Trading away a pick in the most coveted area of the draft seems almost inconceivable for Sixers fans, particularly after all the franchise has gone through to obtain their prized selections. But the constant media barking of Bryan and Jerry Colangelo is beginning to kick up some speculation on how the Sixers may decide to move forward.
NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper framed combine comments from the younger Colangelo like so:
The new president of basketball operations of the 76ers sent a strong signal Thursday that Philadelphia may look to trade a top-five pick if it ends up with two when the lottery order is determined next week, telling NBA.com, 'We'll certainly be open for business.'
'It's hard to put a number or a value on degree of aggressiveness, but we'll certainly be open for business and listening to whatever is there. I think any time you have certain assets on the table in front of you, you need to determine what your best strategic move is, and some of that is yet to be determined. To what degree we'll be aggressive, it's too early to say.'
That's far from an outright claim on the team's plans for their own pick (and the possibility of the Lakers pick) but it is a departure from previous years nonetheless. The franchise is more concerned about communicating every step of their thinking to the public than they were even a year ago, and the rampant speculation surrounding personnel moves can at least be attached to actual words from the front office.
If you feel a churning in your stomach about the idea of giving up coveted draft picks for veterans, I don't think it's time yet. I'm as fierce an advocate as anyone for building through the top of the draft, period, but rigidness in team-building philosophy is the cardinal sin, regardless of who's running the show.
Perhaps no principle was more important to the previous regime than flexibility. Under Sam Hinkie's guidance, the Sixers were interested in keeping every option available to them in the long-term; the preservation of cap space, accumulation of picks to use or trade, even the revolving door of bench players shuffling through exemplified this core philosophy.
Of course, their use of their highest-value picks was the most inflexible practice, leading to a parade of non-fitting, best-available bigs down Broad Street. Still, you can see the logic of taking the highest-rated player on the board and figuring it out later from a flexibility perspective. Other teams knowing you'll probably have to trade players to fix a logjam isn't a good spot to be in, but it's more inflexible to have players no one else values (insert joke about the rest of the roster here).
Therein lies the problem with panicking about the possibility of trading one of this year's top selections. There's a certain level of entitlement to one of the draft's top prizes after a year's worth of suffering, but should Lady Luck frown on the Sixers they will not be in the best spot to acquire a superstar talent outright. The drop off after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram is real, leaving the Sixers with a cadre of middling options should they fail to end up with a top-two pick.
If the Sixers have the third or fourth pick instead, I don't think the possibility of a trade is completely crazy. There are obvious parameters, of course; I'm not departing with a pick like that for a rejuvenation project like Derrick Rose or a good, not great player like most of the guys comprising the Celtics Pu pu platter of a roster, but if packaged as part of a deal for a player like Russell Westbrook? You bet I'm in.
Dismissing possibility is something we've railed against as a site for a long time, and it's not a practice I intend to start now. The fan base had a lot more trust in the front office and ownership a few months ago, but a regime change on its own isn't enough to hem and haw about abandoned principles yet. The concept of assets being packaged for a more immediate chance at a star was always hovering around The Process, and that doesn't change because a new face is out in front.
We can rip the team without it turning into, "Everything they do and say is bad!" If Colangelo and Son execute a poor trade involving top draft picks, I will be the man out in front with the biggest torch and pitchfork you can imagine. However, rejecting things like, "listening to whatever is there" is the exact sort of stupidity I couldn't stand applied to Hinkie's regime. Great franchises are open to ideas of all kinds, and the mere act of admitting that is not an indictment of Bryan Colangelo or the Sixers thought process.
If the Sixers end up with the top pick and nothing more, movement of their pick is unlikely to be a concern. But even if they're put in a position where it becomes more likely, let's evaluate the transactions themselves instead of freaking out about theoretical missteps.