Now that the NFL Draft is over and the NBA Finals will be wrapped up in the next two weeks or so, the only thing of note coming up is the NBA Draft before we get a summer of the same baseball plays on Top 10 over and over. The NBA Draft does not carry quite the excitement as the NFL Draft, as we generally have a pretty good idea of who the top picks are and know that most people outside the lottery will probably be nothing more than rotation players if that. This year’s draft offers a little more excitement due to the lottery being a little deeper and having a little more star power than most years. The fact that a number on seed holds the number one pick and that teams draft two-four all have a nice core in place doesn’t hurt the cause. To me, there are four, potentially five, elite prospects. Markelle Fultz is number one by a wide margin. De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, and Josh Jackson, in no particular order, are all franchise changers. Lonzo Ball has the chance to be one as well, but I think there is much more risk here than any of the other four, although most people assume he will go number two, and for the sake of this exercise so will we.
The way things are looking right now, Markelle Fultz will be the number one pick. Whether that is to the Celtics of the Celtics trade the pick for Paul George or Jimmy Butler, it would be a shock to see anyone else go first. I prefer Fultz over any prospect of the past few drafts and think he is leaps and bounds above anyone in this draft. He can do everything! Watching the tape, the only negative you see is on the defensive side of the ball, which is still not bad, just a little lackadaisical at times.
I do not think Lonzo Ball I set in stone at number two, even though it is the Lakers. This would be perfect for Lonzo but is this the right move for the Lakers? I am not sold. A core five of Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Lonzo Ball, although probably rarely on the floor as a group, would be horrendous defensively. A two way player such as Josh Jackson would be the best pick for the current roster and the safer option. De’Aaron Fox outplayed Lonzo all year and if Ball can develop a jump shot, he could end up the second best player to come out of this class. Lonzo is currently the most unsure thing we have in the top few picks with a game that may or may not translate to the NBA. This all changes if Paul George is brought in this year, or the Lakers feel he is a guarantee to join the team as a free agent. For all the “what ifs,” the Lakers currently have around the construction of their roster, let’s assume they select Ball with second pick and decide to keep all their prospects in the hopes of bring George in without having to get rid of anyone, which it seems like is Magic’s plan. If I were to guess, based of nothing but what has been spoken from Luke Walton and Magic and others in the Lakers, I would guess 50% that the Lakers draft Lonzo, 40% they draft Fox or Jackson, and 10% they trade the pick. In all likelihood, Ball will only work out for the Lakers in hopes of deterring other teams from drafting him, which I do not agree with. What happens if the Lakers decide they do not want him? Will he fall for fear of him either not wanting to be their, him being a bad fit, or the distraction LaVar would cause? But that is a whole topic by itself, which I will get to another day.
So with what seems like a lot of people pretty much thinking the top two picks are set in stone, the draft and question marks really begin with the 76ers. The Sixers are poised to make the biggest jump in the NBA next year. Hopefully a full season of Embiid, a roster that was able to win games even without him, and a healthy Ben Simmons, a player they either draft or quire through the number three pick and an arsenal of draft picks have them prepared to take a run at the playoffs as soon as next season. There are a few different ways the Sixers could go in the draft.
Best Player Available
The Sixers could sit tight at number three and pick one of the three franchise changing players remaining on the board. (Fox, Tatum, Jackson) With the Sixers needing shooting and Simmons most likely running the point, these likely rules out De’Aaron Fox. This leaves us Jackson and Tatum, two very different players. Jackson is a two way player who can do a little bit of everything. His ceiling would be a Paul George style player, which any team would take. He does have a little off-court issues, but for how miniscule they were, that would not deter me. The biggest question with Jackson is can his shooting translate to the NBA. He shot almost 38% from three, but under 60% from the line. On most teams, you would deal with this but a team in the Sixers position may question it. Tatum shot 34% from three, but 85% from the line. A video has surfaced in the past few days of Tatum making 18 NBA 3s in a row. My guess is Tatum becomes the better shooter of the two. I think watching Tatum is like watching Carmelo Anthony. It would be extremely rare for him to reach the level Melo has, but of a similar style. If I am making the call for the Sixers between Tatum and Jackson, I am going with Jackson. He just seems to fit more with a team that already has some established players and should have a few more coming in the next few years, whereas Tatum could serve as a ball stopper.
The Sixers getting Fultz would put them in contention for the 2020 NBA Championship. Giving Simmons, Embiid, Fultz, Saric and the other prospects coming in a few years to get acclimated to each other and let LeBron slow down a little and I really think they would be title favorites in a few years. It would take a lot for the Celtics to trade this pick. I think it would either have to be George, Butler, or a collection of picks that is just too much to say no to. The Celtics are not starting from scratch and do not necessarily need more assets, so any team without a star to trade will have to overpay by a lot. What could it take for the Celtics to trade this pick to the Sixers? Let’s assume that Embiid and Simmons are off limits. The starting point would have to be the Sixers’ 2017 first round pick and either the Lakers’ 2018 first round pick or the Kings’ 2019 first round pick. Right off the bat that is a lot to give up. The Lakers, without bringing in Paul George, look to be a bottom dwelling team again next season. No one knows what the Kings will look like in 2019, but it is safe to say with their current roster and that fact no big name free agent will want to go there, that they will also be bad in 2019. So the Sixers could be potentially trading future top three picks. There is some risk on the Celtics side though that makes me think this would not be enough of a return. Even though they would only be moving back two spots in the draft, the talent differential in prospects in much larger than that. Although the Lakers’ or Kings’ pick could potentially turn into a number one pick, it could also potentially land outside the lottery. I think the Celtics would ask for the Sixers’ 2017, Lakers’ 2018 and Dario Saric for the number one pick. Danny Ainge is known to not make a trade unless it is a guarantee win for him. For how much of a move to number one could jumpstart the potential dynasty in Philly, I think it will be too high of an asking price to make it a realistic move.
