NEW YORK – Are the 76ers putting themselves in good position to be the Eastern Conference's elite team once the Cleveland Cavaliers slide?
"Definitely," center Joel Embiid said at Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery after the Sixers were awarded the third pick in the June 22 draft.
"I think we're building up at the right time and when we start getting good that's when Cleveland and LeBron (James) will start going down. I think when it is all said and done and we actually mature and are ready to compete for a championship, I think we'll be great."
Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are the cornerstones of the Sixers. The team acquired Embiid and Saric in the 2014 draft. They made their NBA debuts this season.
Embiid missed his first two seasons because of right foot surgeries. Then he played in 31 games this season before having season-ending left knee surgery.
Meanwhile, Saric spent the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons playing professionally in Turkey. Nowadays, he and Embiid are leading candidates to win rookie of the year.
Simmons was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. He was sidelined this season because of a fractured foot. The Sixers are in position to add another cornerstone in this draft to help take them to the next level.
They finished 28-54 this season, by far their best campaign in four years.
"I think next year is going to be a great year," Embiid said. "We will have expectations to make the playoffs, and I am excited about that.
"When I say we are going to be ready to win when the Cavs are going down, that doesn't mean five years. Next year, I think we are going to be ready to win."
He added it's a matter of learning how to play with each other to become a title contender.