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76ers approach NBA Draft as first step of 2024-25 roster reload

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers’ season ended early, on their home floor for the third time in four years, with superstar Joel Embiid hobbled and running on fumes.

Chief of basketball operations Daryl Morey dutifully said that “all options are on the table” to prevent the next disappointing rerun, rattling off the usual list of possibilities: The two-day NBA draft that begins Wednesday, free agency that starts Sunday, and his favorite, trades.

The Sixers’ true intentions will begin to be known when the draft begins and Morey either trades the 16th and 41st picks to find a proven piece for the starting rotation or hangs in and chooses a prospect. Zach Edey, anyone?

“Immediate help probably never comes in the draft,” Morey said. “In fact, there’s really only like something less than 10 but greater than five players picked in the range we’re picking in that are good in the first year. That said we don’t really focus on the draft for help now. I do really love (No.) 16. The storylines have been that the draft is worse (this year). I don’t really see that at all. Actually, I’m very excited about who’s at 16.”

Edey is the 7-foot-4 pivot who averaged 29 points and 12 rebounds to spark Purdue to the NCAA Tournament championship game. Edey scored 37 points in the title game against Donovan Clingan (7-2, 282), the UConn sophomore likely to be a top-five pick, along with teammate Stephon Castle, a 6-6 guard. Edey averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds in the regular season and 29.5 points and 14.5 boards in the NCAA tournament.

The Sixers have shown interest in freshmen point guards Isaiah Collier (6-3, 205) of USC and Jared McCain (6-2, 203) of Duke, per reports.

Collier averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 assists, 2.9 boards and 1.5 steals for the Trojans. McCain is a shooter who scored 30 or more points twice in the NCAA tournament and made 42.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. He’s a better decision maker and a safer pick than Collier.

Then again, Morey is dedicated to building around Embiid, now 30, and guard Tyrese Maxey. Morey mentioned two other players under contract, backup big man Paul Reed and guard Ricky Council IV, as being part of the immediate 2024-25 plan.

“There’s going to be a lot of change,” Morey said. “Except for Nick Nurse, Joel and Tyrese and Paul and Ricky, we don’t know for sure who’s going to be back next year. But we’re mostly going to be a veteran laden team.”

Veteran laden, as Morey said, would suggest trade or free-agent acquisitions. The Sixers have around $55.5 million to work with, although that figure could expand to $65 million if they don’t retain their others. Morey would likely have to trade picks to obtain a piece to the puzzle. Among the possibilities are Brandon Ingram of the Pelicans, who averaged 21 points in the regular season but flopped in the playoffs, making just 34.5 percent of his shots and scoring at a 14.3 clip. The Sixers reportedly were contacted by the Pelicans, who are shopping Ingram.

There is Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat, who teamed with Embiid to get the Sixers within a Kawhi Leonard miracle of the NBA finals in 2019. Butler reportedly wants out of Miami and a max contract. He turns 35 before next season.

Other trade targets could be guard Alex Caruso, who averaged 10 points, four rebounds and 3.5 assists for the Bulls; guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who averaged 8.0 points in the regular season and 7.3 in the payoffs for the Timberwolves; and shooter Corey Kispert (13.4 points), who is stuck on the Wizards.

Or the Sixers could trade back in the draft for future capital or move out of the first round completely and take a stab at free agency.

The worst kept secret is their interest in veteran guard Paul George, who wants a max contract and is coveted by a handful of teams, including last year’s employer, the Clippers.

The Sixers could take a shot at versatile swing-forward OG Anunoby, who burned them in the playoffs with the Knicks. Anunoby, 26, averaged 15.1 points and six rebounds in the playoffs, above his career average while defending Maxey and Kelly Oubre as well as Embiid. The Knicks were 19-3 this season with Anunoby, who reportedly will opt out of a contract worth $19.9 million in 2024-25.

Judging by the buzz about the Sixers, Morey is turning over every stone. Sixers fans will have a better picture once the draft is over.

Make no mistake, this is an interesting lottery with no consensus first pick. Some say the Hawks, who hold the top pick, will select 19-year-old Zaccharie Risacher, a 6-8 wing from Spain. Others say it will be Alex Sarr, the athletic French seven-footer. The Hawks also like Clingan, so a trade is possible.

The Sixers don’t have that sort of flexibility. But they have cap room in a new era where exceeding the second-tier apron of the salary cap results in significant limitations. Morey is leaving all options open.

“There was a time when jump shooting teams couldn’t win,” Morey said. “Recently you couldn’t have bigs and win. Now the story is you have to have bigs to win. The reality is you need very good players, better players than your opponents.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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