“The Process” paid off.
After three years of dismal basketball, the Sixers landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft Tuesday night at the lottery.
The mounting losses, the insurmountable skids, the revolving door of players culminated into the best mathematical chance (26.9 percent including a pick swap with the Kings) following a 10-72 season. The Sixers own the first selection in what is considered by many to be a two-player draft between LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram.
The Sixers will be followed in the draft by the Los Angeles Lakers at two, the Boston Celtics third, the Phoenix Suns fourth and Minnesota Timberwolves five.
Because the Lakers' pick is in the top three, the Sixers do not receive it.
What the Sixers do with the pick remains to be seen. Simmons began the season as the projected No. 1 pick, but Ingram has evened the race. Given the Sixers roster is wide open to be revamped, either could come in and become the face of the team. Simmons is a year older than Ingram and has been closely watched for years. His abilities to score, pass and rebound are well-documented. There is more unknown about Ingram, whose age, offense and potential is source of intrigue.
President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo also has said the team will explore all its options. There could be discussions if another team presents the Sixers with an enticing offer for the pick.
The draft lottery results were the result of a three-year slump of 47 wins and a staggering 199 losses. Former general manager and president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie, who resigned in April, overhauled the Sixers in 2013 following an Eastern Conference Semifinals run. The team began rebuilding by adding pieces through the draft, trading veterans to create cap flexibility and making short-term commitments. The rosters were young, inexperienced and plummeted to the bottom of the standings. Thoughts of the playoffs quickly became distant memories.
The Sixers entered the 2014 draft with the second-worst record in the NBA (19-63) and a 19.9 percent chance at number one. In a shocking turn of events, they landed third while the Cavs, who had a 1.7 percent chance, got the top pick. That year, the Sixers selected an injured Joel Embiid from Kansas at No. 3. They knew he was unable to play at that time but chose him as the best available talent. Embiid has undergone foot surgeries and suffered setbacks, and has still yet to make his NBA debut.
In that same draft, the Sixers also selected Dario Saric at No. 10. He has remained overseas and is contemplating coming to Philadelphia next season. Saric would stand to earn more money outside of the rookie salary scale if he waits another year.
By falling to three, the Sixers missed out on Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Wiggins, who was traded by the Cavs to the Timberwolves in the Kevin Love deal, averaged 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season. Parker suffered an ACL injury as a rookie and averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists for the Bucks this season.
Last season, the Sixers had the third-worst record in the league (18-64) and nearly an identical chance of getting picks one, two or three. The league-worst Timberwolves (16-66) got the first pick and the 21-win Lakers snuck into the second slot. The Timberwolves selected unanimous Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers followed with point guard D’Angelo Russell, an unexpected selection given the amount of time they had spent with Jahlil Okafor.
The Sixers then drafted Okafor at No. 3, adding another big man to the already jammed frontcourt. Prior to a season-ending knee procedure, Okafor had a solid rookie campaign with 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. The downside was the Sixers still have not determined how to utilize both he and Nerlens Noel, another natural center, on the court at the same time.
This season there was no question as to which team would finish with the worst record. The Sixers began the season 0-18 and were 1-30 in December. The Sixers didn’t get their second win until the team hired Jerry Colangelo to the front office and re-acquired point guard Ish Smith to run the floor. They flirted with tying the worst all-time NBA record all the way until April when they earned their 10th and final victory.
The first overall pick marks the team’s new direction under Colangelo. Since Hinkie’s resignation the team has been transitioning to a new phase, including the hirings of two front office personnel, Marc Eversley as vice president of player personnel and Ned Cohen as associate vice president and chief of staff.
Now equipped with the top pick, one of the most flexible caps in the NBA heading into free agency and a league veteran at the helm, the Sixers are positioned to leave the lottery behind.