Sixers GM says draft picks are laying foundation for future

The Sixers "will focus on the long-term health" of 7-foot center Joel Embiid," general manager Sam Hinkie said. "He's a remarkable talent."
The Sixers "will focus on the long-term health" of 7-foot center Joel Embiid," general manager Sam Hinkie said. "He's a remarkable talent." (JAMIE SQUIRE / Getty Images)
Posted: June 29, 2014

It was a logical question.

When does the future become now?

It was timely, because the 76ers acquired two first-round picks who might not see the court next season.

General manager Sam Hinkie hinted Friday that Joel Embiid, who was drafted third overall, probably won't play in the 2014-15 season. That's because the 7-foot center out of Kansas will miss more time than reported while recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot.

"I've seen reported some four to six months," Hinkie said. "That's not the number I heard. The number I heard from the surgeon himself was five to eight months.

"Guess what our approach will be? We will focus on the long-term health of the player. We had that discussion before. I don't want that to sound glib, because it's not. It is all that matters, honestly."

The Sixers said the same thing about Nerlens Noel after they acquired him in a trade during last summer's draft. He ended up missing the entire season while recovering from knee surgery.

Their other first-round acquisition Thursday night - Dario Saric - signed a three-year contract this week to play in the Turkish League. The 6-10 Croatian forward will spend at least two more years overseas.

Embiid's prognosis and Saric's detour reinforced the Sixers quest to build for the future.

So, when does the future become now?

"I think the larger answer is: It's hard to know," Hinkie said.

However, the Sixers believe these decisions will bring huge rewards once the rebuilding ends.

"It's very clear. We added a couple of 20-year-olds last night," Hinkie said. "It's very clear, for example, that we are going to be growing with them.

"We talked about that last year with Michael [Carter-Williams], a year ago last night. When we took Michael, we said this is a player that we feel like we can grow with."

The Sixers think they were fortunate to land Embiid. The native of Cameroon was projected as the first overall pick before he suffered the injury.

There's a chance the broken foot will hinder Embiid's career the way it has for other 7-footers. Like Embiid, former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in 2008 and again in 2009. The injury forced Yao to retire in 2011.

Hinkie was an assistant general manager at Houston when Yao went through his ailments.

He consulted with Richard Ferkel, the doctor who performed Embiid's surgery. The Sixers also did extensive research on the injury in the days leading up to the draft.

"We were sort of averaging it out over time," Hinkie said of drafting Embiid. "In the end, we felt good that this is a calculated risk, and he's a remarkable talent in our mind. Only in this scenario does he fall to three."

The team used the 10th overall pick on Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton. The Sixers then traded Payton to the Orlando Magic for Saric, a second-round pickin 2015, and the first-round, top-11-protected pick in 2017 that the Sixers sent to the Magic in the Andrew Bynum deal.

In the second round, the team selected Clemson swingman K.J. McDaniels (32d pick), Syracuse forward Jerami Grant (39), Louisville guard Russ Smith (47), Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic (52d), and Serbian forward Nemanja Dangubic (54).

They later traded Smith and their 54th pick.

Smith went to the New Orleans Pelicans for the rights to Pierre Jackson. The Sixers drafted Jackson in the second round last season and traded him to New Orleans. He spent last season overseas and in the NBA Development League.

The Sixers received the 58th and 60th picks from the San Antonio Spurs for the 54th pick.

They acquired the draft rights to Tennessee shooting guard Jordan McRae with the 58th pick and traded the 60th pick for cash.

Notes: Sixers small forward Jason Richardson picked up his player option for $6.6 million for the 2014-15 season. Byron Mullens turned down a player option for $1 million for next season.


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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