Sixers brass heads to Chicago for NBA combine

Posted: June 08, 2012

THE NEXT MONTH or so should be an awfully busy one for the 76ers, and it began Wednesday in Chicago with the NBA Draft Combine, which continues through Friday.

The Sixers have picks 15, 45 and 54 in the June 28 draft, and coach Doug Collins and president Rod Thorn are leading a small group of front-office types in the Windy City evaluating incoming rookies and interviewing potential picks. The combine features 61 prospects.

"We have 18 interviews scheduled [Wednesday through Friday] with players we have some interest in," Sixers president Rod Thorn said Wednesday from Chicago. "Of all the things that are done in the postseason, this is where you get the most information and feel for the people you're interested in."

Following their two-round playoff run, the Sixers have many questions. The biggest is what will happen to starting power forward Elton Brand, who is entering the final year of his hefty contract. The Sixers could look to amnesty Brand, which would mean paying him the $18.16 million he is owed this year and waving him goodbye while taking that amount off their salary cap. If another team chooses to pick up Brand, whatever amount they would pay him would be given back to the Sixers, but the save on salary cap would remain the full $18.16 million.

Could this possibly be the year Andre Iguodala is traded, or did his fine performance in the playoffs convince the team that he is a piece that needs to stay? If so, can he and Evan Turner perform at their highest levels together? Will Lou Williams be offered big money from another team, thus opting out of his final season with the Sixers and move elsewhere? Is there a big trade to be had?

"That's a possibility, you are constantly talking to different teams," Thorn said. "You never know when something may materialize. Those things can come any time."

If Brand is amnestied, is there a premier free agent the team is targeting?

Collins and Thorn are hoping the combine will help them with some of those looming decisions.

"With the 15th, 45th and 54th picks, we're looking at the overall talent but we're also looking at the specifics," Thorn sad. "At 15, we've picked out 10 guys or so who may or may not be there. The great thing about being here is that somebody can really jump out that you weren't thinking of as highly. We've got to observe."

The target area for the Sixers would seem to be in the middle as a big, strong athletic player in the paint appears to be first on their wish list, followed closely behind by a long wing who can shoot the ball. If the team does indeed lose Brand, perhaps one of those areas can be addressed via free agency.

Some of the big men the Sixers could be looking at for the 15th pick may include North Carolina's John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Illinois' Meyers Leonard and Baylor's Perry Jones.

"In this draft, there aren't many point guards," said Thorn. "There's a bunch of four/five or five/fours, more than normal, that have good reputations. There's not many wings this year, so the strength is, by and large, fours and fives. Obviously, if we can add an athletic player in that range we'll be looking at those guys. We need to try and improve our shooting, too. If there's somebody that stands out, I think both areas are where we'd be looking."

The draft is quickly followed on July 1 by the start of the 10-day period when teams can talk to free agents and then comes the start of free agency on July 11.

It should be an interesting month or so.

Six shots

Villanova's Maalik Wayns and Dom Cheek were not invited to the combine … Six Kentucky players will be in Chicago, led by expected No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from Somerdale … Philadelphia native Dion Waiters (Syracuse) also is taking part … ESPNU and ESPN3 will televise a total of 8 hours of the combine, beginning at 10 a.m. each day. n

Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com or on Twitter @BobCooney76. Read the Daily News' Sixers blog at www.philly.com/Sixerville.

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