On the Beat | At No. 1, Colangelo Expects to Find Talent, Fit, Character

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CAMDEN – Best available player, or best fit?

The question has come to represent the classic philosophical draft debate, especially in respect to blue-chip prospects.

What if, though, a rare opportunity surfaced that would allow you to satisfy both aims with a single pick? Would you do whatever it took to put your franchise in such an enviable, desirable position?

Thanks to Monday’s landscape-changing trade with the Boston Celtics, Bryan Colangelo has turned this precise trick, now that the Sixers have jumped up to the top spot in Thursday’s draft. The club will subsequently have an uncontested shot at the player it deems to be its best match, on multiple fronts.

“Anytime I make a selection, whether it’s one or 30, you’re looking for talent, character, fit,” Colangelo said during a Monday press conference announcing the swap with Boston.

Specific to this year’s draft, and not always the norm, the No. 1 slot, per Colangelo, will set the Sixers up to “probably address everything [talent, character, fit] in one selection.”

Why does the two-time NBA Executive of the Year value these qualities so much? He views them as ingredients essential to laying the foundation for a sustained, successful, championship-contending winner.

Having identified several potential All-Stars and franchise-caliber players in this year’s draft, Colangelo wanted to leave nothing to chance.

“At No. 1, you control it,” said Colangelo, “and I would rather always control that decision rather than sit back and wait for everything to fall into place.”

Monday, Colangelo wasn’t inclined to name names when asked about whom the Sixers might be zeroing in on at No. 1. He was, though, willing to speak in generalities about the first part of the “talent-character-fit” equation, as it pertained to this year’s draft.

“There are multiple players in this top five or six that all have really great skillsets,” Colangelo said.

And not just any skills, but those that mesh with the vision Brett Brown has had for the Sixers since he started coaching them in 2013. To him, defense, pace, and space make the world go round. Colangelo is on board with this approach, and plans to use Thursday’s top pick to advance Brown’s cause.

“I know Brett likes to ‘check off boxes’ – it’s something that we all do,” said Colangelo. “You want well-rounded players that fit what you’re doing. I think that we have several in the top five or six that could’ve fit a certain way and help us along.”

So, not only does Colangelo expect to land the right talent at No. 1, but an ideal fit, too.

Along those lines, in the immediate aftermath of the 2016-2017 season, Colangelo and Brown both made it known that surrounding their young, promising core with reliable shooters would be one of the Sixers’ chief priorities moving forward. The reason? Presuming full health next year, the team could roll out a line-up with Joel Embiid anchoring the middle, Ben Simmons initiating the offense, and Dario Saric doing a little bit of everything from the four spot.

Bolstering the Sixers’ stable of 3-point threats would bring coveted, dangerous balance to the roster, and allow the club to space the floor that much more effectively.

Colangelo, however, sounded as if he wouldn’t allow this need to influence his decision-making with Thursday’s first pick.

“At some point, we are going to make an announcement where we feel like we are going to be adding the best player and the best fit,” Colangelo said, “and if he’s not the best shooter we will work to make him the best shooter.”

Should a situation like the one outlined above pan out, Colangelo is comfortable falling back on a coaching staff that has proven it can develop and improve players, whether with shooting, or in other areas.

“A lot of players come to the league and they are unrefined basketball-wise,” said Colangelo, “and we spend a lot of time on player development for that reason.”

Also relevant, and intriguing, in relation to the “fit” of this year’s eventual top pick is how he might ultimately pair with his predecessor in the draft, Simmons, the No. 1 from 2016. Heading into the off-season, the Sixers made no secret about their intent to test out the 6-foot-10, 245-pounder as a primary ball-handler.

This mission, according to Colangelo, won’t entice the Sixers to press for fit over talent.

“Ben Simmons has incredible skill,” said Colangelo. “He’s got size, power and he’s got great vision and feel. He’s a facilitator, he’s a playmaker. I have always said I don’t care what we call him ‘point guard’, ‘point forward’, we can call him ‘point center’. I don’t care. To me, he’s going to be on the floor using his versatility to make another player on the court better.”

A quality that should only stand to benefit whomever the Sixers grab first Thursday.

“There are targets in this draft that will fit into that because they are also facilitators, they also have good vision,” Colangelo said. “They also know how to play and make others better and can find ways to score when no opportunities come. I think it’s safe to say we are in the position to draft someone that’s going to complement Ben’s skillset.”

Who that is, we’ll all know soon enough. In the meantime, what is clear is that Colangelo, through words and actions alike, believes a match worth moving up for is out there.


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