The Philadelphia 76ers trade over the weekend could mark the start of Phase II of the “Process”, winning some games. In order for that happen, a lot of questions will have to be answered. The biggest question is whether the Sixers can stay healthy for an entire year. They traded their 3rd pick in this year’s draft, and either the Los Angeles Lakers 2018 pick or Sacramento Kings’ 2019 pick to the Boston Celtics for the 1st pick overall in the draft on Thursday. With that pick, it is expected that they will select Markelle Fultz to end Phase I of the core.
At this point, everything is hypothetical since we do not know if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can stay healthy but if they can, Fultz will be the perfect piece to round out their core three. As it currently stands now, the plan is to play Simmons as their point guard who can run the show for them. He is the best passer on the team and showed in last year’s Las Vegas Summer League he has the passing gene. The biggest knock on him is his inability to shoot from distance, which is where Fultz slides right in.
Fultz as a prospect brings a lot to the table for the Sixers; he can play the role of the secondary playmaker. Simmons can run pick-and-rolls with Embiid whose ability to step out and hit the long ball or roll to the rim with his devastating agility with Fultz helping to spread the floor with his shooting ability. It is a small sample size but he 38.5% on catch and shoot opportunities in college. In the two plays below, he drills threes one while the defense was in a zone and left him, the other was off a flare screen.
The other value of Fultz is when Simmons goes to the bench he can move right into the primary ball handler position. This was his role at the University of Washington on a nightly basis. He averaged 5.9 assists a night while being the focal point of every defense he faced. He was able to create for himself and teammates off the Pick-and-Roll, in the first play he found a cutting big man as he came up off the pick, then he attacked the defensive big man and scored on a tough finish in the lane. Finally, he found a wide-open shooter in the weakside corner when he came off a side Pick-and-Roll.
Adding Fultz to the core of Embiid and Simmons, plus a defender in Robert Covington, a potential sixth man of the year in Dario Saric, a young bouncy front court forward in Richaun Holmes, and the improving Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot who came on strong towards the end of the season shows the pieces are finally in place to compete.
This is clearly a best-case scenario for the Sixers; if everyone is healthy they can kick off Phase II of the “Process”. Should health still remain an issue for Embiid, at the very least they will still have building blocks in Fultz and Simmons, as well as assets such as their own picks in upcoming drafts and either the Lakers’ 2018 or Kings’ 2019 pick. If they are not able to move into Phase II they do not have to blow everything up. They’ll be further along than most rebuilding teams.
If and let’s be honest it’s a big IF, if Embiid and Simmons return healthy and Fultz can transition to the NBA quickly; Phase II of the “Process” can have the Sixers competing in the East for a Playoff spot next year.
- The Paul George Bomb – It has been known for a long time that Paul George was angling to join the Lakers in Free Agency in the summer of 2018, but it was never officially out there, until Sunday morning. News broke that George’s camp informed the Indiana Pacers that he has no intentions of resigning with them. Several teams will line up for a chance to get George even if it is as a rental. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a long-rumored destination with a package centered around Kevin Love and that is just the start. Expect to hear several different rumors as we head into the NBA draft.
- Boston’s side of the trade – Everyone is ready to grade trades as soon as they happen but in this case it is difficult to gauge because this could be the start of several moves for Boston. They can turn around and flip these assets and a few others as they try to make a move for someone like Jimmy Butler or the aforementioned Paul George. It also could be that the Celtics believe they can get either Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum and they will be a piece that can come in and help right away. I’ll wait to see how their summer shakes out before I grade this trade for them.
- The Lakers hold the cards –With the trade on Monday for the number 1 pick done, the most interesting question is what do the Lakers do with the 2nd pick. The most likely scenario is that the Lakers take Lonzo Ball but they could trade down and pick up an asset from maybe someone like the Phoenix Suns who really wants Ball.
- The Suns could be sweating – The Suns have been rumored to trade up to draft Ball but there is a slim chance that Ball could fall right in their hands on Thursday. The Sixers are a lock to draft Fultz, the Celtics are more interested in Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum if they don’t trade the pick, so the Suns will be sweating it out during the five minutes the Lakers are on the clock at 2.