Fultz highlights a busy draft night for the Sixers

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.

Draft Day is upon us

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

A wild week leading up to Thursday’s NBA draft has stripped some of the uncertainty from the event, especially at the top of the lottery. The Sixers are already sewing together Markelle Fultz’s jersey after swinging a deal with Boston to land the first overall pick. Meanwhile, the Lakers cleared the way for the Lonzo Ball era by shipping D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn, a steep price to pay to unload the Timofey Mozgov contract.

Even if the top-two picks appear set, there could still be plenty of fireworks throughout the evening. From Philadelphia’s perspective, outside of the Fultz situation, they’ve also been rumored to have had discussions about everyone from Kristaps Porzingis to Kevin Love. Though another bombshell trade is unlikely, Bryan Colangelo has made it known that he’s looking to get back into the first round. With an arsenal of four second-round picks, and Jahlil Okafor set to collect dust as a third-string center, Colangelo will certainly do his best to obtain a selection in the 20’s.

Will the Sixers make another deal? What draft-and-stash international players might the team take in the second round? These questions seem pretty tame now, but however small they might be, they could still impact the fortunes of the team down the road. Ultimately though, hearing “with the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Markelle Fultz” will be all the reason Sixers fans need to celebrate Thursday night.

Trade for first overall pick finalized Monday

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Sixers fans can feel safe buying their Markelle Fultz jersey (unlike certain Boston fans), as the trade announced over the weekend was finalized Monday sending the first overall pick in this Thursday’s draft to Philadelphia. The terms are largely the same as those previous disclosed. The Sixers are sending the third overall pick in this year’s draft and the 2018 Lakers pick, if the LA pick falls between 2-5.

Differing from the previous report though is what happens if the 2018 Lakers pick falls either first overall or 6-30. Under that scenario, Philadelphia will send Boston the better of the 2019 Kings pick and their own 2019 first-rounder, unless one of those picks is first overall, in which case they would send the lesser pick. Largely, these are slightly better terms for Boston than it being just the Kings pick. You would expect the Sixers to be better than Sacramento in 2019 given the promising young core they’re building in Philadelphia (now with 100% more Markelle Fultz), and for the adjusted terms not to come into play. But as Sam Hinkie taught us, you should never take such things for granted.

Still, Bryan Colangelo did well to put protections in place of a potential first overall pick in both years. Now, the absolute worst-case scenario for the Sixers is having to give up the third pick this year and a second overall pick in a future draft. That scenario would look pretty good for Boston, but still largely be irrelevant if Fultz goes on to become the star many project him to be. There’s also still a good chance it’s the third pick plus something like a late lottery pick later on. Say, the Lakers have the 7th pick next year, so it reverts to 2019, and the Sixers make the playoffs with the Kings getting the 11th pick. Then, the trade would be a landslide victory for the Sixers.

One last point I’d like to make relates to something Colangelo mentioned in his press conference Monday afternoon.

Now, I’m not saying Sam Hinkie ever should have been forced out. The current talent on the roster speaks to the outstanding job he did during his tenure as general manager of the Sixers. However, maybe there was something to management’s complaint that Hinkie rubbed too many people the wrong way in basketball circles. Colangelo, as the “relationships” guy, did seem to have that going for him in communicating about the Lakers pick with Boston for a long period of time and pulling this deal off. Ultimately, I guess I wish management had just been more forthright with Hinkie about needing to moderate his approach when dealing with other people around the league, and then been more patient to see if he could change for the better in that regard.

Regardless, that situation is in the past, and the future couldn’t be brighter in Philadelphia. Sixers fans had their fun Monday with Retweet Armagaddeon, dredging up every terrible take about the Process from over the years. As much fun as I’m having traipsing the coast in the Pacific Northwest, it was one of the few times I actually wished I was stuck in a cubicle and could follow along closely with everything. Yet, the real fun will be had when Markelle Fultz plops on that Sixers hat Thursday night. I can’t wait.

