76ers

Jerry Colangelo talks NBA draft, Lonzo Ball, Sam Hinkie

Jerry Colangelo talks NBA draft, Lonzo Ball, Sam Hinkie

It's not tough to figure out why the Golden State Warriors are three wins away from their second title in the last three years.

“You never have too many shooters. You need shooters on the court if you want to play any kind of style in today’s world of the NBA," Jerry Colangelo said Friday in an interview with Chris Carlin and Ike Reese on 94 WIP.

Colangelo, a special assistant to the Sixers and father of current Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, spent about 20 minutes on the show and addressed numerous other topics:

How to build a contender
Colangelo mentioned what we all know about the league's current structure: It's built for players to stay put and not jump ship in free agency. They can get longer, more lucrative deals by doing so. Some players are willing to take less money to win, but, for the most part, contending teams are built through the draft. (See: the Cavs)

“You have to build through the draft. You have to look to develop players who have the potential to become all-stars in this league," he said. "You can only be attractive to a free agent when you are competitive and young and on the way up the ladder, and it’s appealing to a veteran player who’s willing to pass up a little bit of money to get somewhere to be a part of that. Philly’s kind of in that situation."

The combine and draft
The absence of most of the top prospects at the NBA Draft Combine was obvious. But Markelle Fultz and De'Aaron Fox were there and met with the Sixers.

"Both impressive young men," Colangelo said. "Two players who can be really good in the NBA if you have a little bit of patience."

The next point addressed was the standard draft-day dilemma: need vs. best player available. Colangelo kind of danced around this one. 

"Don't overlook the fact there's a couple of maybe three outstanding wing prospects too in this draft too along with the guards," he said. "It's deep, maybe one through nine as I would look at it. And I think we're weighing all the probabilities, the possibilities and how it all fits together.

"It's not as simple or black and white as 'we're taking a guard' or 'we're taking a wing,'" Colangelo said. "... You have plan A, B and C in place. I love the fact that we have all the options available to us right now."

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
The idea of inside big men fading from the NBA came up. It's a shooters' league that often favors teams that can space the floor and let it fly from beyond the arc. But Colangelo wasn't worried about the Sixers' future with a player like Embiid in the middle. He said people can adjust to fit with Embiid, and that he loves the big man's game and work ethic.

"What he showed in a third of a season was just a glimpse of what he can become," he said.

In terms of Simmons, Colangelo did mention that we all know he is best with the ball in his hands. He also said he wasn't necessarily sold on the idea that Simmons needed summer league to get back in the swing of things.

"The most important thing is to have him ready on opening day this year," Colangelo said.

Free agency plans
Signing capable free agents is the most direct route to more wins, and Colangelo said "ownership is committed to winning."

He reaffirmed his belief in Brett Brown and his son, and stated that the Sixers need to take things one step at a time right now — basically saying they need to "trust the process" without uttering the phrase. However, one sentence showed just how important of a time this is for the Sixers — free-agent signings, draft selections and trade possibilities included:

“We’ve got a good hand, and now it’s important to play out the hand in the right way,” he said.

The Ball family
Is Lonzo Ball worth the potential headaches that father LaVar might cause?

"I think Ball is a terrific prospect and could have an outstanding NBA future," Colangelo said. "I think it's going to be challenging with the people around him without being specific, and yet I don't think teams should bypass the player because they have those concerns. I think at the end of the day what wins in this league is talent and this is a very talented young man."

Sam Hinkie
After the Sixers used the pick swap to get the third pick in this year's NBA draft, Sixers owner Josh Harris gave Hinkie an effusive "thank you."

Colangelo's thoughts on the Sixers' former general manager?

“I respect the fact that he thought so much out of the box, which he really did, in terms of being the analytical guy that he is,” Colangelo said. “And of course, people can look back on decisions that were made — good or bad — and most everyone’s track record is full of both and [they] come to their own conclusions.

"Since the change in management, there’s much more of a defined game plan in terms of going forward, and that’s very positive, in my opinion, for the franchise. Sam left some good stuff in place, no question about that. Along the line there was a lot of pain in terms of incredible losing and that could only be sustained for a period of time. And I think in Philly’s case, I think he probably ran out of time.”

Four main issues to consider for Sixers with Ben Simmons to undergo knee surgery

Four main issues to consider for Sixers with Ben Simmons to undergo knee surgery

A rational response to the news Saturday that Ben Simmons will have surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee is that it’s time to recalibrate expectations for the Sixers. 

The notion of a championship run naturally dims with the loss of an All-Star. With four seeding games to go before the playoffs, the Sixers will have to address the myriad of concerns raised by Simmons’ absence.

Let’s dissect four main issues: 

Guarding stars 

When games this season have been on the line, Simmons has often helped the Sixers seize control with excellent defense on the opponent’s best playmaker. His versatility has also enabled the Sixers to give other players favorable matchups.

