Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Fultz Gamble

Four On The Floor
Today, the Sixers announced the rumor that has been rippling through the NBA for the better part of the weekend: they were working out a pick swap with Boston to move to the first pick, giving up their third and a future first. That first could be the Lakers pick next year (you know, the one they got for, and yes, I am serious when I write this, Michael Carter-Williams) or the Kings pick in 2019, or their own in that year. Whichever one works out better for the Celtics. With the #1 pick, the Sixers are certain to take Markelle Fultz, the consensus best player in the draft, who also happens to play the position that the team needs the most - stud guard.

There are a lot of ways to think about this, so let's go through them, on the plus and minus side.

Plus:

> Celtics Fans are *hating* this trade. They think that if the Cs keep the #3 pick, they are taking Josh Johnson, and that just doubles up on last year's Jaylen Brown move. That it locks the Celtics in the doomed Isiah Thomas is your best player era, and as gutsy as IT is, he's a defensive sieve who isn't going to ever have as good of a year as he just had, when he wasn't nearly enough to end the LeBron Era. They also think the C's are over-reacting to flaws in Fultz's game (health, character, outside shot) that should be overcome with coaching and care. Or that they are just in the Belichik-ian world of collecting assets forever, and never actually making a roster that's more than a paper tiger.

> You not only get the #1 pick, you get him with a chip on his shoulder. Fultz will lace them up against the Celtics with the knowledge that they traded down rather than take him for his entire damn career. If he comes at this with the Paul Pierce mindset, he could straight out murder the Cs for the better part of a decade, and make Sixer Fan happier than they've ever been.

> It makes sense with the roster. I don't claim to be a college hoop fan -- it's morally reprehensible -- but the people I trust give Fultz's comp as Tracy McGrady, while others say James Harden / Gilbert Arenas / Brandon Roy But Healthy And Not Going Anywhere. So he's an athletic do-everything guard that can play either position, but who is at his best on one on one breakdowns late in the clock, who doesn't need the ball in his hands all the time. If this Sixer roster stays healthy, it's got a LeBron/Magic-ish guy in Ben Simmons (please learn to shoot, Ben) next to him in the backcourt, the Olajuwon-ish unicorn that is Joel Embiid in the block, and Dario Saric and Bob Covington spotting up in the corners with no one near them, because you have to double the 1 and 5. It just works. Even more so on defense, because Embiid and RoCo are both in the top 10 in the league on that, and the other three guys are all young, athletic and give a damn.

Oh, and by the way, that's before free agency (JJ Redick would be downright *tasty* in this mix), and also says nothing about the upside potential of reasonable young guy gambles like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nik Stauskas, TJ McConnell and Richaun Holmes. Put all of those guys in 10-15 minute benchie roles, and there's real potential. Plus, you've still got your own picks and either the LA or Sacramento selection. Could still be another big asset on the way.

> This really isn't that big of a price to get the #1 pick. In terms of the top guys in the draft, the Sixers avoid a head case in Lonzo Ball and his dad, a forward in Josh Johnson that would have doubled up their roster, or a reach guard like Malik Monk. I think that if Boston wanted more assets for this pick, the Sixers would have still done it. There's a school of thought that says the team with the best player wins the trade, and they most likely got it.

Minus:

> Given that Boston is going to get three shots at a first rounder from three teams who haven't been to the playoffs in a pretty long time, there's a reasonable chance that the Cs are going to get a fine pick out of just moving down two spots in a crazy-deep draft. And make no mistake about it, thanks to the insane deal that the C's got from Brooklyn (what a coinky-dink, that teams keep making horrible deals with the C's), they'll still have plenty of shots to get where they want to go. Even if this is a whiff, they've got plenty of bullets left in the chamber. Not to mention a slew of tradable real-world assets from non-stars who bust humps on defense and might still develop into reasonable offensive players away from IT's shadow.

> It's the trade that Boston has to make, and the Sixers helped them make it. This is Thomas' team, and if they had to draft first, they would have taken Fultz... which would have caused massive locker room and crowd issues, and probably driven the town nuts. If and when the Cavs get old, the Sixers are going to have to go through Boston, and going through a team with locker room issues has to be easier than going through one that's united.

> It's another (yet another) health risk. Fultz has had some knee issues in high school and his one and done college year, and if he gets hurt, I swear, every Sixer fan is just going to go into the fetal position and moan. He's also not great from the line, which is usually an indicator that the three-point shot isn't going to be an asset. Expecting him to be knock-down from distance right away is unfair, but the expectations on number one picks is usually just that.

> As fun as it is to collect young guns, it's not what wins in the NBA. By the time the Embiid/Saric/Simmons/Fultz core is ready to win games when they aren't at their best, contracts will be up and paydays will balloon, and the team could easily find itself in the Oklahoma City redux of not being able to keep Harden with Russell Westbook and Kevin Durant.

> They still haven't gotten rid of Jahlil Okafor. I can't tell you how much I dream of Jah leaving in a trade, and how I'm hoping against hope that there is still an NBA team that thinks his empty calorie stat game is useful for any kind of asset. Come on, Chicago. Come on, New York. Don't make me beg.

> This is me trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, but Sam Hinkie should still be the Sixer GM, and I'd trust him to make this move a hell of a lot more than the Colangelos. I'm not getting over that Nerlens Noel abomination trade anytime soon. But I think they made the right move here.

So at the end of the day... I'd make the deal as well, and hope like hell that the C's don't have some other trick up their sleeve (Jimmy Butler? Paul George?).

Oh, and everyone who ever doubted that Hinkie's Process was the right way to go, and that the day would never come when this Death Star of a lineup would take the court...

Well, you haven't watched the laundry play basketball for years, probably. Don't start now. The rest of us *earned* this; you sure as hell didn't.

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