Sixers set to acquire first overall pick, Markelle Fultz

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

With five days left before the 2017 NBA draft, Bryan Colangelo received his full-fledged membership card as a member of the Process, swinging the following deal that will change the trajectory of the Sixers franchise for at least the next decade.

Philadelphia will be receiving the first overall pick in next week’s draft in exchange for the third overall pick and one future first-rounder. The future pick will be the 2018 Lakers pick if that selection falls between 2-5, or if it lands at either 1 or 6-30, the 2019 Kings pick will be sent instead.

Now, Sam Hinkie deserves all the credit in the world for putting the franchise in the position to have the assets to swing this deal. As a result of his working the Kings like a speedbag in the pick swap trade and selling Michael Carter-Williams at the absolute peak of his value, Philadelphia essentially received the top pick in this draft for the fifth pick, MCW, Arturas Gudaitis, and Luka Mitrovic.

But ever the staunchest Hinkie supporter has to admit, Bryan Colangelo took that fully stocked cupboard and baked one heck of a cake. Only trading one future pick to move up from 3 to 1 is a terrific bargain. Early rumors were that it was multiple picks, and people generally assumed that someone like Robert Covington or Dario Saric would be thrown into any trade if this sort of deal was to go down. The added protection on the Lakers pick, allowing the Sixers to still capitalize on grabbing an uber-hyped prospect like Luka Doncic or Michael Porter Jr. if LA wins the lottery next year, is a cherry on top.

Even though the Lakers pick at 2-5 or the Kings pick wherever it falls could yield a very valuable player, that’s a price you pay 10 out of 10 times to grab a player like Markelle Fultz. He’s the kind of guy you go through all the losing for in the first place to have a chance to grab. Fultz has no glaring weaknesses. He can create his own shot, pass, shoot from the outside, play on or off the ball, and has good size and wingspan for his position. The former Washington Husky has superstar potential, is an ideal fit next to Ben Simmons, and fits the timeline perfectly to grow alongside Simmons, Joel Embiid, and the rest of the Sixers young core which Colangelo kept entirely intact.

The two teams have agreed to the terms of the deal and it is expected to be finalized during a league call Monday. That day and the official drafting of Fultz next Thursday will represent a true turning point in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz form a perfectly complementary young core, with as much upside and potential as any such group in the NBA. Health permitting, we’ll be watching this trio over the next decade, not just competing for a 7th or 8th seed, but actually fighting to be in the conversation among the short list of true contenders year in and year out.

So again, thank you Sam Hinkie for putting the team in a position for this day to come. And Bryan Colangelo, welcome to the warm embrace of Sixers nation, and thank you for bringing this deal home. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for actual basketball games to get underway. I couldn’t be in greater anticipation to see these young guys hit the floor together. Now and forever, Trust the Process.

Warriors crowned NBA Champions

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

With the Oracle Award crowd decked out in their signature gold Monday night, the Golden State Warriors proved to be the gold standard of the NBA once again, defeating Cleveland 129-120 to win the NBA Finals in five games. While the Warriors’ Game 4 defeat might have put slowed down the “best team ever” discussion, there’s no denying that this 3-year run, consisting of two titles with a 73-win season and Game 7 defeat in the Finals sandwiched in-between, is one of the most impressive feats for a franchise in the history of the league.

In my mind, Golden State’s dominance cemented how ridiculous the notion of keeping together a 40-win team with little upside is in the modern NBA landscape. Cleveland has the greatest player of this generation in LeBron James, who averaged a triple-double in the Finals while shooting 56.4% from the field and 38.7% from three, and it still wasn’t enough to do more than avoid a sweep.

Then, you have the fact that the gulf between Golden State and Cleveland is about as wide as the one between the Cavaliers and the rest of the Eastern Conference. If ownership’s goal is to win a title, and not just collect some extra revenue from a first-round playoff series, then you need to do everything possible to acquire true landscape-altering stars in order to compete with these titans. Given that the easiest way to do so is through the draft, tanking looks wiser now more than ever.

