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Sixers Mailbag: Who is the worst case scenario pick at No. 3 in 2017 NBA Draft?

It’s a deep class, but the Sixers could still screw it up.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everybody. We’re now less than a week away from the 2017 NBA Draft, and hot damn I’m sure you’re as excited as I am. We’ll get right into the questions, because I’m sure you’re prepared to yell at me for not liking the same prospects you do.

Let’s rumble!

The true worst-case scenario would be taking Lauri Markannen, and if that happens, I am going scorched earth on this front office. But I don’t think that has any chance of happening, so let’s talk about a much more realistic option.

De’Aaron Fox is the worst-case scenario. You could talk me into pretty much every other guy in the top seven. Malik Monk is a great shooter! Jayson Tatum is very skilled for his age! The guys who we have ranked in the top five of our LB Big Board are there for a reason! Hell, even Frank Ntilikina has the fit argument going for him.

I can’t talk myself into Fox on this Sixers team. If Ben Simmons weren’t already on the roster, maybe I would consider it, but even then, I think there are guys with less concerning or more manageable flaws, and in the case of Josh Jackson, at least I can expect to get off-ball cutting and defensive value out of him if the jumper doesn’t come.

Fox is probably a one position defender at the next level—which happens to be the least valuable defensive position in basketball—on top of being an abysmal shooter. He’s a pretty good playmaker and a pretty good scorer, but there’s no outlier ability here that makes me feel comfortable about settling for “well-rounded, non-shooter” at point guard.

I think Fox is a fun and interesting prospect, but he’s become vastly overrated because of a single performance against UCLA in the tournament. You don’t throw out the rest of the evaluation period because he had the game of his life, and beating up on Lonzo Ball and the Bruins doesn’t erase that he couldn’t hit water from a boat with his jumper this year.

If you want to bet on this guy being the next Mike Conley, be my guest. On my behalf, just cue the audio:

Tatum isn’t at the top of my preference list, but guys, it seriously would not be that bad if they ended up taking him at No. 3. And by the way, it’s a scenario you should absolutely plan for—he’s certainly in the mix.

I don’t like players of his archetype, but as Marc laid out in his recent piece, a lot of the concerns people keep talking about have been oversold. Just because he scored a lot of points in isolation doesn’t mean he’s incapable of getting buckets in another role. He’s a shotmaker through and through, and I don’t see that going away even if he plays off the ball a lot in the NBA.

Sure, the three-point range is a question mark right now. But a lone question mark is considerably better than the series of alternating exclamation and question marks that go up in my head watching some of his peers shoot. He was a better defender than I expected him to be heading into the year, and as long as he can stick the weaker of the wing assignments, he’ll do just fine with Joel Embiid anchoring the paint behind him.

The Sixers haven’t had a perimeter player they can count on to just get buckets in a while, and if nothing else, Tatum would fill that void. He’s not as sexy a pick as some of the players ahead of him, but let’s all step back off the ledge.

It’s Mills, and it’s not even close to me, because as I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t want any part of the Lowry contract. He’s a great player, Philly dude, all that jazz, but for the love of god, let somebody else take the plunge.

We already discussed my worst-case scenario, so let’s sprinkle some positivity into this mailbag and get really crazy.

The Celtics, primed to add an impact player at the top of the draft, shock the world by refusing to use the pick. With the basketball universe staring on, Danny Ainge trots to the podium.

“We just couldn’t imagine messing with our core by actually attempting to get better,” says Ainge. “We really need those developmental minutes for Terry Rozier.”

With the world in Magic Johnson’s hands, Adam Silver walks up to the podium. Anxious whispers fill the room in the moments before the pick is announced. Adrian Wojnarowski refuses to send the Tweet ahead of time, he simply can’t believe it.

“With the second overall pick,” says Silver, “the Los Angeles Lakers select Lauri Markannen from the University of Arizona.”

Cheers ring out all across Philadelphia. The Sixers are in position to select Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 talent in the draft, and two of the team’s most hated opponents are in smithereens. The Lakers will go on to give up 350 points a game with their new big man spearheading the worst defensive lineup in the history of the league, LeBron James wipes his ass with the Celtics in the 2018 Eastern Conference Playoffs, and the Sixers earn another top-three pick next summer, because damn it, that Lakers pick can’t be denied this time.

First, my instant reaction to this question.

As for the comparison, you mean besides passing, perimeter defense, rebounding, scoring, shooting—yes, shooting—playmaking, dribbling, driving, attacking closeouts, and creating his own shot? Nothing, I guess.

I don’t think there’s anything out there—in this draft, anyway—that I would be all that excited to acquire at the expense of the No. 3 pick, Ball or otherwise. No. 5 and No. 10 is a special case, and I’m not even all that thrilled abut that move because of how steep I think the drop-off might be in the mid-lottery.

I ended up dropping Ball to No. 4 on my personal Big Board, but in terms of league-wide perception he’s the most “valuable” guy there and a great fit on this Sixers team. Even if they’re not truly interested in bringing him into the fold, they’re not going to run into a scenario where teams know they have to give him up, which would help them maximize return.

I don’t have any interest in trying to jumpstart this team with some earth-shattering trade we’re not aware of, unless that’s to move up to No. 1. I’m perfectly content with the team standing pat at No. 3 and taking whoever is the best guy on their board. You go through these long periods of losing so you have a chance at premium picks and players, not to get cute and try to shoot the moon with trades. Trust your evaluations.

If I am the GM of the Celtics, I am drafting the worst possible players and sabotaging the franchise beyond repair because I am a spiteful and petty man. If I’m a rational person at the helm of the Celtics, I probably just draft Fultz, because the writing is on the wall for their contention chances in the near future.

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