With NBA draft order unsettled, Bryan Colangelo, Sixers doing homework at combine

With NBA draft order unsettled, Bryan Colangelo, Sixers doing homework at combine

CHICAGO — The Sixers are looking at potentially two first-round picks and four second-round selections in this year's draft. The front office and coaching staff have plenty of work to tackle this week at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.

"The combine, to me, is about the chance to sit down face to face with these players," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Thursday. "We learn about them as people more than anything. We do challenge them basketball-wise … it's just important to get a good feel for them as people and as thinkers."

The Sixers will have a better sense of their specific draft needs after the lottery next Tuesday. They have an 11.9 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. They also have pick swap rights with the Kings and will receive the Lakers' pick if it falls out of the top three.

There are very few players at the combine who would fit any of those situations, though. The Sixers already met with Washington guard Markelle Fultz, who along with Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox, is the only projected top-10 player attending the combine. Still, Colangelo has seen enough basketball to recognize the talent available in those top selections. 

"This is a group of players that, within the top 10, there are multiple prospects that could become potential All-Stars," Colangelo said. "I think that's a sign of a very strong draft."

As the Sixers wait until next week to find out their first-round draft selections, they are meeting with a wide-range of players in Chicago. In addition to Fultz, they have met with, among others, projected first-rounders Justin Jackson, Justin Patton and Ivan Rabb, and projected second-rounders Jonathan Jeanne and P.J. Dozier to get to know those who could be available to them in both rounds. 

"There's going to be players with talent that slide down," Colangelo said. "You're always hoping to kind of find that diamond in the rough, a guy that's a sleeper of sorts. … It's not to say we're going to make four selections in the second round. But in particular the top picks, either 36 or 37 and 39, we think that there's going to be some players on the board that are fairly interesting."

The Sixers could be looking at a draft-and-stash scenario in the second round, too. There is a chance they could trade one or more of their picks, but if they end up with all of them, it would make sense to select a player who does not play in the league next season. 

"It really becomes an issue of whether or not we have enough roster spots to deal with them in terms of drafting, signing and having them occupy a spot because we've got a lot of other things that we need to balance into the equation," Colangelo said. "Whether or not Furkan Korkmaz comes over, whether or not we have two top-seven picks or just one. Those things are going to drive some of that."

Whether it is a top pick or a late second-rounder, the Sixers have criteria they seek out in draft candidates. Their checklist includes high basketball IQ, shooting, defense, floor spacing and athleticism to get up and down the court. 

"We're looking for players that fit our style of play, that fit our system, that fit our culture," Colangelo said. "It's really not just about the talent that they display basketball-wise. It's about what kind of people and what kind of character they have. I think we really do look for the full package."

The Sixers are all hands on deck at the combine. Colangelo, vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley, vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff Ned Cohen, and vice president of basketball administration and general manager of the 87ers Brandon Williams are among those from the front office, along with head coach Brett Brown and assistant coach Lloyd Pierce. Special advisor Jerry Colangelo and player development consultant Elton Brand are also with the team in Chicago.

The Sixers will hold more player meetings on Friday. 

To DNP-rest, or not to DNP-rest: That is the question facing Joel Embiid

To DNP-rest, or not to DNP-rest: That is the question facing Joel Embiid

It’s certainly not going out on a limb to say the Sixers’ success depends on the health and fitness level of Joel Embiid.

When he’s on the floor, he’s one of, if not the best center in the NBA. The issue for the Sixers is when he’s not on the floor — which happens more often than they’d like. The series against the Raptors was the most prime example. Embiid was a plus-89 in a series the team lost in seven games. Greg Monroe was a minus-9 in two (2!) minutes in Game 7. Yuck.

By now we all know about Embiid’s injury history. His knee tendinitis and illnesses dominated the headlines during the Sixers’ postseason run. The tendinitis could be attributed to Embiid playing 54 of the first 58 games of the season. Some have made the connection of Embiid's illnesses to a poor diet. Whatever the case, both mired Embiid's effectiveness.

There is good news: Embiid knows things need to get better. He knows he needs to be in better physical shape. He knows the Sixers will only have a long playoff run if he’s the best and healthiest version of himself. 

He also knows how he can accomplish that.

Looking at the way Toronto managed Kawhi [Leonard] all season … when you start thinking about back-to-backs and stuff like that, having a good team around you helps,” Embiid said during exit interviews. “Most of the time I kind of feel bad because I feel like I let everybody down by not playing or sitting out. If you see that and you know guys are going to take over and get the win — we have the talent to do so. I guess it’s an easy decision for me. I think as long as we got it all covered and we have an opportunity to win games without me, I’m open to it. … Just gotta keep working on my body. It’s only going to get better.

