Bryan Colangelo Talks Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and More in B/R Exclusive

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2016

** FIL E** Phoenix Suns president and general manager Bryan Colangelo waves after he accepted his NBA Executive of the Year award prior to Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks in this May 18, 2005 file photo at America West Arena in Phoenix. Colangelo resigned as general manager of the Phoenix Suns on Monday,Feb. 27, 2006 and was expected to take the same job with the Toronto Raptors. (AP Photo/Matt York)
MATT YORK/Associated Press

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo has heard the rumors that Ben Simmons' camp wants him to be a Los Angeles Laker. He's not buying it.

"Some people like to poison the well," Colangelo said Sunday on SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio's NBA Sunday Tip. "We’ve got good relationships with the agent [Rich Paul] and with the family because Brett Brown has known Ben Simmons’ father for years."

Nick DePaula of The Vertical reported Simmons' camp was hoping he'd land with the Lakers because they offered the best chance at endorsement money. The LSU forward has also had a long-standing love of the franchise, which included a Snapchat video where he told a fan to "catch me on the Lakers next year."

Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia refuted the report, saying Simmons' camp has "no problem" with Philadelphia's market size. Philadelphia ranked as the fifth-most populated city in the United States in the 2012 Census. According to News Generation, it is the fourth-largest media market. 

Regardless, Colangelo, who took over as Sixers president of basketball operations and GM in April, is undeterred. He used the word "flexibility" multiple times throughout the interview, both praising it for the freedom it allows and highlighting it as a curse. "The Process," Colangelo said, has left the team with a treasure trove of assets but no player to build around.

“We’ve got good young, developing players, but we don’t have a star where we can say a bona fide star has made it," Colangelo said. "We are still looking for that first one—if that comes in the form of the first pick in this draft, if that comes in the form of a player we acquire via trade or free agency."

The one player on whom Colangelo still holds out hope is Joel Embiid, the 2014 first-round pick who has missed each of his first two years because of foot injuries. Embiid was considered a potential No. 1 overall selection—ahead of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker on draft boards—before a foot fracture was found in predraft workouts.

"The big unknown with this organization is [Embiid], who has not played an NBA game," Colangelo said. "He certainly has the skill level, the size [7'0", 250 lbs], the talent to potentially become a star."

What's evident now more than ever is The Process is over. Colangelo said he's spoken to 80 percent of the current roster, saying no one's spot is safe because there is "so much ahead of us." His "be prepared for anything" mantra sounded almost Sam Hinkie-esque, but Colangelo was clear he wants to shape a basketball team rather than an asset farm. 

“Everybody is thinking about winning, as opposed to prolonging the rebuilding process," Colangelo said. "We’re really moving from that rebuilding and stripping down to a building process. We’re going to do things that put us in a position to win basketball games more so than collect future assets.”

While Colangelo wants to create a more cogent roster, it will not come via sacrificing the youth movement entirely. He said he is "99.9 percent sure" the Sixers will not trade the No. 1 overall pick. Philadelphia also holds the No. 24 and No. 26 selections, which the team could ship out for a veteran piece.

The Sixers don't, however, expect to be major players in free agency. Having won a combined 47 games over the last three seasons, their path to contention remains up in the air. But Colangelo was quick to envision a scenario in the not-to-distant future where the organization could strike it rich in free agency.

"I don’t know we’ve got the story to sell one of the key free agents this year in terms of what we want to do. But another year of taking a step forward…I think we’ll have a compelling story to sell to not just one free agent but possibly two and maybe even three—to say ‘Do you want to come in a double-max situation? Or a triple-max situation?’

"As long as we’re smart and prudent and we maintain flexibility, that will be available to us for a while. Look at what [the Miami Heat] did when they planned for the Big Three to come there."

Comparing Philadelphia to Miami might be a little much, but you can forgive Colangelo for being optimistic. After three years of Philadelphia being calculating and secretive about its process—much to the alienation of some fans—Colangelo's job is partially to create excitement about the team. Equipped with a No. 1 overall pick and a blank slate thanks to Hinkie's Process commitment, we may see in a few years that optimism was founded in reality.   

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