The case for Washington's Markelle Fultz to the Sixers at No. 3 (or No. 1)

The case for Washington's Markelle Fultz to the Sixers at No. 3 (or No. 1)

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade ups/downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Markelle Fultz
Position: PG
School: Washington
Height: 6-4
Weight: 195
Wingspan: 6-9

Last season's consensus No. 1 prospect, Ben Simmons, ended up Philadelphia. Could that happen for a second straight draft? 

Fultz is widely considered the easy No. 1 choice for the Boston Celtics, fresh off a beatdown in the Eastern Conference finals. And for good reason. Fultz was unleashed on the NCAA last year and he put up 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while playing for the lackluster Huskies.

Unlike the rest of the top-five prospects, Fultz didn't find himself in the NCAA Tournament. Still, that probably won't affect his pursuit of becoming the No. 1 pick, thereby making a fall to No. 3 all the more unlikely.

The case for Fultz
The Washington point guard played just 892 minutes in college, but he looked like the real deal during that short period. Fultz was unable to make a bad team good by himself (9-21 record) and had poor floor spacing around him as opposing teams focused on him.

He thrived anyway. He has an elite ability to shoot off the dribble, creating with his strong handle and finishing with a jumper. Fultz shot 41.3 percent from three-point range and over 38 percent off the catch, meaning he doesn't necessarily even need to be the guy with the ball in his hands.

But when he gets in transition, you certainly want the rock in his hands. He's explosive, able to change speeds in an instant and take off for the basket before slowing down and utilizing his elite finishing ability. Despite teams loading the paint and helping off his teammates, he could still finish at the rim. 

Fultz has strong court vision and can find teammates well, hence his 5.9 assists despite those aforementioned sub-par courtmates. He navigates screens extremely well, both splitting them occasionally and getting around them. It will be fascinating to see how he deals with the extra space he'll get at the next level with some NBA-quality shooters around him.

Defensively, he has the size to be great with his height and wingspan. He's been able to get into passing lanes and can defend the rim against opposing guards, racking up 1.2 blocks to go with 1.6 steals per game. 

The case against Fultz
No prospect is without flaws, although Fultz is likely the most NBA-ready of the top players with the polish in his game. One chief concern for Fultz is his shooting. He shot well from three but was just 64.9 percent from the free throw line. His form is solid on jumpers, particularly how high he releases the ball, but there is reason to believe he won't be quite as good from the field in a larger sample size.

The biggest issue for him, though, is how locked in he is defensively. Simply, he wasn't locked in and engaged there all the time last season. How much of that had to do with Washington being a non-competitive team is up for debate, but it is a question he has to answer at the next level. There are no days off with the overall talent at point guard in the NBA.

Finally, he dealt with knee soreness that kept him out of six games while a Huskie. By all reports, he appears to be medically fine with nothing structurally wrong. It's not really worth too much worry, but the Sixers haven't had much injury luck with prospects recently.

Analysis
There is a very limited chance that Fultz falls to No. 3. Chances are, either the Celtics will select him at No. 1 or they will trade the selection for a bonafide All-Star (Paul George or Jimmy Butler, anyone?), in which case the Pacers or Bulls would likely take Fultz. 

Lonzo Ball isn't working out with the Celtics and doesn't really fit there. The team could use a wing or a rim protector, but Fultz is likely too good to pass up. If the Celtics passed on Fultz, the Lakers probably snatch up the Washington product. 

Therefore, the only realistic chance the Sixers have to grab this year's premier talent is to trade up with the Celtics. The teams don't seem to fit all that well on a trade. The Celtics are looking for a star to add to their roster and consolidate their assets while the Sixers would likely offer a package consisting of only a series of top-flight draft picks. This makes Fultz to Philly a pipedream.

Sixers trade Shawn Long to Houston for 2018 2nd-round pick, cash

Sixers trade Shawn Long to Houston for 2018 2nd-round pick, cash

Let the Sixers' stockpiling of future second-round picks continue.

A league source tells CSNPhilly.com's Jessica Camerato that the team has traded forward Shawn Long to the Houston Rockets in exchange for a 2018 second-rounder as well as cash considerations. Long played in 18 games for the Sixers last season, averaging 8.2 points in 12.7 minutes per game while shooting better than 41 percent from beyond the arc.

The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal.

Long, the 2016 Sun Belt Conference player of the year with Louisiana-Lafayette, was named a 2017 D-League all-star after a stellar start to the season with the Delaware 87ers. He was called up on March 6 and stuck with the Sixers for the remainder of the season.

The trade is the fifth of the day for the Rockets and Houston general manager Daryl Morey, who already completed a blockbuster deal earlier Wednesday to acquire All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Sixers now have four second-round picks in next year's draft (three of which they have traded for plus their own) in addition to their first-rounder and the Lakers' top pick, unless it goes to Boston.

Report: Clippers trade star Chris Paul to Rockets in blockbuster

Report: Clippers trade star Chris Paul to Rockets in blockbuster

HOUSTON — Chris Paul is heading to Houston to join James Harden, and the Rockets will soon have two All-Stars in the backcourt to lead their chase for a championship.

The Rockets have reached an agreement to acquire Paul from the Clippers in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a protected first-round pick next year, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The pick is only protected if Houston's pick lands in the first three of the 2018 draft, according to the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the teams haven't finalized the trade with free agency coming up on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Paul opted in for the last year of his contract so the Clippers could work on a deal.

The nine-time All-Star has averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals over his 12-year career, though he has been dogged with criticism in recent years for failing to help the Clippers get out of the second round of the playoffs. Los Angeles reached the postseason in each of Paul's six seasons with the team, but the Clippers were eliminated in the first round three times and in the Western Conference semifinals three other times.

Perhaps the most crushing playoff series loss of his tenure with the Clippers came to the Rockets in 2015. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals before Houston won the last three games of the series to send Paul and the Clippers home early yet again.

The Clippers were eliminated in the first round the past two seasons and are likely to look much different next season. The Paul trade comes after Blake Griffin informed the team last week that he is opting out of the last year of his contract to explore free agency. J.J. Redick is also a free agent.

In Houston, Paul joins a team led by Harden that was eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals last season. With Harden's move to point guard last season, Paul's role will probably be a bit different than it has been in Los Angeles.

But he will add another scoring dimension in replacing Beverley in the starting lineup. Beverley received NBA defensive first team honors last week, but averaged just 9.3 points in his five seasons with the Rockets. He's the only Houston starter involved in the deal, with Williams and Dekker playing reserve roles last season.

Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was traded to the Rockets from the Los Angeles Lakers in February. He averaged 14.9 points and three rebounds in 23 games for Houston after the trade.

Dekker, the 18th pick in the 2015 draft, missed all but three games as a rookie because of back surgery. The small forward was healthy this season and appeared in 77 games and averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.

The deal was first reported by The Vertical.