Sam Hinkie's plan for the Philadelphia 76ers reaped major rewards at Tuesday night's 2016 NBA Draft Lottery. He just won't be around to make the No. 1 overall draft pick it earned.
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More than a month after Hinkie resigned his post as general manager, the Philadelphia 76ers won the draft lottery and will select first in the 2016 NBA Draft. The Sixers' NBA-worst 10-72 record gave them the best odds of winning the lottery at 25 percent, and the percentages went in their favor. In fact, the draft order held exactly to form for the first time ever, with no teams jumping into the lottery-decided top three and no changes among that trio. It appears that Dikembe Mutombo really can see the future.
That lack of drama brought some bad news for the Sixers, who also would have obtained the Los Angeles' Lakers pick if it had fallen outside of the first four selections. Yet attending general manager Mitch Kupchak will seek a future star at the No. 2 pick, a major positive for a franchise looking to rebuild itself into a contender. The next Lakers youngster will face considerable pressure as a de facto replacement for Kobe Bryant, but it's an opportunity that many prospects relish.
The third selection will go to the Boston Celtics, the rare playoff team lucky enough to have a chance at getting a high-impact offseason addition via the draft. The Celtics obtained the selection in the 2013 offseason when they traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the then-contending Brooklyn Nets, a move set to pay major dividends due to the franchise's ahead-of-schedule rebuilding process.
The Sixers and Lakers are likely to take LSU point forward Ben Simmons and Duke wing Brandon Ingram in some order to start the draft, scheduled for June 23 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Simmons was considered the year's top prospect most of the college season, but disappointing results for the Tigers allowed Ingram to gain in popularity in the late winter and early spring. Ingram is also considered a better fit for Philadelphia considering his shooting ability and the likely arrival of 2014 pick Dario Saric, a highly touted European forward with facilitator talent similar to that of Simmons. The Lakers and new head coach Luke Walton should be happy to end up with either player to team with their young core of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.
Other highly touted prospects include Croatian seven-footer Dragan Bender, Providence point guard Kris Dunn, and March Madness sensation Buddy Hield of Oklahoma. One of that group (or another mid-to-late lottery prospect) could have a serious impact on the NBA landscape in 2016-17 thanks to the hopes of up-and-coming teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 5) and Utah Jazz (No. 12), as well as the Eastern Conference finalist Toronto Raptors (No. 9 via the New York Knicks, thanks to 2013's baffling trade for Andrea Bargnani). The top picks will get all the early-season attention, but some rookies could make an impact into the spring.
Those issues will be resolved in due time. For now, the focus is on the Sixers, a franchise that committed to being terrible for at least three seasons in the hope that it would have the chance to draft the league's next superstar. The excitement and relief of the team's fans was clear at the official lottery party held by fan blog Liberty Ballers:
It's also great news for Hinkie and his reputation. Winning a lottery is not a sign of executive expertise — past draft results prove as much — but Hinkie's lose-and-lose-some-more approach required this sort of victory for validation. Past drafts did not work out in the Sixers' favor, and selections of sub-optimal players like Jahlil Okafor (much more limited than Karl-Anthony Towns) and Joel Embiid (much more injured than Andrew Wiggins) showed that the difference between No. 1 and Nos. 2 and 3 can be huge. If nothing else, they have a chance to get the best player on their board for the first time since choosing Allen Iverson in 1996.
The worry for the Sixers now is that their front office has to make the right choice. New general manager Bryan Colangelo has made plenty of impressive selections in his career, including Shawn Marion and Amar'e Stoudemire, but his lone first-overall pick was the aforementioned Andrea Bargnani in 2006 (a reasonably weak draft, to be fair). There's talent on hand in Philadelphia regardless, but getting this pick wrong would extend the franchise's lengthy rebuilding process at least another year or two. It would be a rough outcome after several inept seasons and a break with Hinkie based on the speed of progress. These fans have waited long enough.
Check out the full lottery order below:
1. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. Boston Celtics
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. New Orleans Pelicans
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Sacramento Kings
9. Toronto Raptors
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Orlando Magic
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Chicago Bulls
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