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CHICAGO - They probably weren't the main topic of conversation during the NBA predraft combine last week in the Windy City, but the 76ers' situation certainly was at the forefront of a lot of talk. With the hiring of Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager, more questions seemed to have come about than answers.
"Who is making the basketball decisions right now?" asked one league executive.
When told it was Hinkie, known for his analytics expertise, he replied: "Don't they have a basketball guy helping out in some ways?"
When it was offered that Hinkie and majority owner Josh Harris were possibly relying on the expertise of Rod Thorn - though now in an advisory role - and others in the front office, another executive responded, "I don't think they are leaning on Rod Thorn as much as they should or he wants and I heard there still might be changes to the front office."
Questions, questions, questions. And that doesn't even touch on the one that I proposed to almost every executive I talked to, which was: "If you were the Sixers, would you sign Andrew Bynum?" Most responded with non-too-specific general answers, while one said: "I don't think there's any way they can't try to sign him. If they don't, the franchise could be set back for at least a few years."
And what of the head-coaching position? The hot names that are out there have been said over and over and over again - from Mike Malone to Fred Hoiberg to Kelvin Sampson to Nate McMillan to Larry Drew to Michael Curry and everyone in between. Said yet another league executive: "I hear the coaching search isn't at the top of their list right now. I hear they're concentrating on other areas and will address the coaching vacancy after a couple of weeks."
Some may be right on point, some way off. Somewhere in between are probably the answers as to what is going on with the Sixers, and the coming weeks will tell us a lot. There certainly will be players coming in for workouts, perhaps more front-office moves and probably contact with potential coaches.
What we do know is that Hinkie and Thorn and scout Gene Shue and director of player personnel Courtney Witte were all in Chicago to look at the players showcasing their talents and to interview somewhere around 20 of those players as they try to tighten up the list of whom they may take with their picks. The first is now slotted for No. 11 in the first round. Tomorrow is the draft lottery, where a slew of pingpong balls may or may not change the Sixers' current slot.
It would take just short of a miracle for the Sixers to move far off that 11 spot, so eyeing who they may be interested in is a pretty safe endeavor. Hinkie has indicated that there are two areas - a legitimate center and backup point guard - he'd like to see the team address. In keeping with that, here's a look at some news concerning possible candidates for that 11th pick:
* Rudy Gobert, from France, is an interesting prospect. He measured at 7-2, with a 7-8 1/2 wingspan, and had a standing reach of 9-7, easily the highest reach at the combine. Louisville's Gorgi Dieng was next at 9-3 1/2. Gobert is thin at 235 and the dreaded words that surround him are "project" and "potential." In a draft that is very weak on players who will make an immediate impact, "project" and "potential" is practically the theme.
* Cody Zeller from Indiana was projected by many to be available for the Sixers at 11, but he may have moved himself out of that position after impressing at the combine. The 7-foot Zeller had a standing vertical jump of 35.5 inches, which was the highest ever recorded by a player taller than 6-9. A player who can run the floor and has tremendous athleticism, Zeller seemed to help himself as much as anyone.
* As for the point-guard spot, Miami's Shane Larkin showed some pretty good shooting ability on Thursday and wowed with a 44-inch vertical leap. His quickness has always been his strong point and being a very good pick-and-roll player is a big plus for the NBA. But he is just 5-11 and weighed in at under 165 pounds. He will most definitely be there for the Sixers at 11, should they choose.
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: From the archive, a 1985 story by Mark Whicker about Hank Nichols, now a Hall of Fame basketball referee.