Updated Monday, June 19th, 1:40 p.m.:
On Friday we wrote that the Sixers may control the entire NBA Draft. Suddenly that might be more true than we knew.
ESPN’s Marc Stein and Zach Lowe reported Friday afternoon that the Sixers and Celtics were in advanced talks to swap the Celtics first overall pick for the No. 3 pick the Sixers currently hold. The deal would include multiple picks going from Philly to Boston in exchange for the top pick in the draft and the rights to select Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.
We wrote about this potential deal back in May, when the rumor started the Sixers may be interested in moving up for Fultz. At the time it was just speculation, but after discussions reportedly heated up this week, it looks like the deal may be actually happening.
UPDATE #1: This could be even bigger than just the two teams:
UPDATE #2: Adrian Wojnarowksi of The Vertical reported that the deal for Fultz — who worked out with the Sixers Saturday — includes the 2018 Lakers’ first round pick with some protections.
When asked about coming to play for Philly during his workout on Saturday, Fultz said he doesn’t worry too much about the trade rumors. “I let God take care of it, really,” he said, per the Sixers. But he did wear a Sixers hat to the workout, and talked about how excited excited he would be to join a young roster like they have.
“It would be pretty cool,” Fultz told reporters. “Just being with a young team. The upside of it would be crazy. I’m close to home, so a lot of my family can come out and just show love. This city has great fans.”
UPDATE #3: As of Monday afternoon, the deal is officially official.
Sixers owner Joshua Harris said in a statement that he’s pretty darn excited.
“I am incredibly excited that we’ve acquired the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft,” Josh Harris, Sixers Managing General Partner, said. “This pick provides us a tremendous opportunity to add another foundational player to our promising core. Bryan and his team have done a great job in positioning our organization for what we believe will be long-term success.”
Here’s what it all means.
What the Sixers have to give
The Sixers have a ton — A TON — of picks to work with in the next few years. As we said in May, the only reason a deal with the Celtics wouldn’t work is because the Celtics are the only other team in the NBA with anywhere near the number of future picks as the Sixers. And yet, the deal looks to be for picks, and not players. There were rumors Jahlil Okafor could end up in the deal too, as he’s a guy the Sixers need to get rid of this summer, and he has no actual trade value on his own.
Alas, even if the reports are true and the Sixers manage to pull of this deal just for picks, they have the No. 3 selection this year, their 2018 first rounder next year, the Lakers’ 2018 first rounder — the one they would have had this year if the Lakers landed outside the top 3 — and Sacramento’s 2019 first round pick, because Sam Hinkie made it a point to fleece the Kings whenever he could.
UPDATE: Per Woj late Saturday night, the Sixers will give up LA’s first round pick next year but that’s protected on both ends, meaning if it’s in the top few picks, the Sixers will get to keep it, and if it falls outside, say, the lottery, the Celtics don’t want it. Instead, if it’s not within the agreed upon window, the Sixers will deal Sacramento’s 2019 first round pick.
The Sixers also have a ton of second round picks and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2020 first round pick, protected 1-20 for three seasons.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge isn’t stupid. Even as reports have swirled that they’re keen on players other than Fultz in this draft, with the team in win now mode and their best player, Isaiah Thomas, playing the same position as Fultz, Ainge isn’t going to give the top pick up for nothing. But the No. 3 pick and a lottery pick next year or the year after that isn’t nothing.
And yet, the Celtics have Brooklyn’s first round pick next year too, plus the Clippers’ first rounder in 2019 — protected 1-14 for two years — and the 2019 first rounder for Memphis, top eight protected in 2019, top 6 in 2020 and unprotected in 2021.
The last thing the Celtics need is more first rounders. So what gives?
What the Sixers get
In short, the Sixers get the best player in the NBA Draft for the second year in a row. There are teams higher on other players — Josh Jackson has moved up a lot of boards in the last few weeks — but Fultz was something of a consensus top pick, which is why the Celtics were looking at adding another point guard. If the Sixers can add him to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, it might be the best core the franchise has had since the 1980s-era Dr. J Sixers. Of course, they’ll all have to stay healthy.
There are some people who suggest that trading No. 3 and a future lottery pick for the No. 1 pick is a bad idea — that it’s too much to give up for Fultz when clearly the Celtics like someone else. Those people are stupid. Stop listening to those people.
This isn’t the NFL. Stockpiling lottery picks only makes sense if the plan is to leverage what you have to get a star; whether that’s via trade or in the draft, it doesn’t matter. If the Sixers have five first round picks in the next three years, how will all those players fit on the roster? Do the Sixers have five roster spots currently to give to players all 20 years old or younger? That’s insane.
And so, the point of stockpiling is that, yes, the Sixers might have to overpay for the opportunity to get another No. 1 pick, but they’ve given themselves the optionality, to quote Sam Hinkie, to do that. Is Fultz worth the No. 3 pick and the No. 1 pick next year? Probably not, no. But the Sixers don’t have the No. 1 pick next year. (UPDATE: And, per Woj, If they get it, they won’t have to trade it.)
Even if Sixers had to give up the Lakers and Sacramento picks, it would be steep but they’d have Fultz, Simmons, Embiid, Saric, TLC, Covington, whatever they can get for Okafor, Richaun Holmes, whatever shooter they sign in free agency, Furkan Korkmaz coming over from Turkey, a bunch of role players AND still first round picks each of the next two years.
And that’s if they deal the No. 3 pick, plus the Lakers’ and Kings’ picks. This is a deal worth making. This is a big freaking deal.
Why would the Celtics do this for the Sixers?
We don’t even know the details and already we’re debating with Boston fans who’s fleecing whom. The Celtics wouldn’t give up the pick if they didn’t have a plan, and that likely includes resigning Thomas to a longterm deal. It also means they’re probably going to try to bring Gordon Hayward to Boston too, in an effort to stack up enough to stop LeBron James and the Cavs.
UPDATE: All accounts are that the Celtics are looking to flip a ton of picks for a current star, namely Jimmy Butler of the Bulls.
The only concern for Boston could be the Lakers are also high on Jackson, which means they could be saddled with the idea of adding Lonzo Ball at No. 3 or moving back again.
We speculated earlier Friday that the Sixers could go from No. 3 to No. 5 and 10 in a deal with Sacramento to take Malik Monk and another player. Obviously the Celtics could do that deal too, and even more deals given the likelihood that Ball may be available at No. 3. Plus, there’s talk the Celtics are high on Jonathan Isaac from Florida State.
Ainge might just be getting started.
Will this happen?
Sure. Probably. When things get this loud this close to the draft, it’s hard to see it totally falling through.
(UPDATE: All reports say it’s done.)
And yet, we thought Okafor was traded at the deadline and instead Nerlens Noel was gone, so nothing happens until it happens in the NBA. Now it’s a matter of filling out the deal, and seeing if Colangelo can throw Okafor in just for the heck of it.
Also, if it happens, then so does this.
That’s how happy Sixers fans would be. This would be a big deal. Tattoos or not.