To trade or not to trade? That is the question facing Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo as next month’s NBA draft approaches.
Thanks to Pick Swapalypse hitting the lottery earlier this week, the Sixers hold the third overall pick. While nothing is set in stone, consensus opinion holds that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will head to Boston and Los Angeles, respectively, meaning the first main inflection point of the draft will be Philadelphia at No. 3. Publicly, it appears no stone will remain unturned in regard to what to do with the pick, with Colangelo addressing the media as follows:
“What we say all the time is we leave all our options open and we’ll look at all the scenarios that can play out with respect to the value of that draft asset.”
The main concern for the Sixers with holding pat and going best player available at the third spot is that presumptive BPA Josh Jackson overlaps many of the same skills as Ben Simmons. There also might not be enough outside shooting in lineups featuring the two of them.
The thinking goes that a more natural fit alongside Simmons would be Malik Monk, who many regard as the top marksman in the lottery and who would benefit from the gravity created by Simmons and Joel Embiid on the floor. Jonathan Isaac is another player Philadelphia management might determine could evolve into the perfect 3-and-D complement for Simmons. If the Sixers covet Monk or Isaac, it would behoove them to trade down and pick up an additional asset rather than reach for one of those players with the third pick.
One option that has been discussed is a deal with Sacramento for the fifth and 10th overall picks. Following the trade of DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings are in the market for their next franchise-level talent. If they believe Jackson is that player, it would make sense for them to do everything possible to obtain him. Meanwhile, the Sixers could still get the guy they want with the fifth pick and bring in another lottery talent basically for free.
Another possible trade partner would be the Phoenix Suns, who slid down two spots in the lottery to the fourth overall pick. Between Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis, the Suns are set at the guard positions, and they just spent two lottery picks on big men Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss last summer. Jackson would fit perfectly on the wing between all those pieces. If the Suns are worried Philadelphia might snag him at three, they may want to move up one spot, and the Sixers could pick up an additional asset for their trouble.
Personally, if Philadelphia’s scouting department reaches the conclusion Jackson is, in fact, the best player available, I wouldn’t bother getting fancy and would simply write in his name with the third pick. A lineup featuring Embiid, Jackson, Simmons and Robert Covington would have the potential to devastate opposing teams on the defensive end. With Embiid’s above-average ability as a center to stretch the floor, Covington’s league average 3-point shooting on his career, and a knockdown shooter at a guard position to round out the fifth spot on the floor, there is possibly enough spacing for that lineup to work.
If Jackson or Simmons figures out their shot, you would have more than enough offense. Despite a slight hitch and poor free-throw shooting, Jackson shot 37.8 percent from 3 his freshman season at Kansas, and there’s no reason to think improvement is out of the question.
Now that even Sam Hinkie’s most outspoken critics have come around to the idea that the former GM set the franchise up well for the future, expectations are high for the Sixers to start their ascent up the Eastern Conference standings. Still, despite all the enviable parts at his disposal, it’s a difficult task for Bryan Colangelo to figure out the correct blueprint and build a contender.
Fair or not, his decision with the third overall pick next month will go a long way toward determining the success of his tenure with Philadelphia in the court of public opinion.