Philadelphia 76ers look toward success in draft lottery after dismal 18-win season



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PHILADELPHIA — With little to play for in the season finale, Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown had enough and gave up the clipboard.

He turned over the X's and O's to the guys on the bench.

His assistants?

Nah. His players. Out with injuries, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jason Richardson took turns diagramming plays and added a little levity in what was another throwaway season in Philadelphia.

"We actually did pretty good on my plays," a smiling Richardson said.

The Sixers can only hope they start to fare better in long-term rebuilding plan team president Sam Hinkie has drawn up for the franchise.

As expected, the Sixers were abysmal in the second season under Hinkie and Brown's watch — call it Tank 2.0 — and finished even worse than a year ago. The Sixers ended the season on a 10-game losing streak and went 18-64, one win less than last season when they matched an NBA record with a 26-game losing streak.

At an alarming rate, the losses have piled up.

So have the questions about the state of this so-called rebuilding plan, namely: When will the victories come?

"Everyone wants to hear a quantity on wins," Brown said. "I feel like it's one in the same to just keep moving us forward."

Hinkie's plan to break down even more a broken down franchise started last season with gutting the roster of expensive, legitimate NBA talent all while trying to find younger franchise players through the draft.

If he guesses wrong, like on Michael Carter-Williams, the player is jettisoned before his rookie of the year trophy can collect dust.

Noel seems like a keeper. So does Embiid. And the 76ers publicly seem high on overseas prospect Dario Saric.

After that, well, don't become too attached to the rest of the ragtag roster where it seems at times where even Brown can't tell the players without a scorecard.

"To coach gypsies and to coach a revolving door, that's not what I'm looking for," Brown said.

He'd also love to net a player on draft night he can actually coach the next season.

Noel had ACL surgery when he was acquired on a draft-night deal and sat out the 2013-14 season. Embiid was the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and never played because of a broken foot. Saric also was a top-10 pick and was stuffed overseas.

"We need needle movers," Brown said. "We need talent."

The 76ers had hoped they could load up on lottery picks this season to expedite the rebuild. They have their own lottery pick and that might be all. Because of a series of trades with protected picks, the 76ers could have earned Miami's top-10 pick with a win over the Heat on Wednesday. The Heat won and will likely keep their pick. The 76ers had a deal for the Lakers pick — but it was top-five protected and Los Angeles also should keep it. They also could have Oklahoma City's pick but that was top-18 protected and the Thunder finished 14th in the Western Conference.

"The way you win in the NBA is to have at least two, but hopefully four top-20 NBA players, and they are hard to get," team owner Josh Harris said.

Harris talked in generalities about when he expected the Sixers to have a winning record.

Brown, part of five NBA championships with the San Antonio organization, has two seasons left on his four-year contract. He was used to preparing for games deep into May and June. In Philly, it's all about summer league rosters.

"No doubt, I'm personally happy the season is over," Brown said. "I also see it as a way to dive into the summer."

Brown has said it could take another two to four years before the master plan pays off and the Sixers are back in the hunt for a conference championship. Of course, if some of the lottery picks are busts, or injuries hit the wrong players, the Sixers could be mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for years.

"There aren't any shortcuts, unfortunately, that I know of," Harris said. "There are shortcuts to the middle. There's not shortcuts to the top. There's not."

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