Sixers stay put in lottery, have 11th pick in draft

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Sixers stay put in lottery, have 11th pick in draft

NEW YORK -- No one from the Sixers’ camp was too excited about showing up at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square for the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night.

After all, who wants to go to the prom designed specifically for the guys without dates?

Worse, the mood at the swanky midtown hotel was one of resignation. An invitation to the NBA draft lottery is the ultimate proof that the season was a bust. For the Sixers, who were perfectly mediocre in 2012-13, the trip to New York was doubly frustrating. Not only did the team have virtually no chance in grabbing one of the top three picks in next month’s draft, but they also were all but assured to lock into where they finished the season.

So with the ping-pong balls working against them and the odds too fat to deny, the Sixers will have the No. 11 overall pick in the June draft.

The Sixers had a 90.74 percent chance to get the 11th pick, compared to .80 percent chance to win the lottery, a .95 percent chance to get the second pick and a 1.15 percent chance for the No. 3 pick.

Maybe they would have been better off buying a Powerball ticket …

Or making the playoffs.

“We had a small probability of being super happy and a small probability of being slightly sad,” Sixers’ managing owner Josh Harris said. “We’re neither. We’re right where we were expected to be.”

Nevertheless, one item on the Sixers’ summertime to-do list has been checked off. Now that the team knows where it will be picking in the draft, it can prepare for which player it wants to take. That should be a whole lot easier than some of the seemingly more important tasks.

After hiring Sam Hinkie to be the president and general manager, the Sixers need to hire a new coach. They also need to develop a plan for free agency and decide whether or not Andrew Bynum fits into the team’s future plans.

So at the loser’s prom, the Sixers took a step.

“I don’t want to comment on Bynum specifically, but it’s all interrelated,” Harris said. “Over the next weeks and months we’re going to get more articulate about our strategy. Sam has been here for a week and he’ll be speaking about our basketball strategy. It’s all interrelated. All of this stuff has to be focused on building a winner. Every decision you make has multiple affects on every other decision.”

Still, Harris is in no hurry to hire a basketball coach. Though the draft is next month and free agency begins shortly after that, followed by summer league and then training camp, the Sixers are being very deliberate in the search for Doug Collins’ successor.

“It’s an important decision,” Harris said. “If you get the right coach really fast, that’s better. But at the end of the day, you want the right coach. We’re not putting a deadline on it. It doesn't work to your advantage because the reality is we have a lot of talented coaches on the staff right now. Some of them have been head coaches, so we’re trying to get the right coach, not to get a coach quickly.”

Hinkie is running the show when it comes to hiring the new coach. He is also putting together the plan in regard to what to do in the draft and everything else that follows.

That’s a lot of work for a team that has a lot of needs, but Harris will lean heavily on Hinkie.

“I feel great with Sam’s hand at the helm of this thing,” Harris said. “We’re very like-minded, he’s very smart and he’s always working. I get texts from him at one in the morning and six in the morning. He’s all over it, and I feel good that we’re going to make good decisions.”

Of course, those decisions should have one minor goal at the fore. And that’s to never return to the NBA Draft Lottery any time soon.

Jahlil Okafor's Duke network helping him through up-and-down season

Jahlil Okafor's Duke network helping him through up-and-down season

Jahlil Okafor’s second season in the NBA has been one of learning, marked by injuries, trade talks and DNPs. Throughout these shifting uncertainties, he had a constant foundation: his fellow Duke players.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Okafor said. “We’re all friends, we’re all a family.”

From those who burst onto the scene to those who struggled to veterans who have seen it all, Okafor has a network of players who already have been through the ups and downs of the league. Even though Okafor competed for only one year at the college level, he got to know many of them while he was coming up the ranks in high school. He formed a stronger bond once he got to the pros.

“He always knows I’m one phone call away no matter what,” Kyrie Irving said. 

Okafor began his second year dealing with a knee injury that held him out most of preseason action. When he got back into the mix, the Sixers looked to determine his place in a logjammed frontcourt.

Minutes were more available at the five-spot when Nerlens Noel was sidelined for the first 23 games of the season. Once all four centers (including Richaun Holmes) were healthy, it was Noel who found himself the odd man out of the rotation. Then the Sixers tried experimenting with a “twin towers” starting lineup of Embiid and Okafor. That pairing didn’t pan out and roles changed.

The Sixers narrowed their roster to a 10-man rotation with Noel as the defensive leader in the second unit. Okafor, for the most part, got the start when Embiid did not play because of back-to-backs or injuries, and was a DNP otherwise.

