NEW YORK – On Tuesday, Elton Brand was asked about pressure.
A reporter wanted to know if the 76ers general manager felt pressure leading up to his first NBA draft in his new role.
“There is definitely much more pressure than making the recommendation,” said Brand, who before Sept. 19 was the Sixers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats.
"Last year I was just like, 'Yes this guy can shoot, I saw him in L.A. He has a change of motion. He can get to the rim. He has a short neck like me, but is really taller.’ Just whatever it is.
“But now I am making that call, so there is the pressure to get it right, especially with the trajectory of our team."
The Sixers have the 24th overall pick and four second-round selections – Nos. 33, 34, 42, and 54 – in the draft Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
College veterans Cam Johnson (North Carolina), Matisse Thybulle (Washington), Dylan Windler (Belmont), Ty Jerome (Virginia), and Carsen Edwards (Purdue) are among some of the Sixers’ first-round candidates.
The team wants to use the first-round pick on a player who will be able to fit into their eight-man rotation. But Brand talked about still needing young talent despite attempting to make an NBA championship push next season.
“I don’t want to fall off the cliff, either,” Brand said. “I want to have talent in the kettle so they can grow and get better.”
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Aside from All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers haven’t really done that with draft selections, especially first-rounders. It’s too early to judge Zhaire Smith, whom the team acquired in a draft-day trade from the Phoenix Suns last summer.
But while hindsight is indeed 20/20, think about the Sixers’ failed draft picks and the players they passed on over the last six drafts.
In 2013, they acquired Nerlens Noel in a trade after the New Orleans Pelicans selected him with the sixth overall pick. The Sixers also drafted Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11. Four picks later, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo is a three-time All-Star, first-team All-NBA selection, and a favorite to be named league MVP.
Noel was a backup center for the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season, his third team in the league. Carter-Williams had early success, winning the 2013-14 rookie-of-the-year award, but he has mostly struggled since then. He concluded this season as a reserve guard for the Orlando Magic, his sixth NBA team.
In 2015, the Sixers selected Jahlil Okafor third overall instead of Kristaps Porzingis, who went fourth to the New York Knicks. At the time, the Sixers said they didn’t select Porzingis because his agent refused to allow him to work out for the team. But Okafor also didn’t work out for the Sixers, and they still drafted him.
Despite eventually being sidelined with a knee injury, Porzingis was the face of the Knicks before forcing a trade to the Dallas Mavericks. Okafor, meanwhile, is on his third NBA team, the New Orleans Pelicans.
The following summer, the Sixers drafted Simmons first overall, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot 24th, and Furkan Korkmaz 26th.
The Sixers gave up on Luwawu-Cabarrot this past summer, trading him to the Thunder. He concluded the season with the Chicago Bulls, his third team. They declined to pick up Korkmaz’s third-year rookie-scale option of $2.03 million. As a result, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent June 30.
The Sixers passed twice on Pascal Siakam, who went 27th to the Toronto Raptors in 2016. Siakam is a candidate for the NBA’s most improved player.
The Sixers may never get over moving up two spots to select Markelle Fultz first overall in 2017. They got that pick from the Boston Celtics for their No. 3 pick of that draft and the 14th overall pick Thursday. Boston ended up taking Jayson Tatum at No. 3.
The move might go down as the worst trade in Sixers history.
Fultz, who has shooting woes, missed considerable time as a Sixer before being shipped to the Orlando Magic on Feb. 7 for Jonathon Simmons, whom the Sixers are expected to release; a second-round pick; and a 2020 top-20 protected first-rounder. Meanwhile, Tatum is one of the NBA’s elite young talents.
The Sixers also acquired the Raptors’ No. 25 pick in that draft to select Anzejs Pasecniks instead of Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart.
Kuzma is the Los Angeles Lakers’ best young talent. Hart was one of the Lakers’ key reserves before being included in last weekend’s blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis. The Pelicans-Lakers trade will become finalized July 6.
Pasecniks is an unheralded center stashed overseas.
Embiid and Simmons were easy decisions.
In 2014, the Sixers wanted Andrew Wiggins, but he went first to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Milwaukee Bucks picked Jabari Parker second, while the Sixers had no choice but to take Embiid third in what draft analysts described as a three-elite-player draft.
Embiid would have gone first if not for his broken right foot.
It was also a no-brainer to select Simmons, the consensus first overall pick, No. 1 in 2016.
However, the Sixers, with better drafting, wouldn’t have needed to give up key assets in this past season’s trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, who could end up being just rentals.
Harris will become an unrestricted free agent at 6 p.m. June 30. Butler can opt out of the final year of his contract before the June 29 deadline and become a free agent. The Sixers look to re-sign them in free agency.
The team acquired Butler and Justin Patton from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.
In order to get Harris, Boban Marjanovic, and Mike Scott from the Clippers on Feb. 6, the Sixers shipped rookie Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, and four draft picks — including a protected 2020 first-rounder and the unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-rounder.
Marjanovic, Scott, Chandler, and Muscala are all in the final year of their contracts. In essence, the Sixers gave up a great young shooter in Shamet and four draft picks for Harris, who could walk on June 30. Shamet, who was selected 26th, was arguably a steal of last summer’s draft.
He would have been a key reserve for the Sixers, and they wouldn’t have had to part ways with him had they made better picks in the preceding drafts.
The Sixers acquired Saric in a draft-day trade in 2014. While solid, he was more a role-playing reserve for a championship-caliber team than a cornerstone.
Brand will tell you that he’s looking for a tough, hard-nosed, respectful player who wants to get better. The Sixers want to find someone with a high basketball IQ who can play defense and make the right pass.
“Make the shot when you want it,” Brand said of a model Sixer. “A competitor. We want tough, competitors that can think the game.”