On the heels of Pick Swapalypse on Tuesday night came a whirlwind of new mock drafts across the web. With the Celtics and Lakers (ugh) firmly entrenched with the top two picks in next month’s draft, it’s definitely worth checking out who the writers have the Sixers taking with the third-overall pick.
I’ll go player by player with the writers’ predictions beneath and then give a few quick thoughts regarding that specific player. All measurements are courtesy of DraftExpress.
Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke, 6’8”, 204 lbs., 6’11” wingspan
While Sixers fans rejoiced over this pick swap from the Kings conveying, the braintrust will have a difficult choice at No. 3. With a glut of big men in the fold and Ben Simmons set to take over ballhandling duties next season, Tatum will be able to handle some minutes early on and offer the team much-needed scoring help on the wing. His potential to become a quality jump shooter and perhaps a multi-positional defender makes him a great fit with what the Sixers are building. His fit alongside Simmons stands out from the pack in that regard.
Tatum has been bred to be a primary scorer all his life. Unlike many young scorers, Tatum already comes with a plan of attack: He knows his spots on the floor and how to get to them. There were no shortage of options on Duke last year, but by the end of the season Tatum emerged as the team’s go-to player.
As long as he improves his reads as a passer, he’s going to have a long career as an excellent offensive player.Supremely athletic scorer who, while undersized as a 2, has tools to grow into a point guard.
Drafting a Duke player with the third pick in the draft whose game isn’t fit for the modern era? That’s never gone wrong before! It’s illogical to avoid Tatum because of Jahlil Okafor, but he does present similar concerns in the body of a forward this time around.
I’m not sure why the Sixers would prefer an isolation-heavy mid-range shooter when they have a ball-dominant player like Ben Simmons and one who had an absurd 36.0 percent usage rate as a rookie in Joel Embiid. I have more confidence in his shot than, say, Josh Jackson, but I would be looking for a guy with more defensive versatility or who could be a better transition threat than Tatum to compliment the Sixers’ two assumed centerpieces.
The Sixers could use a point guard, but that depends, in part, on how much ballhandling Ben Simmons will do. They need shooters who can stretch the floor and work off screens, too, and Tatum would fit the bill.
Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky, 6’4”, 197 lbs., 6’3.5” wingspan
Supremely athletic scorer who, while undersized as a 2, has tools to grow into a point guard.
A good but hardly ideal night for the Sixers.
They didn’t get the Lakers’ pick (though they will get it next year), and their own pick actually fell to fifth. But they moved up to third because of a savy Sam Hinkie trade that was made years ago, allowing them to swap places with Sacramento.
The Sixers wanted either Fultz or Ball. Now the choice is tougher. But they need shooters, and Malik Monk should be there for the taking. Or they can go with the toughness of De’Aron Fox to bolster their perimeter defense.
Coach Brett Brown plans to put the ball in Ben Simmons’ hands next season, so right now Monk looks more likely. But Fox has a lot of fans in the Sixers’ front office and likes gritty players.
I don’t think Monk is every going to play a lick of defense in the pros. That’s fine and he could still be a good, productive player, but I’d prefer a player who has some semblance of a chance to be a two-way player with a top-three pick. Those guys are so rare. Picks like this are you best chance to hit on them.
Offensively, at the very least, Monk is a pretty perfect fit alongside a Simmons-fronted attack. Simmons can drive and kick to Monk, who’d love throwing up bombs from three-point range in front of a raucous Wells Fargo Center crowd.
De’Aaron Fox, point guard, Kentucky, 6’4”, 171 lbs., 6’6.5” wingspan
For all the hype surrounding Ball, De'Aaron Fox absolutely handed the UCLA star his lunch in their Sweet 16 matchup in the NCAA tournament. The lightning-quick point guard dropped 39 points on his counterpart and showed time and time again how unstoppable he is off the bounce. One of the quickest players to enter the draft in recent memory, Fox has a ton of work to do to improve his shot after he made just 25 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, but he's unguardable when he makes a couple. If he develops a sound jumper, he has the talent to be the best point guard from this draft.
The 76ers need a new backcourt, and they more than anyone would love to land Fultz. But Fox, who measured out to be 6-3, 170 pounds, is a freakish athlete who played smart in a system that has been incredibly successful with point guards. “I feel like I’m the best (point guard in the draft),” he said at the combine. “If they drafted above me I’d be fine with it, I’d be cool with it. You still have to play basketball at the end of the day."
I would love Fox on almost any other team besides the Sixers. In a point guard-crazy league, having a guy with his defensive potential at that position could make him an Avery Bradley-like stopper on that end of the court. It’s his play on offense that gives me pause with having him become a Sixer.
He’s fast as hell with a burst better than anyone this side of John Wall, but he just cannot shoot. He needs the ball in his hands to be even remotely effective offensively, rendering him essentially useless playing off Simmons. On another Sixers team in another time period, I’d welcome Fox here. This city would eat up his demeanor and aggressive play. It just seems like a poor allocation of resources to take him third with Simmons here.
Anyway we can combine Monk’s offense with Fox’s defense and burst?
Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas, 6’8”, 203 lbs., 6’9.75” wingspan
In his lone collegiate season, Jackson's defensive prowess and and physicality was on full display. Additionally, Jackson proved himself a dynamic scorer last season, averaging 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.
Jackson seems like the most likely pick to me at this point while operating under the assumption that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are gone with the top two picks. I would certainly be okay with taking Jackson though, I may prefer Jonathan Isaac at this time. Jackson is superior in transition and is a better ball-handler and passer, whereas Isaac has more defensive potential and versatility to me.
Neither player has a truly consistent three-point shot right now, which concerns me, especially with Jackson. The Jayhawk freshman shot 37.8 percent on 90 three-point attempts, Jackson’s shot still looks to have an uncomfortable hitch in it that could be detrimental at the pro level. Shooting 56.6 percent from the free throw line on 173 attempts isn’t too encouraging either.
Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington, 6’4”, 195 lbs., 6’9.75” wingspan
Fultz is one of the most dynamic offensive point guards to come out of college in a while. The prospect of Fultz and Ben Simmons trading off point guard duties is scintillating. I have my concerns about Fultz – namely, his defensive focus – but it's difficult to differentiate between what had to do with him and what had to do with his dysfunctional nine-win college team. But there's no doubting his highlight-reel talent, especially on offense.
Forgrave has Boston taking Tatum with the top pick, which, um, I don’t really get why they’d do that. They could easily trade that pick if they don’t want to take Fultz instead of taking Tatum outright here. If Fultz somehow falls to the Sixers at three, I think the city would lose its mind.
He’s my favorite prospect in this draft. I believe that he’s in a tier to himself this year and that he just might be the best guard prospect since John Wall in 2010. Here’s hoping for some draft night bonanza that results in Fultz coming to Philly.