While he won't reveal what his plans are for Thursday's draft, Sixers president/general manager Rod Thorn said that when it comes to drafting players and making deals, he relies upon a formula.

"Essentially, you draft for talent and you trade for need," Thorn said.

The Sixers go into the draft optimistic that they can improve with the 15th, 45th, and 54th picks.

After a full meeting with coaches and scouts Thursday, Thorn said the team's biggest needs are to become bigger and more athletic across the front line and to add a shooter. He would not, however, say which players the team was targeting with its first-round pick.

Thorn said that when it comes to making selections, the Sixers' approach is that they will always choose talent before they look to fill a need.

"It's clear to me that if someone has more talent and has a bigger upside than someone else who might fill that need, you take the guy with the bigger upside," said Thorn, who continues to conduct daily operations for the team while ownership is looking for his replacement. "It's very difficult to pass that up."

Like most teams, the Sixers view the draft in tiers. At the top, and by himself in talent and upside, is Kentucky's 6-foot-10 power forward, Anthony Davis. The 19-year-old has a freakish 7-foot-5 wingspan, and some have predicted that he could grow to become a dominant 7-footer.

There is a drop-off from Davis to the next four or five players. Then, according to Thorn, the next 15 or so picks are all very close in terms of talent.

"Let's take out the first five," Thorn said. "After that it's kind of like beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Someone may be drafted from 15 to 20 that could turn out to be as good as someone drafted from 6 to 14. We don't see a lot of difference."

Just like last offseason, forward Andre Iguodala is connected to more trade rumors than any of his teammates. The 28-year-old forward has been mentioned in a possible deal involving the Los Angeles Lakers and center/forward Pau Gasol, something the Sixers front office will neither confirm nor deny.

The Golden State Warriors, with four picks in the draft (7, 30, 35, and 52), are believed to be interested in adding a veteran small forward capable of playing defense to their starting lineup, and naturally Iguodala's name has come up. Another lottery team believed to be interested in possibly making a move for Iguodala is the Toronto Raptors, who own the eighth pick in the first round.

Owed more than $30 million over the last two years of his contract, Iguodala, despite being named an all-star this past season for the first time in his eight-year career, saw his scoring average (12.4) fall for the fourth consecutive season. In the playoffs he averaged 12.9 points on just 38.9 percent shooting. He also hit just 58.9 percent of his free throws during the playoffs.

However, according to an Eastern Conference executive with a pick higher than the Sixers', dealing Iguodala may not be in the team's best interest.

"He gives them their defensive identity," said the executive, speaking anonymously. "He's a veteran on a team with a lot of young guys, so that's important. With the success they had this season, I don't know if you really want to trade him for a younger guy and wait to see if he develops into something."

Thursday's draft begins what could be a very active summer for the Sixers. Teams and agents can begin discussing free-agent contracts July 1, and the moratorium on signing deals ends at 12:01 a.m. July 11. The Sixers have about $49 million committed to player contracts. When the salary cap is announced later this summer it is expected to be at or near the number for last season ($58 million).

The Sixers also have the midlevel exception (starting around $5 million) available because they have not exceeded the luxury tax threshold (approximately $70 million) and a veteran exception that is just under $2 million.

Leading scorer Lou Williams and center Spencer Hawes are unrestricted free agents, as is 2011 draft steal Lavoy Allen. With the team hard-pressed for points last season, the departure of Williams could be problematic. Should the Sixers decide to re-sign Williams, they have an advantage over other teams in that they can give him the longest deal possible (five seasons).

Williams hasn't ruled out a return to Philadelphia, but his asking price (believed to be in the $7 million range per season) may be too high. Hawes had a strong start to the season and then missed 27 of 29 games with an Achilles tendon injury, and the Sixers might be inclined to let him walk. Allen will also be looking for more than the $473,000 he made this past season.

Thirteen-year veteran Elton Brand, 33, is scheduled to earn more than $18 million next season in the final year of his contract. The Sixers must decide whether to pay Brand, who averaged a career-low 11.0 points and 7.2 rebounds, or use their amnesty clause on him. Amnesty allows a team to pay one player's salary without having it count toward the team's salary cap, while he plays for another team.

The same executive said that while the Sixers might benefit from the salary cap relief of placing the amnesty clause on Brand (they lose this option one week after free agency begins), they might be better served by keeping him. They would then ultimately have the potential to have more cap space for next summer's significantly better free-agent class (Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Josh Smith).

"I know they like Lavoy Allen, but do they really want to go with him as their front-line power forward?" he said of the Sixers unrestricted free-agent forward. "They have to be careful with that one. "

The Inquirer covers the NBA draft all week. Get multimedia reports at www.philly.com/sixersEndText