76ers will draft Ben Simmons, sure, but what comes after that?


After three years with less than 20 wins, “The Process” is coming closer to its first-stage goal, but the architect is no longer with the 76ers.

General manager Sam Hinkie resigned on April 6, and Bryan Colangelo took over as team president shortly thereafter. Now the 76ers have the No. 1 pick for the first time since taking Allen Iverson 20 years ago — they plan to use it on versatile forward Ben Simmons, according to reports — as well as a slew of players on team-friendly contracts and more cap space than they can likely use.

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Let’s take a look at their free agents, salary cap space and assets for this summer before breaking down what needs to be done.

Potential free agents: Ish Smith (unrestricted), Kendall Marshall (non-guaranteed), Robert Covington (non-guaranteed), Isaiah Canaan (restricted), T.J. McConnell (non-guaranteed), Jerami Grant (non-guaranteed), Elton Brand (unrestricted), Hollis Thompson (non-guaranteed) and Christian Wood (restricted).

Likely cap space: $53.7 million.

Realistic maximum cap space (using $94.4 million estimate): $58 million.

2016 Draft Assets: No. 1, No. 24 (from the Heat) and No. 26 (from the Thunder).

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     Nerlens Noel, left, and Joel Embiid. (Getty Images)

The 76ers are in a unique position entering the offseason. They have four players on rookie-scale contracts, three more first-round picks this year and another five on non-guaranteed deals. The Sixers could completely revamp their roster if they wanted but could as easily retain their army of cheap contracts for seasons to come.

The heart of Philadelphia’s roster decisions comes on the interior. The Sixers may be the least talented team in league history to have a positional logjam. Over the past three years, they drafted Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the top six picks. All three are true centers who should not spend much time sharing the court since each benefits from floor spacing at the other positions.

Injuries have taken away Philadelphia’s — and trade suitors’ — chance to see what Embiid can do, but they learned in 2015-16 that Noel and Okafor are mostly incompatible. There is not a financial imperative to move any of them, but keeping the trio could tank their trade value. To complicate matters, Noel is on the final year of his rookie-scale contract and will be eligible for a lucrative extension. Even if those negotiations do not produce an agreement, they should give both sides an idea of the eventual price tag, which can be useful information.

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The Sixers otherwise need enough help that they can afford to take the best player with their top NBA Draft pick, and they reportedly have worked out an agreement with Simmons as that player. He gives the team a playmaker with tremendous upside, but building around him and either Okafor or Noel means spacing could be a premium and adds emphasis that the other three players on the court must be able to shoot. (Embiid has shown 3-point range, but his health issues and unknown abilities probably make it unwise to plan too much for how he specifically will fit in the team’s playing style yet.) Beyond two other late first rounders, Philly could also add another lottery pick if they decide to trade Okafor or Noel before the draft.

Dario Saric provides another fascinating wrinkle for the 76ers’ offseason. As a 2014 draftee, Saric is one year away from not being limited to a rookie-scale contract. Waiting allowed Nikola Mirotic to make substantially more than he would have on his first NBA contract, but Saric appears to be ready to make the leap this summer. He could contribute quickly, as the 6-10 forward shot 40.3 percent from the shorter European 3-point line in Euroleague this past season. Saric possesses unusual offensive gifts for a player his size, including ballhandling and passing. Adding him on a four-year rookie scale contract would be a massive success for Philadelphia.

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While the big men and No. 1 pick will take the forefront, the Sixers’ non-guaranteed contracts will also play a significant role in how their roster looks next season. While Covington and Grant are locks at around $1 million a year for the next two seasons, Philadelphia has more complicated decisions to make

with McConnell, Thompson and Marshall. Having future non-guaranteed years after this season could also make that group appealing to other teams, particularly Marshall and McConnell in a very expensive and shallow point guard free agency market.

The Sixers also have free agents of their own to take care of. Smith did a nice job solidifying the offense and helping improve Noel and Okafor. Renting him cost the team two second-round picks, but they have to use cap space to re-sign him. They can match offer sheets on both Canaan and Wood if they extend qualifying offers, which seems likely with Canaan and unclear with Wood.

On top of all those internal decisions, Philadelphia could be a major player in the free agency and trade markets. Being the first call for salary dumps helped them make an insanely successful trade with the Kings a year ago, and they could play a similar role this season. Transitioning from Hinkie to Colangelo could also indicate that ownership is more eager to improve in the short term, which could allow them to become a factor for restricted free agents or veterans. While their young players will get raises eventually, the Sixers have time and extremely low salary obligations the last few seasons as justification for choosing to spend more in the immediate.

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While they have played an important role in shaping the NBA landscape throughout the process, 2016 may be the time the 76ers start focusing on making themselves better in the near and long term. Their combination of assets, players on cheap contracts and cap space make them capable of almost anything in the league’s most wide-open offseason in a generation.