Happy Friday everybody! We’re only a week-and-a-half away from the NBA Draft Lottery, and many of you have prospects on the brain. We’re going to get more in depth on the guys at the top once we know where the Sixers are going to pick, and best believe the community will have a chance to vote on their favorite prospects in the coming weeks.
For now, a few questions from the mailbag. If any of you want to submit questions for future editions, use #LBMailbag on Twitter or hit us up by email through the options provided in the site header.
For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to assume we’re using the “consensus” top three of Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, and Lonzo Ball in some order. After that triumvirate, Jonathan Isaac is the clear-cut player to target, and he’s close to edging into the back part of the top three for me personally.
This should not shock anyone who read this site frequently over the last few seasons, but I value a player’s ability to change the game on the defensive end on a roughly equal level with their offensive skills, particularly for guys at the 3-5 spots. Isaac is the prototype of what you want in a modern forward on defense, and you can plug him right into a switch-heavy scheme. At 6’10”, he has an abundance of length to pair with excellent foot speed and athleticism, which allowed him to stay in front of smaller guards and wings on the perimeter at FSU.
While he’s not quite stout enough to serve as a primary rim protector at the NBA level, Isaac was very good as both a shot-blocker and a defensive rebounder for the Seminoles. Paired with another big man—the Sixers have a pretty good one of those!—Isaac would help a team end possessions and force low-percentage looks at every level on the floor. There are few players who can block/contest a high percentage of shots while still cleaning the glass, and Isaac’s ability to force tough shots and seal off rebounders in one motion is pretty special.
Offensively, there’s a chance he never “gets there” thanks to his iffy handle, but he’s comfortable without the ball in his hands and routinely scored on cuts in ACC play. With Ben Simmons assuming ballhandling duties and Joel Embiid expected to dominate touches, having a player who works best as a defensive Swiss army knife and off-ball threat wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
The Sixers have the opportunity to build a really special defense and force matchups because of the two unique prospects they have in place. Long, defensively-engaged athletes are who they should be chasing, and Isaac fits the bill.
There’s no way I would move an unprotected first this far out from the 2018 Draft without getting a star in return. Too much can happen between now and next May’s lottery, whether it’s an opportunity to trade for a disgruntled superstar or a rash of injuries that leaves Philly praying to the ping pong gods once again.
That said, Isaac is a guy being projected around the front of that range at the moment, and I do think the Sixers would have to take a hard look at getting back in the mix if the Lakers pick doesn’t convey. There’s no telling what draft boards for other teams look like, and maybe they’re not as sold on this draft class as the general public seems to be.
I do think you’re going to struggle to get into the top-10 without using any ‘17 draft assets or additional players. Teams in the NBA’s bottom-10 are looking for instant help to sell to their fanbase and get the ball rolling in the right direction. As we saw when the Sixers drafted guys who couldn’t help right away, not everyone is willing to wait for future payoff.
While this question pops up often and tends to get dismissed as a silly fantasy, it’s not as far-fetched as you might imagine. In recent discussions with people around the league, the likelihood (and merits) of this sort of deal happening has come up frequently.
There are several schools of thought to sort through here. If you don’t think there’s that much separation between 1-3 or even 1-5, spreading your bets around makes some sense. A couple more chances at a star would be nice, especially because we’ve seen firsthand how thin the line can be between stardom and extended time on the shelf.
But If you think there’s a clear-cut No. 1 guy with a chance at being a superstar that outclasses his peers, you move heaven and earth to get him. This is where I’m at with Fultz—I think he’s in a tier by himself, and the priority since the beginning of this rebuild has always been to obtain players with superstar potential. He can be a shapeshifter on this Sixers team, creating for others when Simmons needs a breather or scoring in bunches when they need buckets. There are no glaring fit concerns, and in a marketplace filled with uncertainty, he’s about as sure of a thing as you’ll see in a guard prospect.
The better question is whether a team would actually give up one and (presumably) their chance to draft Fultz. Despite my everlasting desire to see the Celtics suffer, this might be one instance where Boston winning the lottery might end up being a positive. The Celtics have a lot of resources invested in their guards—and a big Isaiah Thomas extension is on the horizon—and they might prefer to drop down and get a couple pieces to add on to their more advanced core. They’re in a much different spot than a team like the Orlando Magic, who need impact players wherever and however they can get them.
First of all, a quick revision: LeBron James is the Nas of the NBA. He was impossibly good at age 18, a man who fell victim to expectations driven by his own prolific standards, dogged by dodgy supporting efforts—Nas often rhymed over the production equivalent of Booby Gibson and Donyell Marshall—and ultimately one of the greatest to ever do it.
Embiid strikes me in the same vein as Chance the Rapper, in that his overwhelming joy as a person is his most dominant feature. Even when Embiid is heartlessly baptizing poor suckers like Cody Zeller, he’s doing so while grinning from ear-to-ear. How many guys could openly troll players they’re matching up against, then turn around and make friends with them? There are few people who could get DeMarcus Cousins to participate in a butt-smacking contest in the middle of a game. That’s the sort of joy Chance tends to inspire in those around him, too.
Saric may not have the long-term star power or upside of a couple of his teammates, but he’s a cult hero who looks primed to be part of a greater collective. I think of him in the same vein as Inspectah Deck of Wu Tang Clan—nobody would say he’s the “best” member of the group, and the likelihood of him carrying a project by himself is fairly low. But you know you’re going to get a solid performance on every track, and every so often, he will step into that booth and absolutely burn that motherfucker down.
We’re just waiting on your Triumph verse, Homie.