It also takes shrewd management to put your team in a position to win the title. It’s easy to say that Golden State has four of the top-20 players in the league. Of course they should win. But how did they get four of the top-20 players in the first place? They did the following:

– Hit on a couple lottery picks in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
– Found a gem in the second round of the draft in Draymond Green.
– Had the foresight to sign Curry to a below-market extension when his value was at its nadir in the midst of his ankle injuries.
– Dumped the bloated contracts on their books by attaching draft pick sweeteners to acquire uber-valuable utility man Andre Iguodala.
– Kept their books clean afterwards so that when a one-time cap spike afforded them enough room to sign Kevin Durant, they were in a position to pounce.

Those things represent a combination of good thinking and luck, and as with anything in life, you need both to succeed. I don’t know how true Joe Lacob’s boost is that they’re “light-years ahead” of the competition, but they’re at least farther down the road. One of the sportsbooks I use already has Golden State as a -250 favorite to win the title again next year. Other franchises should act accordingly, with a “go big or go back into the lottery” mentality, because these Warriors aren’t going anywhere.

Kings may want to trade up in the draft

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo has been clear that the team is keeping all options open in regard to the third overall pick. One such option might come via our old friend Vlade Divac in Sacramento. Per Chad Ford, the Kings have their eye on De’Aaron Fox and “There’s talk inside the organization about combining picks Nos. 5 and 10 to move up in the draft to secure [him].”

While a rumor from the man who has been accused of retroactively updating old draft boards should be taken with a huge grain of salt, Colangelo may want to check what time it is on the West Coast and give Northern California a call. I believe if such a deal were actually on the table, the Sixers would be wise to trade the third overall pick for the fifth and tenth picks.

Colangelo himself has said the team is still looking at six or seven prospects. Outside of the presumed first overall pick, Markelle Fultz, there are glaring flaws with every player in the draft. Everyone else has obvious obstacles to overcome on the path to being a star.

Now, if the Sixers do their due diligence and are convinced that say, Josh Jackson, is going to be a star, don’t make the trade. They might think they see the problem in his shooting form and feel it’s a correctable issue. Then, by all means, they should stand pat and draft Jackson third. As everyone is so fond of saying, it’s a star-driven league. I agree getting stars should be a team’s top priority and the Sixers’ easiest path to obtaining one is through the draft.

However, if they don’t have a strong feeling about anyone becoming a star, thinking (hypothetically) Jackson has something like a 15% chance of reaching that level, and Dennis Smith, Malik Monk, and Jonathan Isaac all have around a 10% chance, then I would advise them to make the trade. There’s still plenty of potential to find a valuable player at tenth overall and picking up that selection shouldn’t be treated lightly. Remember that in the last 7 years alone, Paul George and CJ McCollum have both been selected in that very spot.

If there’s no surefire consensus pick to be had with the third pick, trade back two sports and pick up a valuable extra lottery pick. This feels especially fruitful given that Fox would be one of the two players taken before Philadelphia picked, the guy in the lottery considered least suited to play alongside Ben Simmons given the outside shooting concerns for both players. The Sixers would only have one player of their “target pool” taken before they would then get to draft. Is not worrying that Phoenix would take the player top on the team’s draft board worth the 10th overall pick? I would argue “no”.

Just for fun, think if the deal did go down, Sam Hinkie (with an assist from Bryan Colangelo) would have received the following for the rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic:

2017 10th overall pick
Sacramento’s 2019 1st-round pick
Nik Stauskas
Jason Thompson
Carl Landry

Talk about trusting the process. Anytime a team can deal with Sacramento, they should make it happen. Vlade is the GM that keeps on giving.

