When I was a kid I was a sports video game fanatic, specifically tinkering with every team’s roster. I’ve been a wannabe GM since the NBA Live with Mitch Richmond on the cover game out(NBA LIVE ’97 PC EDITION!!!). It used to drive my dad crazy watching me play on our only tv every Saturday morning. “Just play a damn game!” he’d yell as I rebuilt a random team’s roster for 2 straight hours. It get much worse as NBA and NFL games came out with franchise modes that included drafts.
The Sixers teardown and rebuild was right up my alley and I was all-in the second they traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric. Not only do I love studying drafts and talking about rebuilding a roster, but the thought of being stuck as a middle of the road team for an entire decade makes me ill. I want to see the teams I root for and invest in either competing for titles are taking the appropriate steps in order to do so.
What the Sixers did 4 years ago up through the 2017 NBA Draft is vindication for every Process Truster. The team isn’t overloaded with centers and desperate for guards anymore. There is depth everywhere, the players they have project to fit very well together on the court and they still have at least one future lottery pick from another team.
Here is my review on the Sixers 2017 draft class which should end the need for tanking and immediately begin the era of winning:
1st Round, 1st Overall: I was all in on Josh Jackson throughout the process as the best overall prospect, but I would have to be out of my mind if I thought Jackson was a better fit on this team than Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Jackson is too similar to Ben Simmons to make sense here, so I love to move to trade up. After you consider the Sixers may not even give up a top 5 pick to move up 2 spots to number one(future first is 1st overall protected and will either be Lakers 2018 pick if 2-5 or the better of Sixers/Kings pick in 2019 with 1st overall protection) and the trade looks even better. Hell if the Lakers and Kings both get their shit together, the Celtics may not even be getting a lottery pick out of this.
Without a major free agent signing the Sixers starting lineup will be something like this: Markelle Fultz-Nik Stauskas-Robert Covington-Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid with Saric is your 2018 Sixth Man of the Year. This gives playmaker Simmons two pure shooters with length in the backcourt, a versatile defender in Covington at the other forward spot and a versatile, but dominant big man in Embiid at center. Drafting Fultz over Jackson allows this team to compete for a playoff spot right away and doesn’t cause a logjam at any position like drafting Josh Jackson would have.
Fultz is a 6’4 combo guard with a 6’9 wingspan who can shoot(over 40% from 3 in college), create for his teammates(over 5 assists per game in college) and score in a variety of ways(over 20 point per game in college). Critics will cite his 9 win season at Washington in the same way critics bring up Ben Simmons non-NCAA tourney season at LSU. But the truth is both are poor basketball programs playing in really tough conferences and neither are built well for basketball success. I don’t know how either school got such an elite prospect.
I compared Fultz to James Harden which scared me out of ranking him number one overall because his defensive intensity is a concern, but much less of a concern here with a ton of size and length around him. He also doesn’t have to become the ball-centric guard that Harden and Russell Westbrook have become because Simmons will be the primary ball-handler and there’s enough talent around him to keep him from chucking up 30-40 shots a game.
This is the best fit for both sides. The Sixers get the combo guard with an outside shot they desperately needed and Fultz goes from a bad college program with no talent around him to a rising young NBA team loaded with talent.
First Round, 25th Overall: The Sixers sent the Orlando Magic a 2010 Oklahoma City Thunder first round pick and the worst of Brooklyn or New York’s second round pick in 2020 second rounder. It makes sense they moved a future first round in 2020 because that’s probably when their pick, Latvian big man Anžejs Pasečņiks(I used copy and paste because I’m not smart enough to figure out international accent marks) will come over. He is expected to play overseas for at least two more years.
Pasečņiks is from the same country as Kristaps Porzingis, which makes sense because they are so similar. Pasečņiks doesn’t have quite the upside or polish to his game yet, but he’s another mobile 7-footer who can finish above the rim and has deep range. He’s not a great rebounder, defender or rim protector at this point, but if he can add to his 220 pound frame and polish up his defensive technique over the next two years he can develop into a very good reserve in this league.
I like this pick because of his potential and the fact that he won’t take up a roster spot until the 2019-2020 season at the earliest.
Second Round, 36th Overall: The Sixers took their second stash of the draft by way of Australian, ex-UCLA forward and current Serbian league phenom Jonah Bolden. He just signed a two year deal with his Serbian league team and is expected to play that out before coming over here. It appears the Sixers are intent on drafting a lot of international players they can stash overseas for a 1-3 years before they come over to the NBA as more polished prospected.
A lot of people have been really hyping this kid. Some analysts said he could have been a first round pick had he stayed at UCLA and fed off of Lonzo Ball lobs this past season. Watching Bolden’s tape I saw more of a valuable role player, similar to Udonis Haslem. He’s got a nice mid-range jumper and he’s extremely mobile for his size(6’10, 227), but he’s not athletic enough nor is he skilled enough with the ball to be a big time scorer in this league.
Just temper your expectations with Bolden. If you expect him to be the healthy version of Chris Bosh, you are out of your mind. If you have visions of the second coming of Udonis Haslem, then I think you will be pretty happy with this pick in a couple years.
Second Round, 39th Overall: I was really excited for about two minutes when the Sixers drafted Jawun Evans in the second round. He’s only 5’11, but he has a 6’5 wingspan and is an ideal scoring guard to come off the bench and spark an offense. Then I learned he was traded to Clippers for reportedly $100,000. This money will help Josh Harris fill out some empty seats for the upcoming New Jersey Devils season, but as a Sixers fans this really doesn’t help me out at all.
Second Round, 46th Overall: The Sixers took another guard in the second round I really liked in Sterling Brown of SMU, only to trade him to Milwaukee later on. The return of this trade has not yet been reported and probably won’t until the offseason officially begins on July 1st. Browns is a lower upside guy, but he can really shoot so the value with this pick would have been solid. I think what this says about the Sixers more than anything is that they really like Turkish prospect Furkan Korkmaz. He’s a 2/3 player with a good outside shot.
Second Round, 50th Overall: The Sixers ended the night with their third draft stash in French forward and all-around tough dude Mathis Lessort. I had a lot of fun scouting this kid. He’s not much of a creator, but he’s a good athlete, he gets after it defensively and it’s his personal mission to secure every single rebound. With so much skill already on the Sixers roster, it’s important to bring in a player or two who can do a lot of the dirty work like setting good picks, grabbing loose balls and boxing out consistently. He’ll probably stay overseas for at least another season, but he’ll be a valuable role player in the playoffs down the road.
Overall I really love this draft class. They added a star in their backcourt they desperately needed and they added three solid international stashes. If even one of those stashes becomes a solid role player in this league then the Sixers have filled two roster spots long-term which is a great return for any NBA Draft.
It will be interesting to see what they do in free agency. They could sign either Patty Mills or Kyle Lowry and team up that player with Fultz in the backcourt or save their cap space for next year and see if they can bring in a legitimate proven superstar in 2018.