Sam Hinkie pleased with Sixers' draft positioning

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Sam Hinkie pleased with Sixers' draft positioning

The Sixers will not be on the clock first when the NBA draft rolls around on June 26 at the Barclays Center.

However, they will get two cracks early in the first round after landing the No. 3 and No. 10 picks in Tuesday’s draft lottery (see story).

While fans might have been pushing for the Sixers to secure the No. 1 overall pick -- which went to Cleveland for the third time in four years -- team president and general manager Sam Hinkie came into the night with a realistic outlook.

“I am afraid it makes me boring,” Hinkie said. “I came in knowing what the odds are. You hope for good luck. I am not under any illusions that my hope really helps. So you say what scenarios can you live with? I can get really comfortable one through five. We could find players that can help us in all those spots.”

“The fact that we ended up with the third pick and the 10th pick in a draft like this is reason to be excited.”

Of course, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid have been tabbed as the consensus top three players in the upcoming NBA draft. With the Cavs at No. 1 and the Milwaukee Bucks picking second, the Sixers are at those teams' mercy.

Just don’t expect to hear about which player Hinkie favors over the others.

“Now we are back to my stone face because this is the time of the year where there is a lot of information to be gained and a lot to be lost the more you say,” Hinkie said. “We are likely to be active all around the draft. That is not unusual for us. But you have to be pretty careful that people don’t know what it is you are going to do.”

One thing Hinkie is willing to share is that the Sixers franchise is an appealing destination for young players.

“Most of the top players in this draft find Philadelphia a really attractive place because they want to be in a place where they have opportunity,” Hinkie said. “They want to play in a big market and they recognize what a platform it is in Philadelphia. They want to get better and they realize that Philadelphia, with our coaching staff and with our roster, you can come and play and get better.”

Hinkie and the Sixers will spend the next month watching prospects work out as they prep for the draft. Given that the Sixers have those two lottery picks and a handful of second-round selections, the front office must be knowledgeable about all of the players available.

After all of the Sixers' wheeling and dealing during last season’s draft, be prepared for anything on June 26.

“I think you have to be open to whatever may come along the transit,” Hinkie said. “But if you ask me today on a night like this in New York, we are excited about the players we might get and being able to add them into our program.”

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."