Sixers Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Overpay for Fultz
Philadelphia is reportedly in advanced talks with Boston to acquire the no. 1 pick. To get their guy, the Sixers shouldn’t worry about the price.
NBA Twitter nearly lit on fire Friday when ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe co-reported that the Celtics were in advanced talks to deal the no. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft to the Sixers.
Lowe added that the deal would include just picks going back to Boston and no players.
This report means one of two things: Boston’s reported interest in Josh Jackson was not a smoke screen, or the Sixers are offering a package for no. 1 that the Celtics can just not turn down. It is definitely possible for both things to be the case. If the Celtics don’t see a large gap between Markelle Fultz and Jackson, trading the pick, acquiring extra assets and still getting Jackson at no. 3 would be the best way to keep the cupboard full of elite future assets while also actually adding useful talent to today’s team.
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Just how good can the assets be that Boston gets in the trade? Well, seeing that it is pick-based, it would not surprise me if Boston is asking Philly for the Lakers’ 2018 unprotected first and the Kings’ 2019 unprotected first in addition to Philly’s third overall pick this year.
That would be a tough pill to swallow for Philly. So long as Paul George is not traded to the Lakers this summer, their record will probably land them a top five pick in next year’s draft — which many people consider to be a better draft class than this year’s. The Kings may be headed in the right direction after trading DeMarcus Cousins and working on improving their culture. Even if their incompetent ways are behind them, it’s safe to bet on their core of young players not being good enough to win a lot of games just two years from now.
Those may end up being two very valuable picks, and a lot to give up to move up just two spots. But Fultz is a very valuable player, and may be worth that kind of haul to acquire.
Sporting News’s Sam Vecenie has said on his “Game Theory” podcast — and echoed today on Twitter — that this should be the year Philly drafts their guard of the future. Vecenie, well-respected in the draft community, doesn’t believe in the point guards of the 2018 and 2019 draft classes enough for Philly to pass on this year’s guards. Especially considering the top four 2017 point guard prospects — Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr. — all have the potential to be top 10 at their already-loaded position.
If Philly stands pat at three, Fultz and Ball will likely be off the board. Fox has elite speed, defensive tenacity and a superstar personality, but there are questions about his thin frame, shooting and fit next to Ben Simmons. Dennis Smith Jr. would likely be seriously considered, as he may have the second highest ceiling in the draft behind Fultz. But Smith Jr. is viewed by most as a “boom-or-bust” prospect. Philly may not want the blood of Smith Jr.’s NBA failure on its hands, even if him busting is not a very likely outcome.
Reports have been made on LA’s interest in Jackson, but reports like that need to be taken with a grain of salt. They could simply be a smoke screen by teams to attract more interest in their pick. There is a chance the Lakers pass on Ball and he is available at three, but there is no actual evidence of the Lakers not wanting to draft Ball. To be fair, there is no evidence that they do intend to draft him either, with only logic linking the two sides together. Either way, banking on Ball slipping — i.e., getting lucky — doesn’t seem to be a game the Sixers have an interest in playing.
Even if it costs them two very valuable future firsts, locking in the sure-thing, sure-fire stud lead guard in Fultz is the way to go. Picks are always great in theory, but teams should never rely on them becoming what they want. The Lakers and Kings could end up being better than expected. Unless the 2018 and ’19 drafts are 5–10 players deep with potential superstars, those picks could become a lot less valuable.
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The allure of a Fultz-Simmons-Joel Embiid core must be massive to Sixers brass. They would have two consecutive no. 1 overall picks, with the other only slipping to no. 3 because of injury concerns.
And yes, injuries are a worry moving forward with the Sixers. Embiid took two years before taking the floor, and has played in just 31 of 246 possible games. Simmons missed all of his rookie season after fracturing a bone in his foot. While there is no way of telling if it will cause him issues in the future, foot injuries typically don’t favor big men well.
These concerns may end up limiting the Sixers’ potential, but it doesn’t change whether or not they should trade for Fultz. Sure, trading away two potential top five picks when your two current building blocks are hurt is risky. But so is not acquiring another potential building block when you have the chance. Picks are always great in theory, but relying on them is never smart. The Lakers and Kings could end up being better than expected, or could get shafted in the lottery drawing. The 2018 and ’19 classes may not
If the Sixers can come out of this draft with Fultz, The Process will be complete. Philly, when looking at upside, will have the best young core in the league. This core, depending on injuries, could end up having a ceiling higher than any other since Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook-James Harden-Kevin Durant-Serge Ibaka foursome.
Philadelphia is going to have to overpay in order to get Fultz. But, for them to put The Process behind them and move towards competing in the NBA, it’s just a deal they have to make.