That situation changed again when the Sixers sat Okafor recently for two games as he was involved in trade discussions. Okafor did not travel with the Sixers for their Feb. 13 contest in Charlotte and rejoined them in Boston for their Feb. 15 game when a deal did not transpire. 

Okafor has a long list of players he can ask about these trying scenarios.

“I get help from all those guys,” Okafor said. “I can look to any one of [them] for advice.”

Former Blue Devil Austin Rivers has been in Okafor’s situation when it comes to decreased playing time. The 2012 10th overall pick had troubles carving out a role early on with the Pelicans. He dealt with injuries and was hit with DNPs when the team added more guards to the mix. Now in his fifth season, he has established a spot on the Clippers. 

“It’s a good thing,” Rivers said of the challenges. “If you’re truly a good player and a competitor, it’ll breed maturity and a level of respect and hard work. It’s a humbling experience. It’s the best thing for you; it’s the best thing that happened to me. I went through struggles to come back a better player and person. I think it’s the same thing he’s doing now. He’ll appreciate it.”

Irving, formerly the first overall pick, didn’t struggle with his role with the Cavaliers. He was a focal point from the start and had become a three-time All-Star and NBA champion by the end of his fifth season. Because of this, Okafor looks to Irving for his knowledge of managing the spotlight.

“Guys have to go through what they go through just to build character, build whatever they need, that armor, to deal with what this NBA life entails. It comes with a lot,” Irving said. “It’s just patience. Despite what's going on in the outside world, you’ve got to remain calm and give everything you have to this game of basketball.”

Last season, Okafor established a mentor relationship with Elton Brand when the 17-year veteran signed with the Sixers in January of Okafor’s rookie year. Okafor still speaks with Brand, who became a player development consultant for the Sixers, on a weekly basis for guidance.

This season, he has another veteran Duke player in the locker room. Gerald Henderson got to know Okafor before they played together on the Sixers. Henderson was on campus completing his degree when Okafor was there ahead of his freshman season. The two spent time together then, and Henderson continues to look out for him now as a teammate.

“I was around him a lot, working out with the team, seeing how good of a kid he was,” Henderson said, also adding, “It’s a man’s league. It’s not like you’ve got to hold somebody’s hand through something. Jah’s a man in himself. But at the same time, I’m always checking on him, seeing how he’s doing, make sure he’s not down, make sure he’s still getting his work in and focusing on the right things.”

The trade deadline is two days away.

Whether Okafor remains in a Sixers jersey or puts on a new uniform, the one he wore in college always will be a part of his journey through the NBA.

“It’s bigger than basketball,” Okafor said. 

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Another team has emerged in Jahlil Okafor trade talks: the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers are pursuing Okafor in an attempt to add help for Paul George, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Jeff Goodman and Chris Haynes.

Indiana would make some sense for Okafor because of their style of play. The Pacers rank 25th in the NBA in fastbreak points per game. They're 25th in speed/distance traveled on offense. (The Sixers are first.) 

And Indiana is also in the top-third of the league in post touches and paint touches per game. 

Al Jefferson, a plodding post player Okafor is often compared to, averages 8.5 points for the Pacers this season and has played in every game.

What might the Pacers be willing to part with?

Thaddeus Young would be a solid return, but it's hard to see the Pacers doing that because it wouldn't make them a better team.

C.J. Miles? Probably not. The guy's an elite three-point shooter.

Forget about Myles Turner, one of the best young bigs in the NBA. 

A trade that might make sense for both teams would be Monta Ellis and a 2017 first-round pick for Okafor. (Before you continue reading, just know I'm not advocating for such a deal, just bringing up the possibility.)

Ellis has fallen out of favor in Indiana, playing six fewer minutes per game than he did the last two years. And as a 31-year-old, undersized two-guard who's long struggled from three-point range, he's not the most efficient player. He's also owed $23 million the next two seasons.

The Sixers could use additional scoring, but could do better than Ellis in free agency. This theoretical trade would really be about the first-round pick.

If the season ended today, the Pacers (29-28) would get the 18th overall pick. In that regard, the pick coming back wouldn't be much different than what they could have received from New Orleans before the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

The Sixers seemed unwilling to take on the contracts of Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca in a trade with New Orleans because, even though they have salary cap flexibility, they don't want to limit their payroll for multiple future seasons. The same would likely be true with Ellis, even though he'd fill more of a need.

Okafor for Miles would be a good trade for the Sixers. So would Okafor for Young. But again, neither deal would make Indiana better in the short term, so it's probably a pipe dream.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.