The Sixers have officially moved into the offseason, and a lot of our attention will subsequently turn to the draft and free agency. At least it will when we’re not hunting down clips of Joel Embiid dunking on small, white trainers or staking out concerts to see if he’s dancing.
To the questions!
If the Sixers come away with only one player from this draft and it’s not Fultz, who would you be happy with in terms of talent and fit? — Sean Moore
I think Josh Jackson is the second best player/prospect in this class, and (barring a change after rewatching tape over the next two months) I would take him at No. 2 if the Sixers are fortunate enough to have that chance.
The concerns with Jackson’s jumpshot are real, despite his surge from beyond the arc to end his freshman season. You don’t have to look any further than his free-throw percentage — that 56.6 mark is just woof — and his hitchy form to talk yourself out on him as a prospect. He’s also older than a lot of the other prospects at the top of the draft, and that’s not something you should ignore as you weigh your options with a top-five pick.
But Jackson is the best marriage of two-way talent in the class, and I’m enough of a risk-taker to gamble on improvement in the jumpshot department.
Watching Kansas this season, what jumped off the page with Jackson was his ability to positively impact games even as he struggled with his shot or foul trouble. If his offense dipped, the intensity rarely dipped on defense and he’d find a way to create turnovers and block shots at the other end. Jackson had his off nights, but there was rarely a moment where he let some sort of adversity rattle him, and he played two-way basketball with a level of consistency that is rare in young players.
I would spend a lot of sleepless nights worrying about Jackson’s fit next to Ben Simmons on the offensive end, but the defensive potential is through the roof. Putting a lineup with Jackson, Simmons, Robert Covington and Joel Embiid on the floor would dominate the defensive end and produce a parade of fast break points.
If I was more convinced by his handle I would say Jonathan Isaac, who I love as a player irrationally and think will be a simpler fit. For now, give me Jackson.
How worried should we be about the possibility of Jayson Tatum as our one and only takeaway from this draft? — Ben Lindsey
Jayson Tatum is fine. I just don’t think “fine” is the level you swing for in the area the Sixers are picking in.
The more cynical version of that answer: Tatum is the latest model of a wing prototype that I have almost zero interest in as a player. He’s a damn good scorer from mid-range, but scoring is just about all I trust him to do at the next level. He’s not a very good playmaker, he’s only half-engaged on defense a lot of the time, and when his shot wasn’t falling there were times during his freshman season where it was hard to remember he was even on the court.
I do think the Sixers might have a need for a player that can just go out and get buckets. If that’s the type of player you want, I think his ability to create his own shot is currently better than a lot of the other pure-scorer types in this class. He has a solid foundation to build on if you think the defensive inconsistency can be coached out of him.
Tatum just doesn’t do it for me. Your milage may vary.
How much of a loss is it if the Sixers end up with 4 and 5? — Mike Cavalier
There’s no one else on Fultz’s level in this draft for me, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say it’s a “loss” in any capacity for the Sixers to get two top-five picks in one of the deepest classes in recent memory.
In a perfect world, the Sixers already have the players upon who they’ll build the foundation. Simmons and Embiid are special talents who I think can carry a franchise if they’re healthy, so a lot of your future should be focused on finding the players who extract the most out of their skillsets. You can’t toss everything out the window for perfect fits, but you do need to keep both guys in mind as you continue your ascent toward the playoffs and beyond.
Two top-five picks would allow the Sixers to balance shooting for the stars and finding the best possible complimentary guys around those two. I’m not necessarily a big Malik Monk guy, but I would feel a little better about taking him if he came alongside a bigger swing at a game-changing player. A combination like Monk and Isaac at four and five would balance the different priorities and help accentuate the strengths of the core members in place.
In a scenario where they were only picking one guy at four or five, I don’t think Monk would be in the mix for me. That’s an admittedly silly way to think — Monk’s ability to play alongside Simmons and Embiid is no different regardless of whether he’s the only pick or one of two guys selected — it would just help me sleep better if the Sixers’ only haul from this draft wasn’t him.
If [the Sixers] end up with the fifth pick, would you trade Dario and five for No. 1 and take Fultz? — Robert Lion
I might be in the minority around these parts, but I would probably do this.
There’s an element of the mystery box theory here, but I think Fultz is about as close to a sure thing as you can get. He created efficient offense for himself despite playing on a crappy team and facing extra attention from defenses every time he stepped on the floor, and he’s a special player on the offensive end. There’s not a whole lot you could want in a guard prospect that he doesn’t have.
After waiting for him to come over for a couple years and then watching him ball the hell out for a couple month stretch in 2017, it wouldn’t be easy to think of Saric as a trade chip. I love his competitive fire, I love the passing, his search for the right words as he tries to breach the language barrier, he is a delightful player and person who I am convinced can be a key cog on a contender.
I just think Markelle Fultz can be a star, and he has a much better chance and easier path to that caliber of play than a lot of his peers. It would make a lot of people mad to sacrifice your known quality, highly-beloved forward just for another chance at a star, and if you’re less prone to risk, I get not being interested in giving him up, but I would sign up for this deal in a heartbeat. Fultz is an elite shooter off-the-dribble, uses change-of-pace/dodges through traffic in ways that are reminiscent of young Chris Paul, and his more scoring-centric profile fits beautifully next to Simmons. I’m all in.