Who takes on the job of defending top scoring threats late in games? It will presumably be dictated by matchups — for instance, you’d think Joel Embiid and Al Horford would guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, while Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle would split time on Jayson Tatum. There’s no default answer anymore, and it’ll be a bigger challenge to “hide” players like Furkan Korkmaz.

Horford in the spotlight 

The instinctive reaction when a team loses a player of Simmons’ caliber is that everyone else needs to "step up." That’s fair enough, and yet much of the attention will shift specifically to Horford.

He started in Simmons’ place on Friday and played well, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds. His much-scrutinized pairing with Embiid is the only Sixers duo with at least 300 minutes together this year to have a negative net rating. In 60 Horford-Embiid minutes at Disney World, though, the Sixers have a plus-9.2 net rating. 

Notably, the presence of Simmons has had a negative effect on the Horford-Embiid pairing, at least offensively. The team has a 98.7 offensive rating when Horford, Embiid and Simmons have played together, by far the worst of any three-man group. Perhaps removing Simmons from the equation and losing another player whose preferred territory is near the rim in the process will help Horford-Embiid lineups score efficiently. 

When Brett Brown was asked what he found out about his team Friday night with Simmons sidelined, Horford was the first name that came to his mind. 

“You can’t help but feel an emerging Al Horford,” he said. “It’s clear that he understands we need him more than we ever have needed him.” 

Post-ups and 3s 

During the eight-game stretch in late February and early March when Simmons was out with a nerve impingement in his back, the Sixers fired up 35.8 three-point attempts per game and converted 42.3 percent. They’ve posted up far more than any other team and have the league’s best high-volume post player in Embiid. Without Simmons, a blend of Embiid post touches and more three-point attempts from players such as Richardson and Tobias Harris would make sense. 

Brown has requested throughout the year that Harris and Richardson “hunt threes." The Sixers, however, are 20th in three-point attempts per game out of the 22 teams in Florida. There has to be a collective willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, and a reduction in the low-efficiency plays where an open three turns into a contested two. 

Embiid’s averages at Disney World are 30 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He’s attempted 11.4 free throws per game and facilitated for teammates well when powering through a double team isn’t the smart play.

“(He has) the willingness and unselfishness, born with the confidence of ‘I know where my teammates are coming,’ under a backdrop of a poise and a patience — it’s ball to chin, tuck it in stuff you’d teach young players — and he’s figuring stuff out quite quickly — like real quickly,” Brown said before Friday’s game.

“All of those things, when you add them all up, equal a team offense. Arguably the best play that J-Rich can have or Tobias can have is throw the ball into Jo and they’re probably going to double, and then it’s coming back out.” 

Creativity required 

The Sixers’ unofficial mantra this year has been “built for the playoffs.” They maintained faith that talent, size and defense would prevail in the postseason. 

Being down a star should change that. Against the Celtics, Bucks or Raptors, Brown may need to adopt unorthodox strategies if feeding Embiid, relying on the big man to protect the rim and asking Thybulle and Richardson to shut down perimeter scorers is ineffective. 

That could look like blitzing the pick-and-roll if Kemba Walker is giving Richardson trouble. It could mean calling some double drag actions with Embiid and Horford if the defense is denying the Cameroonian and Horford is knocking down jumpers and distributing sharply as a pick-and-pop guy.

Perhaps Brown could ask for spurts of full-court pressure with Thybulle on the floor in an effort to force turnovers, spark transition offense and boost the rookie’s disruptive abilities. If Alec Burks is hot and Milton is making poised, intelligent decisions, Brown could play the two ball handlers together, as he did Friday at the start of the fourth quarter.

Philosophically, Brown likes letting his players figure things out for themselves and setting them up in “environments” over calling a ton of plays. He may now have to embrace greater proactivity and innovation. 

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More on the Sixers

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons to undergo surgery for loose body in left knee

Sixers injury update: Ben Simmons to undergo surgery for loose body in left knee

Ben Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, a source confirmed Saturday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported the news. 

He'd been diagnosed with a left patella subluxation, an injury he sustained in the Sixers' win over the Wizards on Wednesday. A source told NBC Sports Philadelphia the loose body resulted from the subluxation, and that surgery was decided as the best option after consultation with the Sixers' medical staff and several specialists. Simmons will leave the NBA's campus at Disney World and further updates will be provided after the procedure. 

This news clearly makes things much more difficult for the Sixers, who are sixth in the Eastern Conference with four seeding games remaining. Simmons made his second All-Star team this year and has immense value as an ultra-versatile defender, passer and transition playmaker. 

Without him Friday night, Al Horford started and had 21 points and nine rebounds in a win over the Magic. Guard Alec Burks also had a strong game with 22 points. They're two of the players who will be asked to elevate their games in Simmons' absence, while an even heavier burden will fall on Joel Embiid. 

We reviewed several of the big questions posed by the 24-year-old's injury here while he was evaluating his treatment options. 

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