After an unprecedented multi-year campaign to rebuild through the NBA draft lottery that resulted in one of the least successful three-year periods in league history and the resignation of general manager Sam Hinkie, the Philadelphia 76ers finally landed the No. 1 overall pick in this year's lottery ... and according to a new report, new GM Bryan Colangelo now knows who he's going to use it on at Thursday's 2016 NBA draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
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Bryan Colangelo confirms #Sixers had an opportunity to workout Ben Simmons in Philadelphia early this morning.— Michael Preston (@preston76) June 21, 2016
That led to immediate speculation that Simmons' agent, Rich Paul — who also represents LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, among others — had come to a pre-draft agreement with the 76ers:
Sources say Ben Simmons' workout for the Sixers today is the strongest indication yet Philadelphia has promised to select Simmons at No. 1.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 21, 2016
There is little chance, sources say, Simmons' agent Rich Paul would have granted Philly permission to hold a workout without such a promise.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 21, 2016
And, shortly after that, a report to precisely that effect came out of Cleveland, the home of Paul's Klutch Sports Group:
This morning Philadelphia 76ers informed camp of Ben Simmons he would be taken No. 1 in NBA Draft, league sources tell @clevelanddotcom.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 21, 2016
Officially, of course, the 76ers stayed mum on the matter:
Most observers have long expected the choice at No. 1 to come down to either Simmons or Duke product Brandon Ingram.
The hype surrounding Simmons, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound playmaking combo forward from Australia, was all-encompassing well before he arrived in Baton Rouge and began stuffing stat sheets, averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game en route to a consensus First-Team All-America selection. Back in March, though, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress noted that some NBA decision-makers had enough questions about Simmons' drive, defensive commitment and shooting form that he no longer profiled as the 2016 draft's no-questions-asked top prospect, with Ingram — a 6-foot-9, 200-pound swingman who is 14 months younger and has a significantly longer wingspan than Simmons, who shot 41 percent from the college 3-point line, and whose game has drawn comparisons to former NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant — rising above Simmons on some teams' draft boards.
More recently, though, Givony slid Simmons back up into the top spot in his latest mock draft for The Vertical: "Simmons is the player the Sixers want at No. 1, at least that’s what Vertical sources have said Philadelphia has told other teams around the league."
Whether Simmons wanted Philadelphia, though, seemed to be a different matter. Nick DePaula of The Vertical reported last month that Paul had held off on inking a shoe deal for Simmons until after the lottery in hopes that the Los Angeles Lakers would take home the top pick, under the belief that landing in the major media market of L.A. rather than Philly would elevate the asking price for Simmons in the bidding war between Nike and Adidas. The 76ers came away with the No. 1 choice, though, and the Lakers slotted in at No. 2. Earlier this month, Paul and Simmons chose Nike, after a decision-making process detailed by DePaula.
On top of that, Simmons had continued to decline the 76ers' invitation to work out for them.
"Everything that we get with our intel as it relates to Ben is that he would very much like to be selected No. 1,'' Colangelo said, according to ESPN.com. "His agent has decided that is the process they are undertaking. Why don't you call Rich Paul and ask him? It has nothing to do with us and nothing to do with Philadelphia. Everybody goes about it a little differently. Sometimes players decide to work out, sometimes they decide not to work out."
Evidently, that all changed Tuesday. What next year's version of the 76ers will look like remains very much an open question — incumbent big men Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel might be on the trade block, 2014 top pick Joel Embiid is reportedly cleared to scrimmage and could finally be back on the floor this fall, this might be the year Philly's finally active in free agency, etc. — but if Tuesday's reports prove out, they'll trot out the 6-foot-10 Simmons as their great red, white and blue hope that a change is finally going to come to the City of Brotherly Love.
Bringing about that change won't be easy, of course. Colangelo, head coach Brett Brown and the rest of the 76ers will have to craft and adhere to a plan of attack that optimizes their chances for sustained success. Or, as the young fella himself put it in the caption of his Instagram post on Tuesday:
... they'll need to "trust the process." Perfect.
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