The most logical trade down would be number three to the Kings for their number five and number ten picks in the draft. The Kings may have a prospect they are sold on, as they need an identity and star to their team, and are willing to move up to get them. The Sixers would be able to drop back to number five and still get one of those top five players, most likely De’Aaron Fox. They could also take Dennis Smith, who I believe is just a tad behind De’Aaron Fox, but a better shooter, or Malik Monk, the shooter they so desperately need. They would also be able to add a player like Lauri Markkanen or Donovan Mitchell at ten. To do this, the Sixers would have to be sold that Jackson and Tatum are not great fits on this team and that moving back will not lose them a top prospects. This trade can only happen if the Kings would do it, which I do not think they would. Maybe the number three pick, along with the Sixers’ 2018 lottery protected first round pick and the Sixers’ 36th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Prospects 20-40 this year are relatively similar in talent and potential. The Kings would be able to pick up their top prospect, add what should be a rotation player with the 36th and still gain a first round pick next year. The Sixers are going to have to soon consolidate this roster and they do not have room to add all their second round picks like in years past.
Another trade partner I could see is Minnesota. I would love for the Sixers to trade the number three pick along with a few other lesser assets for Zach LaVine and the seventh overall pick. For this to happen, Lonzo Ball would most likely have to drop out of the top two. I do not see the Timberwolves moving up for Jackson, a similar player to Andrew Wiggins, or Tatum.
The Knicks would also love to trade up and the Sixers would possibly be able to still get Smith or Monk, but the Knicks do not have much to offer outside of their pick.
If the Sixers do trade down, the Kings are the most logical option, but it takes two to make a deal. Drafting Jackson and then moving him to the team who can draft Monk and provide the best package outside of just him is something to keep an eye on.
Trade For A Star
The Sixers have as many tradable assets, in both players and pick as anyone in the NBA besides maybe Boston. The two stars that seem most likely to be traded, Butler and George, would both be good fits on the Sixers, but they are a little older than the rest of the core and will need to be paid soon. To me, neither is someone to give up assets for, at least for this current team.
The Celtics are at a crossroads and if they decide they are too far away from competing with the Cavs, they may hit the semi-reset button and ride the youth movement. Adding Fultz makes Isaiah Thomas expendable in a way, especially if they are not ready to pay him after the 2017-2018 season, they might as well get somewhat of a return for him. These two teams know that they could potentially be battling each other as top teams in the Eastern Conference for the next ten years and will not be too keen to help the other out. Thomas is a pretty good fit with the Sixers, as he can play off ball with Simmons at the point, but the Sixers may also not want to pay an aging 5’9” player who doesn’t play defense.
C.J. McCollum would give the Sixers the exact type of player they need. He could play off ball on offense and be the shooter they so desperately need, while also being able to play the lesser of the two guards on defense. Portland will need to decide they need to make changes, but they may want to run it back with the addition of their three first round picks and a full season with Nurkic. If they did feel that Josh Jackson could be a better fit alongside Lillard, a potential trade could be the number three pick for McCollum and the fifteenth pick.
Trade For A Young Prospect
There are only two realistic scenarios I could see happening in the Sixers trading for a young prospect.
#1. A trade for D’Angelo Russell. Lonzo Ball and Russell have the size to play alongside one another but Magic may want to move forward without Russell, someone who has proven they can score, but has not shown any signs of stardom so far. He also is somewhat of a ball hog and the Magic may just want to move on without someone like that. I do not think the Sixers would agree to a straight up trade of number three for Russell. Jackson and Tatum over just as much, if not more potential, and will be cost efficient for two years longer. The Lakers do not have many other movable assets that would make this of equal value. The remaining players would tip it in favor of the Sixers way too much or not move the needle at all.
#2. Fix the 2015 draft mistake and trade for Kristaps Porzingis. This is the most unlikely scenario of anything talked about today. The Knicks know how valuable he is and how important to the franchise he is. The Knicks also know, due to his missing his end of season meeting and comments made by his brother, and just the general chaos going on in management with the Knicks, that he is not happy. The Knicks also know they control him for what is probably the next six seasons at least so they may not care how he feels now. If the Knicks really just want to move on, they could trade Carmelo for whatever they can get, and move Joakim Noah and Kristaps together, as no one else would likely take on his salary. Jahlil Okafor and the number three pick for Noah and Kristaps in something the Knicks would have to consider. They receive a player who may not be a great fit for the modern NBA, but is still young, talented, and cost efficient and Jackson or Tatum could immediately fill Carmelo’s role. The salary dump would be crucial in allowing the Knicks to have cap flexibility moving forward. The Sixers would then probably move Saric, a similar, lesser Porzingis, for some guards. They could even package him in the trade for the number 8 pick where they could grab whatever guard fell to them. This would be my dream scenario for the Sixers. Embiid, Simmons, Porzingis, the number eight pick, hopefully Monk or Smith, and bring in someone like J.J. Reddick or Kyle Lowry, with the incoming picks plus all their own, this would be a team with veteran leadership, young, elite prospects, and incoming, cost efficient, high draft picks.
I am so excited to see what happens in the coming weeks for the Sixers as this could be the draft we look back on that really kick started the upcoming Sixers dynasty.
All stats from: http://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/