Well, the first card of the 2017 NBA draft has been played. As I previously suggested, the Celtics traded down and maximized the value of the first overall pick. Realizing the Celtics had no obvious holes to fill on their roster trader Danny Ainge saw the opportunity to get the player he was targeting all along and add to Boston’s absurd trove of assets. While there is much debate over who the top overall prospect is, there is a clear cut ELITE class of players that have separated from the rest of the pack. Ainge recognized the slim difference at the top between Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and De’Aaron Fox. To add one of these talents, no matter which one, and land future first round picks in the process is quite the haul. In fact, Boston may trade down again with Sacramento, stay in the top 5, and pick up even more assets in the process.
But I digress. This isn’t a Danny Ainge dick sucking piece, lord knows there’s been more than enough of those lately. Instead I turn my focus to the team that now finds themselves at the top of the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers. At the beginning of General (Manager) Sam Hinkie’s tenure, new owner Josh Harris promised that Hinkie would be given the longest leash in NBA history to conduct one of the most daring experiments the league had ever seen. AND THUS, THE PROCESS WAS BORN.
AND IT WAS GLORIOUS! The more losses the Sixers piled up, the more the Philadelphia faithful rejoiced. On its surface it seemed ass backwards but the logic was undeniable. A proven way to alter a franchise trajectory is to pick up that franchise changing player through the draft. So Hinkie took that thinking to its logical conclusion, blew up Philly’s roster and built through the draft. And just before that process began to bear fruit, and after Hinkie had fully stocked the Sixers war chest, the Process was cut off at its knees. The NBA power players pressured the 76ers ownership to fire Hinkie who departed with a now legendary resignation letter.
This past season all the handwringing and criticism of The Process faded into the background as Joel Embiid became the living embodiment of everything Sam Hinkie believed in. Dario Saric is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year and the 2016 #1 overall pick Ben Simmons is gearing up for the start of the 2017 season.
While this should be good news, it unfortunately gave the Philly brass a false sense of security that they were only a few pieces away from truly contending. So Jerry & Bryan Colangelo traded the Lakers 2018 #1 or Sacramento’s 2019 #1 (if the Lakers finish between 2-5 the Sixers keep that pick and convey the Kings pick instead) to move up to draft Markelle Fultz.
Fultz may turn out to be a phenomenal player and reminds me of a young Damian Lillard. He has the look of an elite scorer with the ability to score and effortlessly shoot off the dribble. He possesses A+ athleticism and can blow by his defender and yam on the center all in one motion.
The problem I have with this trade doesn’t have to do with Fultz’s potential, just that there are 4 other elite prospects in this class that all possess similar ceilings to Fultz. Beyond that, I’m hearing all this dumb talk about how Fultz is a perfect “fit” for the Sixers. While that may be true on paper, when you’ve selected in the top 5 for what seems like 100 straight years you don’t prioritize things like “fit”. Embiid has huge health concerns (as does Simmons to a lesser extent) and even the most “sure” prospects don’t always work out. To maximize your chances to hit on a star you keep as many lottery tickets as possible, and if they all work out then you have a great problem on your hands.
Quite simply if you’re a Sixers fan this trade should make you nervous because Sam Hinkie would never, ever, EVER, have made it. And so, for every cute Simmons cat raise or Embiid’s Process declarations, the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t Trust The Process.