CHICAGO – A different vibe is surrounding the 76ers at this season’s NBA draft combine.
In seasons past, the team sought a top lottery pick to help build around. But after having their best season since 2000-01, the Sixers no longer need to draft a building block. The focus is on getting players who will mesh well with cornerstones Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons via the draft and/or free agency.
So the team’s representatives remained here after the NBA lottery Tuesday to interview some of the top prospects for the draft, which will be held June 21. The four-day combine officially began Wednesday with player interviews. The majority of prospects will participate in on-court drills Thursday and Friday.
Duke power forward Marvin Bagley III, Michigan State power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., Texas center and Westtown School product Mohamed Bamba, Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, Missouri small forward Michael Porter Jr., and Villanova small forward Mikal Bridges are among the top draft prospects expected to participate in at least the team interview portion. Bagley and Bridges are not scheduled to speak to the media.
Bridges will be joined by Villanova teammates Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman. DiVincenzo and Spellman can both return to school because they have not hired agents. However, it’s not certain that they will return to college. Both players could help their draft stock with good showings at the combine.
The Sixers were awarded the 10th overall pick during the lottery. They’ll also select 26th overall and have four second-round picks: Nos. 38, 39, 56, and 60.
Several mock drafts have the Sixers selecting Bridges with the 10th pick.
The all-American would fit perfectly in coach Brett Brown’s system. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound swingman is a multi-dimensional defensive standout and a solid three-point shooter (43.5 percent) this past season. He also averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 32.1 minutes this season.
Bridges’ mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is a global vice president of human resources at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which includes in its portfolio the Sixers.
The Sixers will have a lot of options involving the 10th and 26th picks. One option is using the 26th pick on a player they will stash overseas. A second option would be trading both picks to acquire a player from another team or to move up in the draft.
Philly finished the regular season 52-30, its best record since finishing 56-26 in 2000-01. The Sixers finished third in the Eastern Conference. They also concluded the regular season with 16 straight wins, setting a league record for the most consecutive victories to end a season.
The Sixers made their first postseason appearance since 2012, losing four games to one to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.