With two days to go until Thursday’s draft, Tuesday provided clarity regarding the Sixers’ future moving forward.
News broke last week that presumptive No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was refusing to work out for the Sixers (or any other team), which led to a hot-take-pocalypse suggesting he was trying to force his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. That narrative took a nosedive into oblivion Tuesday morning, as Simmons privately worked out for the Sixers in Philadelphia, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported there was “little chance” that Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, would have agreed to the workout unless the Sixers had promised to take the LSU forward first overall.
Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com confirmed those suspicions shortly thereafter:
This morning Philadelphia 76ers informed camp of Ben Simmons he would be taken No. 1 in NBA Draft, league sources tell @clevelanddotcom.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 21, 2016
Simmons didn’t waste much time winning over fans of his soon-to-be team.
Just as the Simmons high began wearing off, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski gave Sixers fans another hit of positive news:
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 21, 2016
According to Woj, Embiid “has been impressive in his non-contact workouts in recent weeks at the 76ers’ facility, sources said, and the soundness of his problematic right foot should continue to allow him to begin preparations for next season.”
Embiid confirmed Wojnarowski’s report Tuesday afternoon:
And I'm FINALLY BACK on the court!!! Been a long time coming.. Great day to be a Sixer #TrustTheProcess
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) June 21, 2016
Woj reported Embiid is “expected to travel to Las Vegas” for summer league “only to practice with the team,” as the Sixers aren’t planning on allowing him to participate in games. That meshes with what team president Bryan Colangelo told reporters last week:
It’s the question of the day so let me just put it to rest: he will not play summer league basketball. … What he will do is join the team in Las Vegas, be with our coaches, be around that team environment again, which is very important that we start to acclimate him to being in that team environment again. So he’ll do some controlled scrimmaging, some controlled situations, drill work with everybody in Las Vegas.
Though it’s mildly disappointing that Embiid won’t make his debut in a Sixers uniform until this fall, it makes perfect sense for the team to tread extra cautiously with him. There’s no sense in risking another setback in a meaningless summer league game, despite the desire to whet fans’ appetite.
With the No. 1 pick debate reportedly put to rest and Embiid continuing to progress toward making his NBA debut, the focus now turns to Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. While speaking with reporters Tuesday, Colangelo said the Sixers were “still working” on resolving their frontcourt logjam “every day,” adding, “We’re not going to make a bad deal so we’re going to do everything we can to make the right choice if we decide to ultimately move one. We’ll try to make the right deal for the organization.”
Both Okafor and Noel have surfaced in trade rumors in recent days, with both having been linked to the Boston Celtics. CSNNE.com’s Gary Tanguay reported Monday that trade talks between the Sixers and Celtics was heating up, as “Philly really wants [Providence point guard Kris] Dunn.” Tanguay added that Okafor was involved in those discussions. HoopsCritic.com’s Brian Geltzeiler, meanwhile, reported Tuesday that Noel is the “Celtics’ trade target.”
The odds remain strong that either Okafor or Noel will be on a different team come Friday morning, particularly if the Sixers do go ahead and choose Simmons at No. 1 overall. Brace yourself for an eventful next two days.