The Philadelphia 76ers failed to strike lottery gold Tuesday.
After entering the night with the 11th-best odds of landing the No. 1 draft pick, the Sixers ended the night in the No. 11 spot.
For the next month, the organization has two missions: Figure out which late-lottery prospects intrigue them the most, then decide whether they can find an amenable draft-day trade partner.
The Sixers should see how the top 10 draft picks play out before making any dramatic moves. If Cody Zeller is still on the board at No. 11, for instance, they should grab him without thinking twice. For a team lacking any semblance of a stretch 4, Zeller could grow into a valuable contributor for Philadelphia.
Based on Zeller's better-than-expected showing at the 2013 draft combine, however, there's a decent chance that he's now moved into top-10-pick territory.
Assuming both Zeller and Alex Len are gone by the time the Sixers pick, new general manager Sam Hinkie will have a conundrum on his hands: Are the players projected in the 11 to 14 range considerably better than those in the 15 to 25 range?
If not, can he find a willing trade partner?
As you pore over mock drafts in the coming weeks, you'll likely notice that outside the top 10, the projections vary wildly. Some will have Pittsburgh center Steven Adams as a lottery pick, while others may consider him a fringe first-round prospect (subscription required). Gorgui Dieng could just as easily go at the No. 12 spot as he could at No. 22.
For a Sixers team with a wealth of needs (except for a starting point guard), the key will be not to fall too deeply in love with one particular player. Is drafting Kelly Olynyk at No. 11 considerably better than grabbing a guy like Dieng, Allen Crabbe or Tony Mitchell 10 picks later?
Sixers fans can rest assured of one thing: Hinkie will do his due diligence. After all, he's the one who, in his introductory news conference, preached the value of meeting prospects at the combine presumed to be outside the Sixers' projected draft range, as reported on the official NBA website.
Even if it's not a target who you could reach to now... I very much want to meet him. I very much want to quiz him. I very much want to try to understand what makes him tick, because he will be a trade target in the coming years. He will be a free-agent target in four years. He might be a maximum target to recruit on July 1 in nine years. And this instance now is worth collecting and learning.
So, if the Sixers start bringing in prospects who aren't projected lottery picks for workouts, we'll know why.
It's not necessarily that the team is considering making a crazy reach on a player who has no business being a top-15 pick, it's that Hinkie recognizes the value of keeping all his options on the table, including a draft-day trade.
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