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Sixers Mailbag: Can Josh Jackson be best player available at No. 3 without a jump shot?

The short answer is maybe.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Kansas vs Oregon Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

After a fun-filled week of draft rumors, your questions this week almost all centered around, well, more draft rumors. I don’t blame you! The Sixers are in perhaps the most interesting spot in the 2017 NBA Draft, and what they do at No. 3 will have massive ramifications around the league.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the questions you, for some inexplicable reason, think I’m qualified to answer.

Trading the Kings pick

I am into the idea of using the 2019 Kings pick as a trade chip on a general level, but I think this would be selling too low. Giving away that pick in order to trade up to No. 1 and draft a guy with star player equity? Giddy up. Using it in a package to acquire a readymade veteran superstar on another team? Let’s go! But barring some weird things happening in the top-10, I don’t really like anyone enough at No. 10 to sacrifice the star equity inherent in the 2019 pick.

The Kings have been bad for a very long time, and they are less than half a year removed from trading away their franchise player. Their future picks are worth their weight in gold, and I don’t think giving one up to draft a player like Lauri Markannen is the right move.

Is Jackson really BPA?

To be clear, Jackson’s lack of a jumper—don’t be fooled by his college three-point percentage—should not be taken lightly. As people watch more tape and read more prospect evaluations over the next few weeks, I suspect some Jackson fans will sour on him and question whether he’s truly the BPA.

But he does so many other things well that I think it’s quite easy to see why he’d be best available. He was a super valuable offensive player at the college level because he’s able to impact the game in a variety of ways, regardless of whether the jumper fell or not. Jackson was adept at attacking closeouts, crashing the offensive glass, cutting away from the ball, and passing with either hand while driving to the hoop.

I think too many people lump Jackson in with defense-first, non-shooting wings like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Jackson’s skill level is far beyond most wings who hit the league with a questionable jumper, and he carried a big load on offense despite the hole in his game. Even on possessions where he’s barreling and spinning toward the hoop, his head is up and looking for teammates:

I understand the reservations with Jackson, particularly on this Sixers team. But he has so many other skills to fall back on that he’s certainly the best player available, just maybe not the best fit in Philadelphia.

Let’s mess with the Kings some more

I figured we should keep with the non-shooting theme for back-to-back questions here. This is an interesting proposal from Nate, but I don’t think I would have the courage to make this move, mainly because I want no part of risking having Fox on the Sixers.

To be comfortable making a move like that, you have to prepare for the possibility of the other team not caving. And to be clear, I loved De’Aaron Fox the college player and derived a lot of enjoyment from watching him torch Lonzo Ball in the NCAA Tournament. He’s not John Wall fast, but he’s a menace in transition and will be electrifying to watch in the open floor.

I do not believe in that jump shot even a little bit. Yes, I know he shot decently from the free-throw line, and his shot mechanics look better than the hitchy mess that is Jackson’s J, but this is a thing I earnestly felt when watching Fox at Kentucky:

Reality is a little better, but not much. Fox shot 232 total jump shots this year, and he cashed in on under 33 percent of them. As much as I want to believe in his success at the free-throw line as a positive indicator, the tape scouting part of the equation has far too many bricks to feel comfortable with this trade, as Hinkie-esque as it might be.

Unlike with Jackson—who could impact the game as a slasher and wing defender if his jumper never comes—Fox would be fighting an uphill battle for relevance if he doesn’t develop a respectable shot. There aren’t really a ton of success stories for non-shooting guards on good teams, and I’m not willing to risk using a top-three pick on him in a transparent leverage play.

Who’s the guy the Celtics will claim they actually wanted in five years?

Regular readers know I have been driving the Jonathan Isaac bandwagon for some time, so I won’t get on my soapbox for him again. I could see him becoming this guy, but only if he’s on the right team; a player with his defensive versatility is nearly always impactful, though I think he needs to be on a team that allows him to grow slowly into his offensive role.

Let’s go with Dennis Smith Jr. He was playing on a bad team and recovering from a previous ACL tear, and a lot of people fell into the trap of focusing too heavily on his defense indifference. I include myself in that group, because I wrote him off for long stretches of last season after watching him wander aimlessly on the defensive end. But the highs for Smith are absolutely devastating; he’s an explosive athlete whose compact frame aids him as a finisher, and if he puts it all together he can be a three-level scorer in the NBA.

A lot of fans will focus on his rim-rattling dunks—and they’re freaking spectacular—but at his size, his ability to finish layups in traffic is much more important. I saw plenty of this watching him play at N.C. State:

He’s going to have a lot more space to operate in the pick-and-roll once he’s playing with NBA spacing and a deeper three-point line.

Ben Simmons on the Big Board

I think he is a top-two guy in this class at the absolute worst. If not for concerns about his ability to shoot, I think he would be the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in this draft, just like he was last year’s.

The shooting woes complicate things a little bit, however. Markelle Fultz is good-to-great at pretty much everything you want a guard prospect to do, and he fits within just about any roster composition you could imagine. While I don’t think drafting for fit is the way to go, drafting players who can fit with various roster permutations is important. You never know what opportunities will come your way on the player acquisition front.

To show you what I mean—If Fultz was the pick in last year’s draft, there would be way less hesitation to bring in a guy like Jackson with this year’s No. 3 pick. You could live with him slowly finding his jumper, or perhaps never finding it, if he was playing next to a lead guard like Fultz instead of a player like Simmons.

If I had to choose, I would probably lean toward Fultz as the No. 1 guy, with Simmons right behind him, because Simmons needs a more specific composition of players around him in order to maximize his ability. But this is a much more worthwhile argument than Fultz vs. anyone in this year’s class, and should not be taken as an indictment of Simmons’ upside. You can’t teach size, after all, and Simmons’ passing ability at 6’10” would be the best singular skill in the draft once again.

Would you rather?

I hate to break this news to you publicly, but you’re fired for asking this question, Shamus.

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