain. They need someone who can create off the dribble and combat the tough perimeter defense the Celtics played. A lot of the issues can be solved by growing the players currently on the roster, i.e. Markelle Fultz figuring it out and Ben Simmons adding a jump shot. But for June 21st, they need to come out of this draft with some sort of two-way wing who can do the requisite defensive work Brown requires while adding some kind of scoring on the offensive end, even if it’s just finding a Robert Covington type who shoots more consistently. They could also use another center to compete with Richaun Holmes and Jonah Bolden for the role of Joel Embiid’s backup. Trae Young or Michael Porter sliding? Sign me up.
Brown did speak to the challenge of trying to tweak a squad that now needs to be massaged and cultivated, vs. the concept in prior years of just mining for superstar talent and building the foundation. No longer are they using top-five picks to look for generational keystones; they’re trying to use a lower-half lottery pick to add meaningful talent to an already talent squad.
“I think our world is shrinking a bit,” Brown explained. “I think we know what we need a little bit more. We’ve got more clarity on what we have. From that perspective, being in the city, and with this program, we’re just a lot more further along with ‘what do we need?’ I see the world very clearly, from that perspective and having been here as long as I have.”
Brown also said that no decision has been made on whether Fultz will play in summer league. Personally, I would focus on the 1v1 work he’s currently doing with Drew Hanlen and prioritize that.