NEW YORK - The 76ers appear to be stuck on three. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
They finished third in the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night for the second consecutive season and the fourth time overall.
"If you look at [general manager Sam Hinkie's] draft record, you have to feel pretty good," said Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil. "You look at guys around the league who were drafted around there."
O'Neil pointed out that Oklahoma City selected James Harden third while Golden State picked Steph Curry seventh in the 2009 draft. Curry was the MVP this season. Harden, who now plays for the Houston Rockets, was the runner-up.
"We've got [Joel Embiid] coming back," O'Neil said. "We've got a really improved Nerlens [Noel]. Next year, we've got four first-round picks and [Dario] Saric. So you've got a pretty exciting story here."
Finishing third, the Sixers should still be able to fulfill a major need: drafting a lead guard to play with post players Embiid and Noel.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who had the league's worst record (16-66) and a 25 percent chance of winning, became the first last-place team to win the lottery since the Orlando Magic in 2004. The Los Angeles Lakers finished second. The Knicks (fourth), Magic (fifth) and Sacramento Kings rounded out the top six.
The Sixers had hoped to win the Lakers' and Miami Heat's first-round picks as well.
The Lakers had to finish out of the top five for that to happen, while the Heat had to finish worse than 10th. Miami was 10th.
For good luck, CEO Scott O'Neil had two folded two-dollar bills and a four-leaf clover coin in his wallet at the hotel. Noel, who was the team's on-stage representative, had a blue-and-white Sixers jersey stitched inside his blazer. Hinkie bought one a coin loaned to him from one of his children.
Kentucky power forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke center Jahlil Okafor could be the first two picks. If so, Ohio State combo guard D'Angelo Russell and Chinese Basketball Association point guard Emmanuel Mudiay - the other headliners of the draft - would be available for the Sixers.
There's a thought among several league executives that the franchise wants to use the pick on Russell.
"I think it's too early now," Hinkie said of the Sixers' selection. "This time of year, everyone gets away to what one mock draft or another says. And other time, that doesn't appear to be true very much. Let's sort of see how things go."
Attending the lottery were Towns, Russell, Okafor, Mudiay, Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Kelly Oubre (Kansas), Frank Kaminisky (Wisconsin), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Myles Turner (Texas), Justise Winslow (Duke) and Tyus Jones (Duke).
Mudiay and Russell were asked about the possibility of playing for the Sixers.
"That's definitely my style of play," Mudiay said. "But I don't what team I'm going to yet."
Russell, who has relationships with both Noel and Embiid, knows that there has been a lot of chatter about being the Sixers' targeted player.
"If I end up there it would be a blessing," he said. "I know I would make the best of the situation. So I am ready for it."
But Russell also said you never know what will ultimately happen.
"I don't know what they want or need," he said. "I know they need a wing, a guard, whatnot. I would be blessed to play for any team in the NBA and I am looking forward to it."