Updated: June 16, 8:10 p.m.
The Sixers are in talks to trade up to the No. 1 pick with the Boston Celtics. Then they’d really control the NBA Draft. Here’s that story. The original post follows:
The Sixers didn’t win the NBA Draft lottery, but they could still win the NBA Draft. And they could totally screw the Lakers in the process. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Rumors are swirling this week about the Lakers wanting to potentially trade out of the No. 2 spot to draft Josh Jackson from Kansas — and to avoid having to draft Lonzo Ball, who most consider the second-best player in the 2107 Draft. The Sixers are in a prime spot to totally screw up the draft for everyone else. And there are a ton of ways how.
That tweet by Phoenix radio host John Gambadoro earlier in the week suggested the Lakers or Sixers have guaranteed Jackson he’ll be going to them. And yet, Kevin O’Connor from The Ringer wrote Wednesday the Lakers may be interested in trading out of the No. 2 pick in hopes they can get Jackson and dump salary to a team hoping to move up to get Ball.
Bill and I discussed the NBA scuttlebutt that the Lakers are looking to swap positions with the Suns: The deal would move L.A. down from no. 2 to no. 4; Phoenix’s cost of doing business involves eating Luol Deng’s albatross contract. It’s hard to trust what you hear from teams this time of year, but it does line up with reports that Jackson had canceled workouts with the Celtics and had a second workout with the Lakers on Tuesday.
So a Phoenix radio guy said the Lakers have likely promised Jackson they’re going to take them and there’s ‘scuttlebutt’ the Lakers are looking to move down to No. 4 to do so. Well, gosh, who has the No. 3 pick and would just love to stick it to the Lakers for getting a top-3 pick this year? (Especially if the Lakers then use that top-3 pick to move out of the top 3.)
The Sixers could draft Jackson at No. 3 and screw this whole thing up for the Lakers. In fact, they could possibly control a lot more than that.
Fultz, Ball, Jackson and the Lakers
The Lakers hosted a workout with Markelle Fultz Thursday in case the Celtics opt for a different route, or trade their pick for someone who maybe wants Ball that bad. Due diligence and all. And boy golly Fultz looks just thrilled to be there. I mean, sheesh, dude, you’re a point guard and you’re in a photo with Magic Johnson. Maybe crack a smile. Or at least stay awake. You’re not a member of the Celtics yet, so don’t hate on the Lakers that hard.
Ball is reportedly working out for a second time with the Lakers this week, which could mean the franchise is high enough on him that they want to see how he fits in with the current players on the roster. Or it could mean they’re looking for a reason not to draft him. It’s hard to believe the Lakers would stay at No. 2 and draft Jackson with Ball still on the board. There has to be a team that wants him enough to come up. And yet, the Lakers can’t realistically move behind the Sixers if Philly shows even a modicum of interest in taking Jackson at No. 3.
The Lakers could draft Ball and then trade his rights to the Suns for the player they actually want at No. 4. The drama of Ball putting on a Lakers’ hat and then getting traded to Phoenix could be one of the great moments in NBA Draft history. Then the Sixers could get their guy at No. 3 — perhaps Malik Monk of Kentucky — and the Lakers could end up with Jackson and add more cap space to sign Paul George or, gulp, LeBron James.
The Sixers can’t let that happen. Yes, 100 percent the Sixers should draft the guy they want to help this roster. But wouldn’t it be awesome if they could also stick it to the Lakers in the process?
Phoenix on the Ball
If Phoenix wants Ball, they’ll have to assume he’s going with one of the first two picks and will have to jump ahead of the Sixers to take him. And yet, if the Lakers have this much interest in Jackson come draft night, why would Phoenix take on Deng’s contact just for the rights to Ball? It would behoove them to try to make a deal with the Sixers instead, call the Lakers’ bluff and make them take Jackson at No. 2.
Phoenix could then swap picks with the Sixers, take Ball, and give up a future pick — maybe Miami’s top-7 protected 2018 first rounder they have the rights to, if we’re making up possible trades — without having to take on a bad contract. Then the Sixers could still get Monk at No. 4. Everybody wins! (Except the Lakers.)
In this scenario, the Sixers could just go ahead and draft Ball at No. 3 if the Lakers are forced to pick Jackson at No. 2 because of fear the Sixers might take him. Jerry Colangelo has been on record lately saying that a player’s talent should supersede any familial baggage he has coming into the NBA with him. And yet, that’s the least likely scenario. Because the Lakers have almost no choice but to draft Ball and hope it all works out.
Monk & the Sixers
Monk was in town Thursday to work out with the Sixers and said and did all the right things. He ripped the Knicks, saying all he saw them do is run the triangle, and talked up both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Monk also said he’s interested in playing with or without the basketball, and reportedly asked the Sixers to work out both on and off the ball. In his post-workout comments he talked about his ability to help as a shooter, something the Sixers sorely need.
That’s the face of a guy who wants to play for the team he visited this week.
Some NBA experts like the way Monk would fit into the Sixers rotation better than his college teammate De’Aaron Fox or Jackson. Outside of Fultz, who the Sixers would take in a second if he fell to No. 3, Ball might be the only guy in the draft that’s a better immediate fit than Monk. But the baggage is a concern, and Monk seems to have much, much less of that.
This says nothing of Fox, who could sneak into the conversation as well. Or Jackson, who may be the best long-term choice for the Sixers, regardless of the current roster makeup. So, by doing nothing but sitting at No. 3, the Sixers really may control who gets Ball, Jackson, and Monk or Fox. Obviously, then, they’re going to trade down.
If Bryan Colangelo likes Monk but knows he can get him at No. 5 — Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Fox and Jason Tatum are all options for the top 5 with Monk — the Sixers could entertain a deal with Sacramento to drop back to the No. 5 pick, getting the Kings’ No. 10 pick as well. Keith Pompey at Philly.com reported that rumor is still buzzing, and it’s possible if the Sixers think they can get Monk later — the Kings reportedly like both Fox and Jackson — maybe it’s worth getting two for one.
Optionality. It’s the word Sam Hinkie used when talking about how he wanted to build for the future. And it’s coming to fruition now more than ever this year. It would just be hilarious, truly, if Colangelo was able to get the player he wants and the No. 10 pick from the Kings because of the pick swap — #PickSwap — Hinkie pulled off in the Nik Stauskas trade. Or, how about this? The deal Hinkie made to get the Lakers pick conveys next year, but somehow it ends up screwing the Lakers this year, too.
Or…the Sixers stay put and get a really, really good basketball player to help the future of the franchise. That’d be nice too.