By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
As expected, the Sixers selected Washington point guard Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick, the culmination of a crazy week where the team shipped a future 1st-round pick to Boston in order to move up two spots in the draft and get their man. There were a couple minor social media hiccups. Fultz’s social media manager left the template “(city)” and “(team name)” on a sponsored Instagram post, rather than updating to “Philadelphia” and “Sixers”. Embiid came out with a terrible FEDS nickname (Fultz, Embiid, Dario, Simmons). Otherwise though, it was all smiles around the Sixers organization as the franchise grabbed the player widely considered the most talented in draft, who also fits perfectly with the rest of the team’s young core.
After Fultz added to his collection of Sixers caps is where things really got interesting. Reported to be furiously working the phones, Bryan Colangelo successfully traded back into the first round, sending Orlando the OKC pick the team gave up for Jerami Grant trade (a 2020 top-20 protected first) and the worst of Brooklyn or New York’s 2020 second rounders, in exchange for the 25th overall pick.
With that selection, Philadelphia nabbed Anzejs Pasecniks, a 21-year-old, 7’2″ Latvian center. Playing in the top level of Spain last year, Pasecniks averaged 7.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks in 16 minutes per game. Scouting reports describe him as an above the rim player who gets up and down the floor incredibly well for a guy his size. He has a developing outside shot that is in its very early stages with a limited sample size seen during games. Pasecniks is under contract with his club, Gran Canaria, for another two years. The deal may contain an out to go to the NBA, but talent evaluators say he still needs time to add muscle to his frame anyway.
If the Sixers are correct in their evaluation, Pasecniks could be a valuable guy down the road for them, and the price was certainly reasonable to swing the deal. I also liked what they did with their initial second-round pick, selecting 21-year-old power forward Jonah Bolden with the 36th overall pick. Bolden played his sophomore season at UCLA before leaving school to play professionally in Serbia. He projects as an ideal stretch four, having shot 41.9% from three last season, and also has all the tools to both defend the perimeter and offer rim protection.
There was a great piece by Jonathan Tjarks on the Ringer about how he felt Bolden could be a lottery talent hiding in the second round, due to the unusual circumstances of his leaving UCLA for Serbia. Oh, and like Ben Simmons, Bolden is an Aussie. I’m on board. Colangelo said after the draft all the international guys will remain overseas, but Bolden says he has an opt out and wants to come over. We’ll see.
The next part of the draft is where I have a serious bone to pick with Bryan Colangelo. With the 39th pick, the Sixers selected point guard Jawun Evans from Oklahoma State. Then, with the 46th pick, they drafted shooting guard Sterling Brown from SMU. However, the two players are going to be traded to the Clippers and Bucks, respectively, for nothing more than cash considerations. Philadelphia has already received $3.4M of the allowable $3.5M in trades for this year. The new fiscal league year begins July 1, at which point every team will have another $3.6M available, so the trades will likely not be announced until then as a result.
However, these deals are an extremely uncreative way for Colangelo to use the plethora of picks that were at the team’s disposal. Sam Hinkie basically turned the rights to late second-round picks into a package from Sacramento that enabled Colangelo to move up and grab Fultz this week. Draft for a future second-rounder, draft another foreign player and keep his rights overseas, do anything but simply punt on the picks and grab some more cash for ownership. The fact that the Evans selection was one of the picks received in the Nerlens Noel trade, meaning Colangelo essentially traded Noel for Justin Anderson and cash, really adds salt to the wound.
The Sixers finished out the night with another international player, taking 6’9″ center Mathias Lessort with the 50th overall pick. Lessort played for Nanterre in France last year, and the scouting report in a nutshell is an athletic big man who gets up and down the floor and is a mobile defender, but possesses limited range on offense. Lessort is unlikely to factor into the Sixers roster decisions any time soon.
Finally, Philadelphia ended the night by signing undrafted shooting guard James Blackmon out of Indiana. The 22-year-old shot 42% from three last year and will fill the honorary Scottie Wilbekin role in summer league.
Ultimately, even the frustrating portion of the second round is small potatoes in light of the fact that Markelle Fultz is a Sixer. The team found a way to grab the perfect piece to complete the puzzle of its young core, and Fultz, Embiid, and Simmons should be ready to lead this team forward for the next decade. With Fultz expected to play in summer league, we’ll get a look at the future of the franchise at the beginning of July. The next week can’t move quickly enough.