Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.
Brandon Ingram Impresses in Workout with Sixers, No Workout Scheduled for Ben Simmons
Who the Sixers will select with the first overall pick has been a two-horse race ever since the team was awarded the #1 overall pick in May 17th’s NBA lottery.
One of those players is Duke small forward Brandon Ingram, who worked out for the Sixers at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Monday. Ingram was the only player participating in the workout.
“Obviously, in a one-on-none workout you’re not going to learn everything about a player, but that’s why we scouted a lot of basketball games and watched a lot of tape,” Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said about the workout. “He’s a versatile forward that can handle the ball, can shoot the ball. I referred to him as a silky smooth small forward. He can do a lot.”
With so little information to be gained in a setting such as this, how a player interviews is the most important aspect of the evaluation still to be determined.
“He’s just a wonderful young man, a terrific basketball player, but also a terrific human being,” Colangelo said about Ingram. “It’s great to be able to spend some time with him and talk to him about his upbringing, and talk to him about coach K [Krzyzewski] and his experiences at Duke. You learn so much more about a person when you sit down face to face with them and talk to them.”
Ingram won’t turn 19 until next fall. With a player so young, much of the game becomes projecting what that player will become two, three, even four years down the line.
You could see that progress with Ingram throughout the year. Ingram struggled at the start, shooting just 38.8 percent from the field and 24 percent from three-point range in 7 games in November before exploding in December (21.3 points, 55.1 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three) and January (19.5 points, 51.9 percent from the field, 48 percent from three) to vault himself into contention for the #1 overall pick.
“I give the glory to my teammates and my coaches,” Ingram said about his improvement. “We battled every single practice. They made my confidence go sky high and then I just kept it up.”
The three-point shooting, the 6-foot-9 size, and impressive passing ability are all known about Ingram’s game. Ingram also believes he can develop into a leader down the line.
“I guess just my mental toughness. I’m a guy with high character,” Ingram said, describing what he brings to the table. “[I’m] kind of the low key guy. I let people assume a little bit. Just try to get my work done under wraps and try to come out and do the best that I can.”
Early reports indicate that Ben Simmons is the heavy favorite to be selected first overall by the Sixers on June 23rd. For Ingram’s part, he said he’s not worried about going #1. “I worked so hard to get to this point, I’m just happy to hear my name being called on draft night,” Ingram said when asked if he should be the #1 pick.
Still, with a decision like this one that could alter the course of the Sixers franchise so drastically, the team has to perform its due diligence. Whether or not Ingram’s workout, and interview, were enough to vault him into serious contention for the #1 pick remains to be seen, but it seems Ingram acquitted himself well. The Sixers will have two quality options available to select from.
Still no workout scheduled with Ben Simmons
The other serious possibility to be selected first overall is LSU forward Ben Simmons, who is the heavy favorite to be the Sixers pick.
At this time, the Sixers do not have a workout, or even a meeting, scheduled with the versatile forward.
“As of this moment, not yet,” Bryan Colangelo said when asked about whether a workout was scheduled. “We’re still working on that.
“His agent has decided that that’s the process that they’re undertaking,” Colangelo continued. “It’s not a red flag. everybody deals with the draft process differently. Sometimes agents are involved, sometimes families are involved in those decisions.”
Colangelo stated that the information he has been able to gather indicates that Simmons would be fine being selected by the Sixers with the first overall pick.
“Everything that we get with respect to our intel as it relates to Ben is he would very much like to be selected #1,” Colangelo said.
Colangelo did say they were working on scheduling a visit to Cleveland, where Simmons is currently training.
Joel Embiid will not play in summer league
Last week Bryan Colangelo said there was a 99% chance Joel Embiid wouldn’t play in summer league. He was even more definitive in his stance today.
“It’s the question of the day so let me just put it to rest: [Embiid] will not play summer league basketball,” Colangelo said.
That doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made.
“He looks like he’s getting more fluidity every day in terms of the things he’s doing on the court. He’s done some things competitively with 2-on-2, 3-on-3 controlled situations,” Colangelo explained. “The word controlled is the key there. I think everything has to be done within the process that has been set forth, and the timeline set forth, by the doctors, and that’s what we’re adhering to very closely.”
Colangelo “neutral” on whether Dario Saric will come over
Colangelo and Sixers head coach Brett Brown just returned from a trip overseas, which included a stop in Istanbul to meet with Dario Saric, who was acquired by the Sixers during the 2014 NBA draft.
Saric has a buyout in his contract with his Turkish team, Anadolu Efes, which could allow him to play in the NBA next season. He has until July 17th to determine whether he will exercise that buyout.
“We expressed that we would like him to come over. He’s in a good place right now. I think he’s at a good moment in his career where it’s probably time to make that next step. We hope that that’s the conclusion that they come to [as well],” Colangelo said. “I was somewhat neutral as to whether or not I felt he would be coming over, and I still feel that way. I’d like to think our objectives are aligned and what we’d like to do is get him in to play for us next year.”
Colangelo, who was able to take in a few of Saric’s games during the Turkish League playoffs, was impressed with what he saw.
“I saw a much improved player from what I saw 3-to-4 years ago when I first saw Dario. He’s gotten physically bigger, physically stronger,” Colangelo said. “He’s highly skilled with the ball, creating shots for himself with stepback dribbles, crossover dribbles. He’s shooting the ball much, much better than what I remember.
“At the end of the day I think that Dario’s a much improved basketball player,” Colangelo continued.
Besides Saric’s physical tools there’s an understanding of the game, and a creativity, that impressed Colangelo.
“He’s very articulate about the game of basketball. His basketball IQ is very high,” Colangelo said. “I was very impressed with his overall understanding [of basketball].”
That situation Saric would potentially be joining is an interesting one, with the potential additions of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid joining Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel in an extremely crowded front court. According to Colangelo that depth, and the fight for playing time that could ensue, isn’t holding back Saric’s decision.
“Actually, no, he was encouraged by everything that we talked about,” Colangelo said when asked about whether the front court depth could adversely impact Saric’s desire to come over. “He was aware of the possibilities with the draft that could affect him in some way.”
“There’s been some speculation that we might take one of two players in the draft [Simmons or Ingram], and I think we even talked [with Dario] about that a little bit,” Colangelo said. “Both players are what I would call versatile forwards. and Dario in his own way is a similar type of player. He’s got versatility, he’s got ball skills, he’s got shooting that’s coming [along]. There’s a lot of interesting dynamics that you could almost align with all three players.”