We won't know the true ceiling of the Sixers' offseason plans until about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night when the NBA draft lottery plays out, but in any case, Brett Brown sees the 2017-18 season as the key year in their journey from the bottom to the top.
Barring another disastrous injury, they'll finally be in position to show the rest of the league — most notably impending free agents — how quickly they can rise from lottery team to contender.
They'll hopefully have Ben Simmons running the show, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric building upon dynamic rookie seasons, continued improvement from role players and the possible addition of two top-five draft picks.
"I think that we're going to have to earn our stripes this year on the court to [lure future free agents], and I believe we're going to do it," Brown told Anthony Gargano Friday morning on 97.5 The Fanatic.
"People think they know, they think the league saw enough of Joel. ... There are so many uncertainties that big free agents — and let's talk about the varsity game, the big free agents — at the moment for somebody to look at and feel 100 percent certain. I think everybody looks at it and sees what we all feel: We are so well-positioned to jump into this in a big way."
In the interview, Brown focused heavily on Simmons and his ability to get the Sixers ahead of the curve. In Simmons, Brown sees a player ideally equipped to run a modern NBA offense with pace and space and one who could entice big names to come here.
"Our strength is going to be with Ben. At 6-foot-10, his ability to get up and down the floor is A-plus," Brown said. "We want to play fast, we want to find ways to embrace the three-point line. We've got Joel Embiid, who's got to get his touches.
"But the speed of the game is not getting slower. And athletes aren't getting less athletic. The evolution of our game is quite clear. And so that's how we want to play — we want to get ahead of the story and run our team like that.
"I think Ben is the leading candidate to help facilitate all of that."
It's unclear whether Simmons will play in the summer league but the expectation is he won't. Still, Brown is very encouraged by the work he's seen Simmons and others put in already this spring at the Sixers' practice facility in Camden. It sounded to some like a ridiculous proposition a few years ago that a new practice facility could have a real bearing on the Sixers' progression, but Brown is watching it happen.
"People could walk into our gym even now and see the attendance of our players," Brown said. "I've lived it, I've seen it first-hand with the Spurs in 2011 when we opened our new facility, that Field of Dreams stuff, 'If you build it they will come,' and come they have.
"People are loving coming to our new facility to put in work. I think we'll see the rewards of our new practice facility be shown through more individual improvement.
"Summer league or not (for Simmons), I think people should feel very confident that the body of work that is being put in over the offseason is going to be very strong."
And on Tuesday at the lottery, we'll finally know just how strong this summer could be for the Sixers.
"It's been well-documented, our desire to look at [Simmons] at point guard. I'm feeling very strong that's where he can impact the game the most is give him the ball," Brown said. "And the ripple effects behind that, there are some challenges with guarding the other point guard, what's going to happen there.
"Somebody obviously playing off of Ben, we understand the skill package that guy should have, especially as it relates to making shots.
"We've gone through this now four years in a row. And again, it's ping-pong ball night. Joel's going to New York and it'll play out as it plays out. But in some ways, fate is determined a little bit. I still like what's happened no matter what's going on.
"But we're gonna learn a lot more about where we fit at 8:30 or whatever [time] it is on Tuesday night. If we can get to the commercial, we're in the top three."