76ers

Joel Embiid still trusts the process after Sixers net No. 3 pick

Joel Embiid still trusts the process after Sixers net No. 3 pick

NEW YORK — The Sixers didn't land the first pick at the draft lottery Tuesday night, but that wouldn't stop Joel Embiid from trusting the … you guessed it. 

"I'm excited," Embiid said. "We jumped up one more spot. I wish we would have gotten the No. 1 pick and the Lakers' pick, but we're trusting the process and it's going to be exciting to see who we're going to draft."

The Sixers received the third pick via a pick swap with the Kings, who will draft fifth (see story). That swap stems from the 2015 trade involving Nik Stauskas, which the guard cleverly tweeted about after the results (see story). The Sixers had a 14.7 percent chance to land at No. 1 between their own odds (11.9 percent) and those of the Kings (2.8). 

The Celtics, who are set to take on the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, have first dibs in the draft thanks to a pick swap with the Nets. The Lakers received the second pick. The Sixers would have received their 2017 selection had it fallen out of the top three. Instead, it will convey as an unprotected pick in 2018. 

Embiid got involved in friendly banter with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson while they represented their teams on stage. 

"It was great," Embiid said. "I kept telling him, 'I'm about to get your pick.'"

After the results were announced, Embiid put on his scouting hat to project who the Sixers should take with their first-round selection.

"I think the two guards (Markelle) Fultz and Lonzo Ball are going to be one and two," Embiid said. "I like Josh Jackson a lot and Jayson Tatum. So I expect one of those guys to be at three with us."

Jackson and Tatum both are small forwards who would fill a need on the perimeter. They possess the two-way player skill set the Sixers covet. Like Embiid, Jackson played one year at Kansas. 

If Embiid had a wish list, he would address more offense and additional ball-handlers. After Fultz and Ball, De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith are highly-projected point guards. 

"I like Markelle Fultz a lot as a scorer," Embiid said. "I think we need someone else who can score the ball. I like him a lot. And a point guard, somebody that can run the point. T.J. (McConnell) did a great job, and that's my guy and I love him ... I think we need more depth at the point guard position. If we get the chance, that'd be exciting."

The Sixers didn't get the first pick. They ended up with one selection instead of two. They still landed ahead of their projected draft order and an opportunity to acquire a highly-touted young talent. For those reasons, yes, Embiid still trusts.

"Sometimes people don't understand the definition of the process," Embiid said. "The process is not just about getting over what we've been going through for the past three or four years. I feel like the process is going to keep on going.

"It's a process to get over that hump. Then it's a process to make the playoffs. Then it's another process to get to the conference finals and then another process to get to the Finals and win an NBA championship. 

"It applies to everything in life. We're always going to be trusting the process."

Brett Brown states Sixers' goal for new season: 'We want to play in the NBA Finals'

Brett Brown states Sixers' goal for new season: 'We want to play in the NBA Finals'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown gave the Sixers a chance to digest their first team meal Friday and get a good night of sleep before announcing his hopes for the 2018-19 season.

“We want to play in the NBA Finals,” Brown said of what he shared with the players right before Saturday’s practice to open training camp. “We could have played in the NBA Finals. I understand the magnitude of that statement, but I stand by it and I own it. 

“It’s our goal to go play in an NBA Final. It’s a respect of championship habits. It’s a respect of each other. There are a lot of pieces that clearly have to be involved for us to achieve such a high goal but that’s our goal.”

Sure, the bar for every head coach entering a new season should be playing for a championship. But Brown truly believes it and knows his roster is one of precious few around the league with the weapons to potentially pull it off.

So does that mean the Sixers will now get ahead of themselves and start thinking about the postseason long before that deserves to be a thought in their minds? Not exactly, although the joy of getting back to that point a season ago and the pain of their exit are emotions they want to carry forward.

Brown laid out what needs to happen for the Sixers to make him look like a prophet, namely good health, attention to detail and a bit of luck to help navigate through the top dogs in the Eastern Conference of Boston and Toronto.

Still, more than anything else, the head coach made it clear that the guys must maintain a day-by-day approach.

Dare we say the Sixers still have to trust the process?

“I feel like the lessons we all learned from the playoffs last year will put us in better shape,” Brown said. “As you’ve heard me say, trying to start where we ended. You recognize the things that you need work on. You recognize the things, just the atmosphere that the playoffs bring. And you better deal with that from October, September to incrementally set the table for trying to achieve the goal that I just shared with you all.”

With 11 players back from last season’s team and hungry to take the next step in the overall progression, Brown didn’t have to do much convincing in the locker room.

“I think we have two of the best players in the NBA, a group of guys around them whose skills complement them,” JJ Redick said. “Hopefully we’ll find out next spring what we learned about the playoffs last year. I think if you just have the expectation that young players can make leaps playing in their second year, in their fourth year, that we should be one of a handful of teams in the East that have a chance of playing in the Finals.”

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Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together? Expect to see it a lot more

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Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together? Expect to see it a lot more

CAMDEN, N.J. — In their limited time together last season, playing Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together didn’t seem like the best idea. Both players were dangerous in transition and attacking the paint, but both had suspect jumpers. Brett Brown only played the pair together for 51 minutes.

Expect to see a lot more of the former No. 1 picks sharing the court this season.

“We were on the same team most of the time,” Simmons said Saturday after Day 1 of Sixers training camp. “There were a couple plays where you get the ball up the floor to get it started. The first play he’s going to drive down and come off the curl, curl offense, and get to the rim. That’s exactly what I did, got to the rim and scored. Playing with him is easy. He plays the game the right way.”

If the work Simmons and Fultz each did in the offseason to improve their shots paid off, playing the two together isn't such a crazy idea. Fultz’s work with trainer Drew Hanlen is well documented, and he seems confident in his game. Simmons worked on his shot with his brother Liam. Saturday, he went into more detail on the mechanical changes he’s made.

“Just getting the ball to my left side; I was bringing it over to my right a lot,” Simmons said. “And getting underneath it and getting my thumb off the ball.” 

When he shot free throws after practice, Simmons’ focus on keeping his elbow locked in and on the left side of his body was evident.

Brown acknowledged Simmons’ shot is still a work in progress, but he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen. 

“Eighteen-footers, look at the rim,” Brown said. “Look at the rim. If you’re open, shoot it. The notion that he was going to come back after the summer, like, ‘wow, he’s really shooting a lot of threes …’ The reality of the summer was going to be looking at the rim and if people backed off you, to find a way to feel confident and comfortable punishing that. I think that he’s getting there. I think that his confidence and just body language, eye contact, looking at the target, has improved.”

One creative solution Brown mentioned that could allow Simmons and Fultz to play together more would be occasionally putting Simmons at the power forward spot. That could allow Fultz to run the offense, with Simmons serving as a point forward of sorts out of the post. 

The 6-foot-10 Simmons wasn’t very efficient in the post last season, recording 0.69 points per possession, 17th percentile in the NBA. But he was working on his game in the mid and low-post after practice in a spirited one-on-one session with Robert Covington. 

With that kind of athleticism and explosiveness, Simmons is clearly capable of being a better post player than he showed his rookie season. 

Ultimately, if the progress Simmons and Fultz appear to have made with their jumpers translates to the regular season, it may not take a ton of innovation for Brown to play the two together.

Just put two dynamic offensive players with improved jumpers on the floor and let them do their thing.

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