At 6’4, equipped with an amazing vision, long arms, a sweet stroke and incredible playmaking, Markelle Fultz is the total-package NBA prospect. Him and Ben Simmons, last year’s No.1 overall pick, are the two best prospects to enter the league since Kevin Durant. Now, they’ll be on the same team.
As always, college basketball is a sketchy sport for me. I watch it strictly for the prospects, not for simple enjoyment. This year’s NBA Draft is loaded. It’s much better than 2014, probably better than 2003 and could even be better than 1992 in terms of ceiling. Obviously, 1992 had its busts, and never turned out to be that great. But prospect-wise, 1992 and 2017 have serious similarities.
I’ll have a mock draft later this week. I always identify players who I believe will have an impact in NBA. Based off that, I give the select draft a label, saying that it’s a “seven-player draft” or “three-player draft”. This year, those two numbers can be added together and still won’t equal the amount of impact guys. 2017 is a 13-15 player draft. It’s completely ridiculous.
The most coveted player’s future team has been altered though. The Celtics and Sixers agreed to a deal for No.1 overall, where No.1 and No.3 would be swapped and Philadelphia will send two first round picks to Boston, one is the 2018 Lakers’ pick, and one is the 2019 Kings’ pick. However, Boston will only convey one of these picks.
This makes this trade for Boston less enticing than it already is.
First, lets evaluate how Fultz would have fit with Boston. He would have delivered an incredible talent to a team that’s 2nd best in its conference, creating a good balance of winning now and building for the future. With Isaiah Thomas a year away from entering free agency as a 29 year old, 5’7 1/2 point guard with contract demands reaching $40 million a year, having Fultz to pass the throne to didn’t sound like a bad idea. Fultz is an immediate impact guy… you can hand the car keys to him right away. If all that was the case, trading Thomas before next February didn’t sound all that crazy.
Fultz in a Sixers uniform though makes Philly the best League Pass team in the NBA, instantly elevates them to 35 wins, and starts the “In how many years will this team win a title?” conversation. There will be some chemistry to work out between him and Simmons; both are point guards who are great at creating shots for others and themselves. Simmons missing his rookie year though actually helps Fultz adapt. Had Simmons played in 2016-2017, he’d be accustom to having the ball in his hands most of the time. Fultz and him starting their careers at the same time only accelerates the learning curve for both. Pairing those two with a healthy Joel Embiid creates a menace to defend, as all three can score in so many ways.
Trading No.1 should have required Boston to gain a massive package from the Sixers. Remember, Markelle Fultz is the best prospect since Kevin Durant. When’s a guy like him gonna come around again?
Also, the Lakers should be much better next season. That pick is extremely compacted. Los Angeles has to essentially be the worst team in the league or improve substantially. 30 wins seems feasible, but anywhere between 21 and 27 wins puts for the Lakers puts Boston in dangerous territory. Does that pick, in a weaker draft (2018), and Josh Jackson (Who I like but has concerns) really equal Fultz, who’s a guaranteed superstar?
Boston could have strengthened their return by asking for the Lakers’ pick and the Kings’ 2019 unprotected first rounder, which in the current terms they only receive if the Lakers’ selection doesn’t convey. If I’m Boston, I’m rooting for that Kings pick in 2019. Assuming the Kings aren’t sold by then, the Kings are practically guaranteed to still be terrible, even with the two first rounders they have Thursday night.
I just didn’t think Boston got good value on No.1. If I was Danny Ainge, I would have asked for No.3 overall, the Lakers’ 2018 pick unprotected, the Kings 2019 pick unprotected, and maybe a future first (2022??) from Philly with protections. There’s a real chance passing up on Fultz will haunt Boston, even if they end up with good players with those future picks.
However, multiple people around the league believe that Boston has another move coming, and that judging this trade based on the picks they receive back is worthless since they’re gonna flip them. That would certainly make it more appeasing to me. That Lakers pick is pretty good if you’re trading for someone like Paul George (PS: I am not giving up much for him); it’s the No.1 asset in a PG-13 trade. The Kings pick is a dicey one… I’m not sure I’d move it for PG straight up, but I’m also not sure it’s the No.1 asset in a Jimmy Butler trade either.
Boston’s gonna be in talks with teams who possess superstars. They feel they need one… another one. However, the guy Boston is missing is a shot maker; a first or second option that can get buckets, be consistent and take some pressure off of Isiah Thomas. That guy is probably Josh Jackson at No.3. I respect the trade down. Boston can still get a guy they like and need and collect assets in the process. But using those assets in a trade for a superstar doesn’t make sense if you’re drafting one at No.3 in Jackson. Nor do those assets bring full value to what you could be missing out on in Fultz.
The only way I see this working out for Boston is if the Lakers stun everyone and take Jackson at No.2. I’m not huge on Lonzo Ball; I have more concerns than the average fan (More on that later this week). Jackson going No.2 would put Boston in a pickle. Jayson Tatum, Jonathan Issac and De’Aaron Fox are reaches or bad fits at No.3. This could force Boston to make a Jimmy Butler-type trade, bringing in a superstar while not doubling down on the same type of player with No.3 overall.
I loved this trade for Philadelphia. While Fultz will have to develop chemistry with Simmons, it’s the first smart move the Colangelos have made since taking over the Sixers from Sam Hinkie, AKA Jesus The Savior. …Trust the process forever… The Sixers have a higher ceiling than anyone in the league right now. Fultz, Simmons and Embiid will give defenses nightmares, and whether they win 60 games next year or 30, they will captivate us all.