He has been looking rather svelte in his Instagram posts and shouldn’t have to feel bad about sitting out with the talent that’s been brought in.

Elton Brand was aggressive in signing veteran Al Horford. Horford will play with Embiid in the starting lineup at the four, but will also be the team’s primary backup center. There may not be a better backup five in the entire league. Horford’s abilities on both ends of the floor will soften the blow of having Embiid on the bench.

And let’s not forget about Kyle O’Quinn. The veteran big is solid defensively and would’ve served as a better option than any backup big Brett Brown went to against the Raptors. He’s a strong insurance policy as the team’s third-string center.

It also helps that the schedule makers were kind to the Sixers — and it doesn’t seem like it was an accident. The Sixers have no nationally televised games on the second half of back-to-backs, something our NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh pointed out as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast last week. Clearly, those networks don't want to get burned if Embiid decides to rest.

Haberstroh actually wrote a piece about the very topic of the DNP-rest epidemic, discussing a company called Fansure. Fansure should appeal to Sixers fans as “an analytical start-up company that helps protect fans by offering reimbursement plans for tickets to games in which star player(s) sit out due to either rest or a last-minute injury.” (Then maybe angry fans will be less likely to be in reporter’s mentions … probably not.)

It’s also fair to wonder if medical personnel decisions will have any effect on all this with Embiid.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Philadelphia 76ers handle Embiid’s rest regimen," Haberstroh writes. "The team signed big man Al Horford to start next to him and potentially start at center in Embiid’s place if he needs a night off. Those decisions will come down to Embiid and new members of the medical staff after the team parted ways with two major voices — vice president of athlete care Dr. Danny Medina and director of performance research and development Dr. David Martin.

It’s tough to know the significance of Medina and Martin no longer being with the Sixers. The team has already begun filling in roles in the athlete care department. They’ve hired Lorena Torres-Ronda, formerly of the Spurs, as performance director. Expect more new names to be announced this week, per a team source.

While breathing new life into the athlete care department could help, it ultimately comes down to Embiid. 

Is he ready to listen to the advice of those around him and do what’s best for himself and the team? Will he feel comfortable letting his teammates try to win in back-to-back situations without him?

Guess we’ll find out starting Nov. 13, the second game of a back-to-back in Orlando.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers' Josh Richardson has a unique defensive challenge ahead

Sixers' Josh Richardson has a unique defensive challenge ahead

There are plenty of new things in store for Josh Richardson as one of the newest members of the 76ers, but there is one in particular that’s going to take some getting used to.

At 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Richardson will be the smallest guy in the Sixers' starting lineup this upcoming season.

“I have never been that, ever in my life,” Richardson said with a laugh at the Sixers Summer Shore Tour in Wildwood, New Jersey. “It will be interesting looking up to my teammates, talking in huddles and stuff.”

On a serious note, Richardson is looking forward to the challenge on defense. Richardson guarded point guards quite a bit during his four years with the Miami Heat and has confidence he’ll be able to guard smaller guards.

“I know that I’ll be the shortest starter here and I don’t mind guarding all of the guys that like to get in the paint and use their speed a lot,” Richardson said.

One thing is for certain: Richardson is ready for the season to get started, especially after the NBA schedule release.

“I’m just excited," Richardson said. "I saw we open with Boston and I know there’s a little rivalry history there, so it’s going to be fun to be a part of that.”

And as for his former team?

“I always have Miami circled to go back there and compete against my brothers down there," Richardson said, "but I’m just ready, excited to compete every game.”

Richardson has kept in touch with Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Mike Scott throughout the offseason. He met Shake Milton for the first time, working out at the Sixers' training facility on Saturday morning.

The former Tennessee Volunteer has been getting his own work in this summer.

“Health, I think health is a big part, just being able to be out there for as many games as I can is going to be huge, and being able to make shots,” Richardson said of his offseason goals. “I think being a shot maker is going to be big for us.”

Looking back at the trade, despite there being a shock factor in the moments following, he couldn’t be more eager for this new opportunity. Richardson said his excitement occurred "almost instantly."

“After I started looking at the pictures of our lineup, it turned into straight excitement, like as soon as it happened,” Richardson said. “As long as we all gel, as long as we all have the same goal in mind, I think we’ll have a strong season.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers