NCAA Basketball: Washington at Washington State
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Anatomy of an NBA Draft rumor: Sixers/Celtics for No. 1 and Markelle Fultz

Will a trade happen? Maybe. Is there a trade rumor? No. Well, yes. Now.

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Despite the rampant speculation over the weekend, the Sixers have shown little to no indication they are in the process of trading up to No. 1 in the NBA Draft to select Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. At least not yet. The Sixers have a ton of valuable trade pieces — both in picks and players — so for the next month every basketball pundit and fan and talk show host worth a damn is going to spend more time on this potential trade than the Sixers and Celtics probably will. (That includes us.)

This isn’t about a trade as much as it’s about how one sports guy speculating about a trade on his popular podcast can turn into a full-fledged rumor. Let’s be clear: This is not a rumor. A rumor is something overheard (or leaked) by one of the teams involved (or one the agent of a player that could be involved in a deal) that is spread through unnamed reports, off-the-record verifications and good ol’ fashioned sleuthing.

Bill Simmons saying the Sixers should trade up for Fultz, and speculating what the Celtics — a team he unabashedly roots for — should ask for in return, is not a rumor. It’s wishful thinking.

Here’s what Simmons said on his podcast, via Crossing Broad:

“Philly is the team I keep looking at. So Philly’s three. Philly moves up to one and they get Fultz or Lonzo. Probably Fultz. You put Fultz with Ben Simmons and Embiid and that’s it… if you keep Embiid and Simmons healthy, those are your three guys for the next 10 years. So if they love Fultz, and I don’t know if they do, would you offer the number three pick, Saric, who you don’t need because you have Ben Simmons coming, and the Lakers pick next year to move up two spots? That Lakers pick might not be a great pick, because they’re gonna try to get better this summer. Is that too much for that pick?”

This is important: That is SPECULATION. Even Simmons, himself, said “is that too much for that pick.” The conversation continued on with how Saric would fit into the Celtics, and if Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo is that sold on Fultz to give up two first-round picks and a guy who could win Rookie of the Year for him.

Simmons, for what it’s worth, thinks De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky “doesn’t go lower than three,” and pegged the Sixers with taking what could be the third-rated point guard in the draft behind Fultz and Lonzo Ball, over a forward like Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum. Again, it’s all speculation, and yet NJ.com (and other nationally-platformed Sixers blogs hoping to tap into some of that sweet Sixers trade rumors SEO juice) think Simmons’ saying it is the same thing as one of the teams saying it. Look:

That’s NJ.com starting a rumor they think they are reporting on. Only, the author of that post didn’t even call it a rumor:

“Bill Simmons thinks the Sixers could trade up to No. 1 for Markelle Fultz” is NOT the same thing as “NBA Draft trade rumors: Sixers moving up to Celtic’s No. 1 pick for Markelle Fultz?”

The question mark doesn’t soften it either. So now it’s a rumor, because one headline writer made it a rumor. But let’s not put this on one local SEO-focused content farm. Sixers insiders, fans and even those who have steadfastly refused to trust the Process all these years will make this rumor grow because they want it to happen. Fultz would be a phenomenal addition to the young players the Sixers currently have, so it stands to reason that at No. 3, with some additional things worth dealing, the next few weeks will make this speculation become that full-on rumor it’s destined to become.

A deeply-connected local TV reporter spelling out the options for a trade? There may be no stronger way to monger a rumor in this city.

A Sixers beat writer responding to the trending topic with validation for one of his fan followers? Let that rumor grow.

Naysayers coming out of the social media woodwork to use the speculation-turned-rumor into a reason to rip Saric? Say nay, naysayers. It’s all part of the process. (Lowercase p in that process, btw.)

Fultz to Sixers is great for business. No, not the business of basketball (though it would be that), but the speculation or rumor or innuendo or suggestion or anything that keeps the conversation going other than absolute fact is great for local media business (waves politely), with all of us trying to figure out if the deal is worth making for both sides, and if the city would get behind the deal, and how much attention we can get for ourselves when we talk about the deal.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington

Could one of these two guys become Sixers?

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Facts: We know that everyone in town would want the Sixers to trade up to No. 1 for Fultz and we know the Celtics may entertain offers.

We’ve heard the Celtics are high on Tatum — so much so that CBS Sports put out an attention-grabbing mock draft where Boston stays at No. 1 and takes Tatum, which will NOT happen when there are teams willing to trade up to get Fultz. Alas, those are the things we know, and actual rumors and reports. The rest is just hammering out the details.

Do you want to trade Saric? Do you think he fits with Simmons or not? Do you want to give up the Lakers 2018 pick or not? The 2019 Kings pick?

Would the Celtics make any or all of those deals, or would they not?

This is the game, and it’s giving the talking heads hours of conversation and tens of thousands of words (hello again, friends) on what the Sixers would have to give up to get Fultz.

Nowhere is this as obvious as sports talk radio, so just imagine how easy the next month will be to talk Sixers.

Everything is fair game, from if the Sixers should take Fultz — based mostly on YouTube clips, mind you — to if trading up is worth it, to Saric’s value on the team moving forward (gotta love giving callers a chance to rip on a guy who might win an NBA award this year) to whether building through the draft is even the right path at this point.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona State
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Not all of those topics are without merit. Sixers principle owner Joshua Harris said this week he thinks the Sixers roster is stacked with young talent and is eager to add some veteran presence to it.

“By the way, we now are stacked for the future,” Harris told Keith Pompey of the Inquirer. “We have a young team already. So that leaves some slots for some vets to put around our young guys and teach them about what it’s like to be in the NBA. So it staggers it very nicely for us. And by the way, we are going to get a stud in this draft.”

If by stud he means top veteran in the NBA via trade that can help the Sixers win now, let’s get that speculation-turned-rumor going!

The Sixers reportedly — an actual report — tried to get George at the deadline, offering either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, plus Robert Covington plus two picks and the Pacers said no.

So that’s an actual rumor. So, according to Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Vertical at Yahoo, is the rumor the Sixers could trade down, maybe with Sacramento again, and take Malik Monk and acquire even more picks. Or maybe that was just speculation too. It’s hard to keep track.

Paul George to the Sixers? Why not.

Paul George to the Sixers? Why not.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The thing is, the Sixers don’t need anymore picks. They have No. 3 and three second rounders this year, two first rounders next year — their pick and the Lakers’ pick — two first rounders in 2019 — their pick and Sacramento’s pick — and six second-round picks over those two years. Plus 2016 NBA first round pick Furkan Korkmaz has indicated he wants to come over soon.

So, sure, let’s speculate about the Sixers making a trade for Fultz and giving up two picks and a player. Even three picks. The only problem? The one team that needs draft picks less than the Sixers is the Celtics.

Boston has the top pick and three second rounders this year, two first rounders next year — their pick and Brooklyn’s, which again should be awesome — potentially three first rounders in 2019 — theirs, the Clippers’ top-14 protected for two years and the Grizzlies’ top-8 protected in 2019 and top-6 in 2020 — and a couple of second rounders in 2019.

The last thing the Celtics need is another draft pick. They need current NBA talent. Any more rumors about the Sixers trading up to No. 1 should start and end there.

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