Furkan Korkmaz coming over (for a visit)

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

With NBA decision makers scratching their heads about how to stop Golden State from winning the title every year in the foreseeable future, the 2017 NBA draft inches ever closer (it’s now less than three weeks away). Meanwhile, we have news on the Philadelphia 76ers front related to a key part of the team’s 2016 draft class.

Taken by the Sixers with the 26th overall pick last summer, Korkmaz is heading to Philadelphia to make his case for joining the team in 2017. The 19-year-old wing is under contract for two more seasons with Turkish club Anadolu Efes. Like everyone’s favorite transatlantic import, Dario Saric, there’s a buyout in his deal which would allow Korkmaz to pay Anadolu Efes in order to renege on his contract and join an NBA team.

As Pick mentioned, Korkmaz’s buyout amount is $2M, of which Philadelphia could only contribute $675k. The rest would have to come out of Korkmaz’s salary with the Sixers, which would only start at around $1.22M. Despite the 19-year-old’s stated desire to come stateside, the financial part of it doesn’t make sense for him. He would basically be playing at a slight net loss to his own net worth next season if he comes over.

In addition to financial implications, there’s not exactly a wide-open spot on the roster right now for Korkmaz. Here are the list of players already under guaranteed contract for next season:

1. Joel Embiid
2. Ben Simmons
3. Dario Saric
4. Robert Covington* (technically, club option, but going to be back)
5. Richaun Holmes* (technically, non-guaranteed, but going to be back)
6. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
7. TJ McConnell* (technically, non-guaranteed, but going to be back)
8. Jerryd Bayless
9. Nik Stauskas
10. Jahlil Okafor
11. Justin Anderson

The team’s third overall pick would bring the roster to 12, not to mention Philadelphia’s four second-round picks and the fact that Bryan Colangelo has made it clear he’s going to be active in free agency. I’m not sure exactly how Korkmaz would fit in at the moment.

Forkmaz’s outside shooting would certainly help fill a need for the Sixers; he shot 43.7% from three last year with Anadolu Efes and Banvit B.K. (where he was playing on loan). However, scouts basically universally agree that the young man needs some additional time to grow into his body before he’s ready to handle the physicality of the NBA. Combine that with the financial restraints and the current shape of the roster, and it seems unlikely we’ll see Korkmaz at the Wells Fargo Center this upcoming season.

As much as we would all like another Furkan back in our lives, it’s probably best for everybody if Korkmaz’s Sixers debut waits until at least 2018.

Nerlens Noel reportedly soon in for a huge payday

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

While experts and casual fans alike continue to debate what the Sixers should do with their upcoming third overall pick, a report came out Tuesday about a former Philadelphia first-round pick. Per Scout.com, current Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel will have multiple clubs poised to offer him a max contract when he hits restricted free agency this summer.

As a reminder, Noel’s max represents a 4-year deal for around $108.6M (with Dallas able to offer 5 years for about $146.5M. At the moment, this report is simply a rumor from an anonymous NBA source, so let’s not take it as gospel, but it does demonstrate how highly the 23-year-old big man is valued around the league.

The report also presents an interesting litmus test in how people evaluate Philadelphia’s handling of the Noel situation. On the one hand, with Joel Embiid already dubbed the franchise superstar, people will say it would have been unwise to pay $25M per year for a backup center.

Let’s ignore the fact that the Sixers only gave Embiid and Noel 8 minutes of playing time together to see if they could coexist (during which the team had a positive-33.1 net rating), versus 80 minutes with Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. We’ll presume that Noel couldn’t play alongside Embiid and he would have been nothing more than a backup receiving 15-20 minutes of playing time per game. Then, yes, you wouldn’t want to shell out a 9-digit contract for such a player.

However, the reality that Noel is worthy of a max deal shows how significantly Sixers management undervalued him. First, they had the opportunity to extend Noel last summer. Noel as an hyper-qualified reserve for $16-18M per year would be a lot more palatable, especially considering the team hadn’t even seen a healthy Embiid on the court yet. If the team needed to move him later to free up cap space, Noel on that deal would have been an extremely valuable trade chip.

