Bryan Colangelo has a long summer ahead of him in his first offseason as Sixers president of basketball operations. For as much as he wants to turn around the team, there isn't a quick fix to a 10-72 season.
"I don't think there's a magic switch on the wall that we're going flip and turn us into a championship-contending team, nor is that necessarily the intent," Colangelo said in a phone interview Wednesday. "What we did say the intent was all along is to initiate the process of building."
In order to work toward a change, Colangelo has a list of goals to tackle. The first - a glaring one - is improving the team that finished with the worst record in the NBA this season.
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From there, it gets more specific. There is being successful in the draft, which is only two months away. Then comes adding players through free agency. Finally, there is looking within the organization for possible changes that could enhance the roster they create this summer.
"Obviously, winning 10 games is something that no one was excited about," he said.
Colangelo is committed to moving the Sixers in a new direction, a path he will navigate step by step.
Colangelo wants to get to know the Sixers' organization first before tackling shaping the roster. He has been spending all of his time in Philadelphia since his hiring earlier this month, minus a few trips to New York City for business and Toronto to pack up some of his belongings from home.
When it comes to the players, he said he has talked to half of the roster, either by phone or in person, and is making his way through the team.
Colangelo also has spoken to each player's agent, including Dario Saric's. Saric reportedly told his teammates in Turkey he planned to join the Sixers next season (see story). Colangelo did not want to comment or speculate on Saric's upcoming decision because Saric's team is still playing its season.
Many of Colangelo's goals depend on what happens in the draft lottery on Tuesday, May 17. The results of the ping-pong balls will have a domino effect on the team's gameplan moving forward this summer.
"That really will help us define the plan and the strategy as it relates to not only the draft, but even perhaps its effect on the roster makeup going into next season and also what we might do leading into free agency," Colangelo said.
Colangelo and the Sixers' staff will get to know the prospects during the NBA Draft Combine next month in Chicago. In addition to their scouting, film studying and player evaluation, the team will have the opportunity to meet face to face with potential candidates during an interview process.
"I'm big on consensus when it comes to fitting the right piece into the puzzle," Colangelo said. "I want to make sure coaching and management are thinking alike."
The Sixers could have as many as four first-round picks in this year's draft. They have a 26.9 percent chance of obtaining the top overall selection and mathematically cannot fall lower than fourth. They also could land the Lakers' pick if it falls out of the top three.
Later in the first round, the Sixers will receive the 24th pick from the Heat and 26th from the Thunder. The Heat's pick could have been as high as 21, but dropped to 24 in a tiebreaker.
The Sixers will explore their options with those later picks, including drafting players for the current team, drafting and trading to another team, swapping the picks, or choosing an international player who plans to stay overseas for now. Colangelo also believes given their team of personnel pouring over prospects, they could discover a steal deep in the first.
"We've got multiple options with what to do with those picks, and I do think though there will be some opportunity to find a player," Colangelo said. "That's what you have an extensive scouting staff for, that's what the numbers and analytics team can sometimes derive, perhaps a diamond in the rough. You look for the player that's going to be a sleeper at that number and you think about what that player might be a couple years down the road."
Once free agency begins in July, the Sixers have one of the most flexible salary cap situations in the NBA. But in a summer when each team will have more money to spend than in the past thanks to the salary cap increase, it could take more than a paycheck to lure players to a new team.
Each summer there is an emphasis placed on the "destination" value of a city, from warm weather year-round to a bustling city scene to the cost of taxes. Colangelo believes the Sixers have their own points of attraction, including a new 125,000-square-foot training complex (currently under construction), a young roster and multiple positions with significant minutes available.
"You have to differentiate yourself somehow, someway," Colangelo said. "Some people could be looking for an opportunity to go somewhere and be a key player as opposed to being a complementary player. We've got that opportunity because we've got an open slate right now in that regard."
While there will be top free agents on the market this summer, Colangelo does not feel like the Sixers have to ink a mega contract just because the money is available. Rather than dishing out a long-term deal this offseason, the Sixers could explore shorter contracts that give them the cap resources to go after high-level options when the team is in a more improved position.
"I think that this year is not so much about luring necessarily a key, absolute free agent," Colangelo said. "It might be about getting some complementary pieces or making short-term commitments so that we maintain our flexibility when we are ready to hit the market or a future free-agent market with a better narrative and an improved storyline we're building."
Outlook for upcoming season
There are more than five months until the start of training camp. From now until then, Colangelo will focus on putting together a combination of players that reflects the identity the Sixers would like for next season.
"Now that we can put the word ‘rebuilding' in the rearview mirror, this is about taking those proven steps toward creating and developing the right culture," he said. "Adding the right kind of pieces, bringing in the right talent to take incremental steps forward going into the future."
Several elements will factor into the timeframe of the Sixers' turnaround. Land the No. 1 pick, draw a significant free agent, pull off a significant trade - there are ways to expedite it. But pieces have to align, many of which are out of a team's control, and Colangelo is focusing on what he can directly affect in his new role.
"How quickly [a turnaround] happens sometimes is an unknown," he said. "I don't think it's fully predictable. I think you can put a certain amount of science to the process and guestimate how it might play out, but there are so many variables that it's hard to be in the prediction business here. So I think what we're doing is we're just preparing ourselves to make the best possible decisions to make sure that those incremental steps are actually taken, not just talked about."