The Sixers’ marathon pre-draft preparation is nearing its end.
During the process, a slew of key front office personnel have come and gone. Former executive vice president of basketball operations Alex Rucker has left the organization, as has former director of scouting Phil Jabour. Peter Dinwiddie has assumed Rucker’s old title, Prosper Karangwa is the team’s new VP of player personnel and Daryl Morey, of course, is the Sixers’ president of basketball operations.
With all of those changes, who was doing virtual interviews with prospects? And how will this front office make decisions in Wednesday night’s NBA draft?
“With regards to the interviews, we’ve kind of gone through every iteration,” VP of scouting Vince Rozman said in a Zoom call Monday. “I’ve generally been on a lot of them and led them. Matt Lilly, our G-League GM, has been on a lot of them and led them. And various members of our front office and scouting staff at various times (have taken part in interviews).
“With regards to draft night, obviously Daryl is president of basketball operations and is going to lead those decisions. I think (general manager Elton Brand) and (head coach Doc Rivers) are also very key to his world right now. So I think those guys are going to work together, and we as a scouting stuff are going to get them all the information they need to make whatever decision comes our way.”
TCU wing Desmond Bane mentioned in September, before the Sixers’ hiring of Morey, that Rozman led his interview and Brand was not on the call. At that stage, Bane said, “There’s a lot of interest with Philly.”
As Rockets GM, Morey owned no picks in this draft, but it’s not as if he entered the Sixers organization with no knowledge about prospects.
“... We were in Houston, even though we didn’t have a pick this year, we actually talk about it,” Morey said at his introductory press conference. “It’s actually more prep for the draft when you don’t have a pick because you’re maybe buying a pick in the second round or going after undrafted guys.”
Rozman indicated Monday that Morey’s opinions have generally aligned with those of the Sixers’ scouting staff. Though he said the “rapport has been awesome” in the new front office, he also acknowledged the challenges of a swift transition.
“I think we’ve all been kind of in a firefight, because (Morey has) been here for two weeks and we need to catch him up,” Rozman said. “We felt really, really prepared to be able to do it. The good thing is we tend to think similarly on players, so that’s helpful. If you think of it from Daryl’s standpoint, he’s coming in, he needs to catch up on the roster, he needs to catch up on our scouting staff, the front office, the draft.
“I think we’re all lucky that he’s obviously well-qualified to do it. But I don’t know that the process has necessarily changed. Instead of informing Elton and talking through all the draft-related possible transactions or players ... with Elton and our scouting staff, it’s now with Elton and Daryl, and obviously Peter Dinwiddie, as well, to be ready for Wednesday.”
That explanation was a bit more direct than what we’d first heard from Morey. He’d seemed to want to emphasize Brand’s continued importance and the value of collaboration, whereas Rozman on Monday was rather clear that Morey is running the show in the Sixers’ front office.
As for what type of prospects the Sixers are targeting with their league-high five picks (Nos. 21, 34, 36, 49 and 58), Rozman was more vague. After the pre-draft rumors last year of the Sixers being determined to take Matisse Thybulle, his cautious phrasing was understandable.
“I think when you look back at last year,” Rozman said, “I don’t know that … we ended up with Matisse, and (Marial Shayok) in the second round, I don’t know that there was a specific target for a perimeter defender. I think if we didn’t get Matisse, we probably would’ve ended up with somebody in a much different profile.
"And, similar to this year, our primary focus is to get guys who one, two, three years down the road are still in the league and useful. Whatever skill they’re providing, we just hope they’re somebody we can put on the court and contribute, is our primary focus.”