Of course, they didn’t extend him, nor did they trade him last summer when Noel would have had significantly more value with a full season left on his rookie deal. Instead, Bryan Colangelo waited until the team had practically no leverage left, and came away with a sack of beans in the form of Justin Anderson and second-round picks.

While Noel will probably be better off outside of Philadelphia, where his friend Joel Embiid would likely have stifled his long-term prospects, it will still be bittersweet to see him strike it big elsewhere. The Sixers had a very good player on a rookie deal, and rather than doing everything they could to help him flourish, or trading him for a return commensurate with his talent level, incoming management basically punted on the whole situation. It’s not the biggest of mistakes, but every decision looms large on the path to contention.

Making the Case for Josh Jackson at #3

By John Wetzel (@John___Wetzel)

Now that the lottery process is over, we finally know where the Sixers will be picking and, likely, who will be available to them. But before we get into that decision, let’s take a look at the Sixers’ core players right now.

In my mind, the only players I have penciled into the Sixers roster for years to come are Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington. If they had to take the floor today, they would all be in the starting lineup with Simmons at the point, RoCo at small forward, Saric at power forward, and Embiid at center. However, down the road, I think the starting positions will be very fluid and we should see a lot of different lineup arrangements.

The Sixers seem to want to give Simmons a try at point guard this season, but I think they also need to look for a more traditional true point guard to let Simmons play some forward as well. That way, they can get the ball in Simmons’ hands a lot, while still running the offense through the point guard as needed. The Cavaliers and Spurs have laid the blueprint for that style with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.

So looking ahead to the next contending team in Philadelphia, you would have a frontcourt composed of Simmons and Embiid, with Saric also seeing a lot of minutes, and Covington on the wing. The two main holes to fill would appear to be a true point guard and a shooter/combo guard.

With Markelle Fultz being the consensus number one pick, and Lonzo Ball being linked to the Lakers at number two, the Sixers are looking at a choice between Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Jonathan Isaac. In my opinion, one of those names stands out from the rest.

Josh Jackson would be the best player available based on talent, and while he doesn’t directly address those holes I mentioned, I think he would also fit into the Sixers’ long-term plans. Standing at 6’8″ and around 205 pounds, the former Jayhawk played primarily small forward at Kansas, but has the frame and quickness to potentially play anywhere from the two through four positions.

Jackson has the potential to be the best two-way player in the draft, showing defensive skills in college that exceeded Fultz or Ball with the potential to be a dynamic scorer on offense. He’s an explosive finisher in the paint who also happened to shoot 38% from three (34-90) last season. Jackson does have some problems with consistently exhibiting proper shooting form, evidenced by his 57% mark from the free throws. While it’s a cause for concern for some, I have a lot of faith in him to improve upon that area of weakness.

Another possible red flag involves some off-the-court issues last year at college. Jackson was involved in an altercation outside a bar where he yelled at a women’s basketball player and kicked her car, causing damage. Jackson later issued an apology and was suspended for a game. Recently, as part of a diversion program, it was determined he has to complete an anger management course, write a letter of apology, and perform community service. I don’t think this incident will be enough for the Sixers to move Jackson down their board, but they’ll have to do some extra homework on him to find out if they need to worry about any extra character issues.

Still, despite those things, I like the idea of adding Jackson to the core we mentioned earlier. One trait I especially like from that group is their height, as Jackson would be the shortest at 6’8″. If Brett Brown were to put a lineup on the floor featuring Simmons, Jackson, Covington, Saric, and Embiid, other teams would either have to sub out their undersized guards, or take their chances that they would be able to hang in with these bigger players.

I also look at that group and see amazing defense and positional flexibility. Embiid would function as an elite rim protector. Covington showed last season he can guard perimeter shooters; Jackson could help fill a similar role and function as a stopper against big-bodied isolation players.

