The Philadelphia Sixers will be drafting third overall for the third time in four years after the order was determined via the lottery last night. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers will be selecting ahead of Philly come June 22. While the ping-pong balls could’ve worked out better, the Sixers did have some luck.
Philadelphia had the fourth worst record in the NBA last season, giving them an 11.9% chance at the top overall selection and a 37.7% of having their pick land in the top three. They were most likely to land the fifth overall pick, 35% chance. All it would take for the Sixers to sink to five would be for one team lower in the order to jump them. And that’s what happened.
On July 10, 2015, the Philadelphia Sixers agreed to a trade with the Sacramento Kings. Philly received Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, the right to swap picks in 2016 or 2017, and their 2019 first round pick unprotected in exchange for Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic. The deal gave Sacramento the instant gratification of freeing up enough cap room for them to sign point guard Rajon Rondo. The trade, like most during the Sam Hinkie tenure, was viewed more as a long-term investment and the Sixers finally reaped the benefits last night.
Sacramento was slotted to pick eighth overall in this year’s draft. During the lottery though, they jumped into the top three and they had only a 10% chance of doing so. The Kings ended up with the third overall pick, which only had a 3.9% chance of happening. With the swap from 2015 though, the Sixers are able to acquire the third overall pick in exchange for number five.
The shear improbability of the swap actually being utilized gives many Sixers fans joy. It also adds to the growing legend of former GM Hinkie. It’s shocking to think that of all ten teams that were seeded below Philly, that the one team they could’ve benefitted from hopping into the top three actually did.
While the pick swap worked in the Sixers favor, they also had the opportunity to cash in on another Hinkie trade, but it did not convert yet. The Sixers dealt the reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a larger four-team trade. The best asset exchanged in that is unequivocally the Sixers obtaining a Lakers first round pick. It was top five protected in 2015, and top three protected last year. L.A. kept the pick those two years. Coming into the lottery this year, Los Angeles would only retain their pick if it remained in the top three. Based on another trade, and an NBA rule barring teams from trading consecutive first round picks, if the Lakers gave up the pick this year, they would also give up their 2019 first rounder to the Orlando Magic.
The Los Angeles Lakers were easily the biggest winners of the NBA lottery. Not only did they retain their pick, and subsequently their 2019 one, but they also jumped the Phoenix Suns and will be selecting second overall for the third straight year. They have picked point guard D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram with those draft picks. They now by default lose their 2018 first rounder to Philly but that’s a sacrifice LA is more than happy to make to keep their pick in such a top heavy draft as this one.
The Sixers needs have been well documented and it’s a result of drafting based on drafting the best available player instead of selecting to fill a need. That’s why the Sixers had a logjam at center with selecting three straight centers all within the top six picks. This draft though is shaping up to be exactly what the Sixers need – guard heavy. Philly’s backcourt has been its biggest weakness for years and it’s about to be addressed.
Picking third in this year’s draft though puts them out of the running for the top players in the draft. Markelle Fultz is the full package combining court vision, speed, athleticism, and shooting. He is probably the best true guard to enter the draft since Kyrie Irving in 2011 and John Wall in 2010. The second best guard is UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Ball reenergized a UCLA team that had its most exciting season since Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook were on the team. His height allows him to see over defenses and he’s hands down the best passer in the draft. Ball also is a good shooter but has an unconventional shot form. Ball’s biggest downside could be his own father though. These two guards will almost definitely be off the board when the Sixers go on the clock.
There seem to be four players that Philadelphia would be interested in selecting third overall in the event they keep the pick. Josh Jackson, a small forward from Kansas, is a super-athletic wing that’s already a shutdown perimeter defender. His shot, which was a concern early in the season, improved drastically. The only red flag is an off-the-court threat he made to a player on the KU women’s team. Duke’s Jayson Tatum is the other small forward that the Sixers will consider. His offensive game is very polished and he would immediately lessen the burden on Joel Embiid to score.
Philly will also entertain the idea of drafting each player that made up Kentucky’s starting backcourt. De’Aaron Fox, a point guard, who has appeared to climb up draft boards and is expected to now go in the top five. Fox is best in transition and pushing the tempo. A backcourt of him and Simmons would see the Sixers become a much faster team although both of them are streaky shooters. Fox’s running mate was Malik Monk. Monk is the best scorer by far in the draft. He is similar to Jamal Murray from Kentucky who was selected by the Denver Nuggets last year. Monk is a little undersized for the shooting guard position but with Simmons being so tall, they could switch and Monk could cover point guards. Monk would address the Sixers most pressing need.
Sixers current general manager Bryan Colangelo should call every front office right now. Philly has a total arsenal of assets that they could flip. Philly has the third overall pick and four second rounders this year. Next year they’ll have two first round selections and three in the second round, as they will in 2019 as well. In this draft and the next two, they’ll have a total of five first round picks and ten second round picks – a completely and utterly absurd influx of players that should be packaged together for either better picks or more established players. Even though the lottery could’ve gone better, Philadelphia is still set up for success in the near future with the number of accumulated assets.
Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports