Recent success has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs after Sixers' win over Nets

Recent success has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs after Sixers' win over Nets

NEW YORK -- The Sixers have won three of their last four games, and their recent success has Joel Embiid eyeing the playoff standings in early January.

“I think we’re seven or eight games from the eighth place, so I think that’s a goal. I think we have a chance,” Embiid said. “We’ve been hot lately. … We’re really figuring things out, we’re starting to learn how to win games.”

The Sixers moved up to 10-25 with a 105-95 win over the Nets (8-28) on Sunday (see Instant Replay). The Wizards currently are in eighth in the conference at 18-18. The Sixers are second-to-last in the East (ahead of only the Nets), half a game behind the Heat, with five teams between them and the Wizards.

Embiid views this mathematical scenario with a glass-half-full perspective.

“It’s an amazing thing to really have this mindset of potential playoffs in just a matter of a year,” Nerlens Noel said of Embiid's thoughts. “Guys are really looking forward to it. Presuming everything stays on the right road with health and the direction we’re going now, we’re playing good basketball, that’s definitely a possibility.”

This season is not about making the playoffs. The most pressing objectives are developing young talent and sorting out roster balance. The Sixers’ veterans want their teammates to focus on the other ways they can be successful.

“I don’t think that should be our concern as much,” Gerald Henderson said. “Even now, teams that are going to make the playoffs, they’re not thinking about the playoffs. They’re thinking about staying healthy, what it looks like out on the court so they can prepare themselves to play after the season. We just need to focus on playing consistently, taking care of our fourth quarters and contributions from everyone.”

Ersan Ilyasova echoed, “We do have potential but we have to consider all those obstacles obviously during the whole season. I’m not going to say we’re not going to be in the playoffs, but a season’s long … From now on, we have to take care of our business first. Obviously if we win the games, we have a chance.”

Embiid is encouraged by the Sixers' progress. They tied last season’s win total in their 35th game on Sunday. For a team what hasn't made the postseason since 2011-12, the goal is that victories this year will translate into building toward a postseason contender.

“We are winning basketball games more frequently than we have been,” Brett Brown said. “But for us it’s still, ‘How are we doing what we do? Are we doing our job? Are we not skipping steps? Are we putting in good days?’ We believe as simple as that might sound, that they will add up, they do count for something.”

Sixers select Markelle Fultz with No. 1 overall pick in NBA draft

Sixers select Markelle Fultz with No. 1 overall pick in NBA draft

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz is a Sixer.
 
What seemed highly unlikely up until last week became a reality Thursday night when the Sixers selected Fultz first overall with the pick they acquired from the Celtics.
 
The Sixers traded the third pick and a future first-round pick to move up for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound point guard out of Washington. Fultz averaged 23.2 points (47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three), 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds last season. He led all freshmen in the nation and the entire Pac-12 in scoring. Defensively, Fultz boasts a seven-foot wingspan. 
 
Fultz is the best fit for the Sixers among all players in the draft. The team has been in need of a go-to scorer and cannot head into next season relying on Joel Embiid when it is unclear how many games he will play. The Sixers tied with the Bulls for 24th in long-range shooting (34.0 percent), were 25th in points per game (102.4) and 27th in field goal shooting (44.2 percent). Fultz will give them instant offense. 
 
Fultz can create a dynamic backcourt duo with the 6-10 Simmons when last year's No. 1 overall pick is running the floor. This week, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Simmons doesn't necessarily have to be the point guard in order to be the facilitator. 
 
"Anytime I make a selection, whether it's one or 30, you're looking for talent, character, fit," Colangelo said Monday, remaining mum on a specific player.  
 
Fultz traveled from Maryland to the Sixers' training complex in Camden, New Jersey, Saturday as trade talks heated up. He arrived wearing his own Sixers hat, later posting a photo of himself entering the training complex on Instagram. He also posed for a picture with Simmons, Embiid and Robert Covington following his workout. This image set off a social media frenzy as the group gave a glimpse into what the Sixers' future could look like.

"It would be great," Fultz said Saturday of playing for the Sixers. "Get up and down. They're big on defense, so I think the tools that I have to be a defensive player will help them get out in transition. I'm a pretty good shot blocker for a point guard, so I think helping them with that, everything will pretty much help with that."
 
The Sixers got Fultz at a relatively low price considering they kept No. 1 protections on the pick they traded. The Celtics will receive the 2018 Lakers' pick if it falls between Nos. 2 and 5. If that does not convey, the Celtics will receive the more favorable of the Sixers' and the Kings' first-round picks in 2019, as long as the better pick is not No. 1. If one of those picks in 2019 are first overall, the Celtics will get the less favorable of the two. 
 
With all these conditions, the Sixers have protected themselves from a "2013 Celtics-Nets trade" situation. That's how all of this was possible in the first place from the Celtics' side. 

Fultz is the missing piece to round out the Sixers' backcourt and foundational core. Expect them to target veterans in free agency to provide leadership for this young core. 

What is Fultz's biggest fit, though?

Perhaps the fact he thought he came up with the phrase "trust the process."

With limited roster spots, Sixers unlikely to use all 4 2nd-round picks

With limited roster spots, Sixers unlikely to use all 4 2nd-round picks

The Sixers have four second-round picks in tonight's NBA draft. It is unlikely they use all of them, and if they do, it’s not without trying to make moves. 
 
The Sixers are slated to select at Nos. 36, 39, 46 and 50. The biggest hurdle: there’s not enough room on the roster to draft and keep all of those picks.

“You’re talking about limited roster spots,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Monday. “When you include the No. 1 selection, it might be two or three spots that are in question. You look at pick No. 36 and say, ‘Is anyone on the board that could possibly crack the rotation?’ It’s unlikely, but if that presents an opportunity to select someone that we have some confidence in, sometimes players do slide through that first round and you get surprised.”
 
The team has been open about their interest in moving some of the picks for a while now. Back in May at the draft combine, Colangelo said, “It's not to say we're going to make four selections in the second round.” 
 
The Sixers have several options with those picks, for which they have received interest. One route could be packaging the picks to move up in the draft. TNT’s David Aldridge reported the Sixers were offering picks 36 and 39 to get into the 20s (see story)
 
“You could potentially package them (second-round picks) and move up to have a later first-round pick that potentially is a better fit for the current fit for the current roster,” Colangelo said Monday. “Maybe a sure fit as opposed to someone that could just be a question mark at 36.”
 
There is a strong chance the Sixers could use the pick (or picks) for a draft-and-stash situation, similar to what happened when they acquired Dario Saric, wherein a player remains with their international team for now. Last year, the Sixers selected Furkan Korkmaz at No. 26. He played in Turkey this past season and may not join the Sixers until his existing contract is up. The Sixers spent time in Europe visiting Korkmaz and also watched prospective talent while there.  
 
Other possibilities include trading out of this draft with those picks or packing them in a deal to move a current player.

In the case the Sixers use some or all of the picks, they have been hosting pre-draft workouts with projected second-round and undrafted players over the past few weeks at their training complex. 
 
“What we are doing is lining up options and alternatives for those picks and for those selections,” Colangelo said. “We want to be prepared as we are on the clock. The two-minute mark moves fast and we are going to have multiple decisions to make on draft night.”