Twitter exploded around dinnertime Friday night, as only Twitter can, with word of a proposed Celtics-Sixers trade that would allow Philadelphia to draft a 19-year-old point guard who led his college team to a 9-22 record in his only year on campus.
OK, I kid.
I mean, if this happens – and let’s remember that nothing is certain yet – the Sixers would be left with the top overall pick in next Thursday’s draft, and would then take Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.
And that would seem to be a very good thing indeed, even though the Huskies did indeed go 9-22 this past winter, with losses in each of their last 13 games – eight of those by double digits.
Apparently none of that was Fultz’s fault, however; everybody seems to agree that he is the best player on the board – that there are simply too many questions about the other top guys to stand pat at No. 3, the Sixers’ current spot.
Lonzo Ball has his dad.
Josh Jackson has the dreaded off-court issues.
De’Andre Fox supposedly can’t shoot.
Malik Monk supposedly can shoot, and nothing else.
Jayson Tatum went to Duke.
I am obligated here to say that ESPN.com broke the story:
League sources tell @ZachLowe_NBA and me that the Sixers and Celtics are in serious talks on a trade involving the No. 1 overall pick.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 16, 2017
I am also obligated to note that Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the king of NBA news-breaking, countered quickly:
— The Vertical (@TheVertical) June 16, 2017
By the wee hours, another ESPN type, Ramona Shelburne, said she had heard it was “a done deal,” though the particulars have yet to be revealed.
— Kevin Taddei (@kevtaddei) June 17, 2017
One iteration of the transaction has the Sixers sending their pick and some future first-rounders to Boston, and shipping Jahlil Okafor to Chicago. Boston would be left with All-Star wing Jimmy Butler and someone from the Fox/Jackson/Tatum/Monk pool (assuming that Ball goes to the Lakers, who own the second overall choice).
One Twitter type liked it from the Philadelphia standpoint. The C’s part, not so much:
love that the sixers will be good and cheap for 4 years and the celtics will be expensive and still not compete with the cavs in 2.
— Negative Dunks (@negativedunks) June 16, 2017
Adi Joseph of USA Today listed six other occasions that the first overall pick had been traded, with mixed results. The worst deal, naturally, was the one the Sixers pulled off in 1986, when they sent the top choice to Cleveland for Roy Hinson.
The Cavs picked Brad Daugherty, and he gave them eight good years before his back gave out. Hinson gave the Sixers next to nothing for two years and was shipped to New Jersey.
Making matters worse was the fact that the deal came on the same day the Sixers sent Moses Malone to Washington for Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson.
Now the Sixers are dancing with Celtics GM Danny Ainge, who has a pretty good track record when it comes to trades, as Joseph also noted. Most notable was his deal four years ago with Brooklyn, when he sent the aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (among others) to the Nets for no fewer than three No. 1s and the right to swap top picks this year, which is how they wound up atop the heap Thursday.
On the face of it, this trade could benefit both teams. The Celtics would have more weapons to combat LeBron and Co. (though still not enough, by the looks of it). The Sixers would appear to have the last piece to a promising lineup, one that would presumably feature Fultz and Ben Simmons in the backcourt, with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Robert Covington up front.
There are questions about health, particularly in the case of Embiid and Simmons. There are questions about offensive spacing. There are questions about whether coach Brett Brown will remain wedded to his plan to employ the 6-10 Simmons, who has yet to play an NBA game himself, as his point guard – and if so, how things might work out with Fultz, who is also used to running the show.
But there appear to be few questions about the 6-4 Fultz, who turned 19 on May 29. He can, by all accounts, handle, shoot and defend. He is also something of a late bloomer, according to a story written by Jason King of Bleacher Report in March. A native of Upper Marlboro, Md., Fultz was a 5-9 JV his sophomore year at renowned DeMatha High. Then he grew seven inches and became a star.
He averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds in his lone season with the Huskies, while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from the arc.
If this comes to pass, the Sixers, young as they are, will be a team of maddening highs and dizzying lows in ’17-18. They will win games they should lose, and lose games they should win. I put their ceiling at, say, 35 victories.
But they will finally have hope. And we should all know something about that by now.
Of course, if you follow the Sixers, you also know something about crawling through a river of you-know-what.
The journey has taken four years. And now, maybe, there is light at the end of the sewer pipe.