Offensively, you would probably see a lot of pick-and-rolls with Simmons and Embiid. Jackson would be doing a lot of catch-and-shoot or driving into the paint as a secondary ball-handler off the kick-out. Jackson and Simmons would also make for a terrific duo on the fast break.

Drafting Jackson would still leave a hole at point guard, but the Sixers have the assets to fill that need within the next two year. The team and Kyle Lowry have been rumored to have mutual interest in a Philadelphia homecoming for the city native, the Sixers also have the unprotected 2018 Lakers and 2019 Kings first round picks.

You could argue that the Sixers also need a sniper-type, three-point shooter, but I view that as a luxury pick and the Sixers aren’t in position to do that at this point at third overall. The team should be able to find shooting at some point. Maybe it will come from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who stepped up his game at the end of last season and will likely see an increase in playing time this year to see if he can handle the role. Free agent J.J. Redick has also been floated as a possible name for Philadelphia.

The bottom line is that Jackson would improve the Sixers more than any of the other possible picks. He won’t slingshot them into the finals, but he’ll get them one step closer.

Why a Sixers-Celtics deal isn’t going to happen

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

In the post-Pick Swap era, much of the talk surrounding the Sixers has naturally involved what the team should do with the third overall pick in the draft. You have surely had a conversation with your fellow Sixers fans as to which player Bryan Colangelo should select with the pick, whether the team would benefit from trading down, or a topic that’s been increasingly thrown around, what it would take to trade up with Boston for the first overall pick.

The feeling is some combination of this year’s third overall pick, the unprotected 2018 Lakers pick, Philadelphia’s own pick next year, and a young player like Dario Saric might be enough to get the job done. Now, I understand the desire to speculate. The NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive, the draft is still weeks away, and basketball diehards in the Philadelphia area need something to talk about in the interim. But regarding a deal between the Sixers and Celtics, I’ll just say this: stop wasting your time. It’s not going to happen.

Maybe if a typical rebuilding team had the top pick, the Sixers might be able to package some of their premiere assets together to move up and complete a deal. However, the Celtics are the last team in the NBA for which this sort of deal would make sense. They already have more depth than they know what to do with, in addition to Ante Zizic, Guerschon Yabusele, and Abdel Nadar all potentially joining the roster next season. Plus, they already have what’s basically guaranteed to be a high lottery pick from Brooklyn in the 2018 draft.

What Boston needs, much more than a collection of solid contributors and potential lottery tickets, is a generational talent. Based on the overwhelming consensus of the scouting community, Markelle Fultz is the best bet to become that franchise-elevating player, an entire tier above everyone else available in this draft class. It wouldn’t make sense for the Celtics to give up on that potential for a bunch of pieces that still won’t move the needle for them in the Eastern Conference in the near-term.

If you’re Boston, you either take the guy with the best chance at superstardom in Fultz, or use the pick to get a current superstar like Paul George or Jimmy Butler and really take a run at Cleveland. You don’t hope Isaiah Thomas and an ever-increasing pile of B+ assets would be enough.

Finally, even just looking at Boston GM Danny Ainge’s history, it’s hard to believe something happens. He made the colossal deal with Brooklyn because there’s a good argument to be made that it will go down as the most lopsided trade in NBA history. Since then, he’s more or less stood pat, including last year when he made what was seen as a reach to draft Jaylen Brown third overall.

A running joke in NBA fan circles is that Ainge always almost gets his man; Boston is involved in all sorts of talks, only to come up just short of reaching a deal. It feels like unless Ainge will overwhelming be regarded as the winner of the deal, he’s not going to pull the trigger. From Philadelphia’s perspective, you wouldn’t want to be placed in a position where that’s how things shake out.

I love Markelle Fultz as much as the next guy. And he would be an ideal fit for the Sixers. But the lottery didn’t work out in Philadelphia’s favor and Fultz will not be coming to the City of Brotherly Love. The sooner you come to grips with that, the more worrying you can do about the team’s realistic options with the third pick.