Last year, the Sixers' pre-draft process was, for some time, a mystery. As the team investigated then-president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo's alleged use of burner Twitter accounts, the typical pre-draft routine was interrupted. Then, with the search underway to replace Colangelo, the Sixers took on the NBA draft with Brett Brown as the interim general manager at the head of a collaborative leadership structure.
Elton Brand was a part of that group that helped shepherd the organization through the draft - and came away with a commendable haul of Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet and Shake Milton.
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Now, Brand is the man in charge. He attended the team's first pre-draft workout on May 6 in Camden, New Jersey - the team will hold its second group workout Monday - and was at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this past week. The draft is a month away and then, soon enough, the Sixers will shift into free agency mode.
Brand said at his end-of-season press conference Tuesday that he's looking forward to it all.
I'm excited. We have a great group. Dynamic core. I look forward to being the GM for the first time going into free agency, going into the draft. We were in [Game 7] until the last shot to go into overtime and win and get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Disappointed we didn't get there, but highly optimistic and I'm proud of what we've done. I look forward to this offseason. I know we're going to grow and get better.
Things change rapidly in professional sports, but let's just take a moment to acknowledge that, even by the warped standards of the Sixers, it's been quite a year.
Brown famously proclaimed on draft night that the team was "star hunting, or star developing." The "star hunting" part ended up falling on Brand, since the Sixers' two biggest summer acquisitions under Brown were Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler. Brand later traded away both players in the early-morning, pre-deadline deal for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic that confirmed, if there was any lingering doubt, his willingness to be bold.
Though Brand didn't hold much back in his first attempt at lifting the Sixers to title contention, he gave himself ample flexibility this offseason. The Sixers have more free agents than players under contract for next year, and they have five draft picks, tied with Atlanta for the most of any team. There's no undoing the moves he made in his first season, but Brand has the choice to fundamentally reshape the Sixers again if he'd like.
Another path Brand could take is paying what's necessary to bring back Harris and Butler and figuring out the rest at the margins. (Regardless, upgrading at backup center will be a priority.) It's also very possible Brand tries to find a middle road.
Managing partner Josh Harris said Tuesday he's comfortable going into the luxury tax, though Brand added, "We're going to be fiscally responsible. We're not just going to be jumping into the luxury tax with the moves we make."
Brand will, of course, have a team to support him with all the minutiae of the salary cap - trade exceptions, the mid-level exception, you name it - in his first offseason. After experiencing a bizarre last summer in a peripheral role, Brand is in the limelight.
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