With Markelle Fultz reportedly incoming, The Next Big Thing on the horizon for Sixers

With Markelle Fultz reportedly incoming, The Next Big Thing on the horizon for Sixers

There are images, great and small, of past switchbacks in Sixers history — of the moments when stars arrived (or were about to), and it was abundantly clear the franchise's fortunes were going to change for the better.

Or, as the kids like to say, when, uh, stuff was about to get real up in here.

Julius Erving, handed a doctor’s bag (naturally), as he was introduced before the 1976 season opener in the old Spectrum ... Moses Malone, meeting with the media in a storage room in the bowels of Veterans Stadium in the fall of 1982, before a Phillies game, of all things ... Pat Croce, high-fiving other teams' bemused executives after winning the 1996 draft lottery (shown at the 3:04 mark in this video), secure in the knowledge he was going to select Allen Iverson.

There have been false starts along the way, to be sure — none bigger than the dog-and-pony show at the Constitution Center five years ago. But the less said about Andrew Bynum, the better.

It felt like another fulcrum Saturday night when Washington point guard Markelle Fultz staged a solitary workout in the team's practice facility (see story).

Never mind that there were some rough spots; Tom Moore of Calkins Media tweeted Fultz bricked 14 of 18 three-point attempts in one drill.

And nevermind that we’re talking about a 19-year-old who is four years removed from the JV squad at famed DeMatha Catholic, in Hyattsville, Maryland. Or a guy that played for a 9-22 team in his lone college season.

This feels like a big moment, feels like The Next Big Thing.

The trade with Boston for the top overall pick in Thursday’s draft is by all accounts going to go through, likely as soon as Monday (see story). Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, as always the go-to guy for all matters NBA, reported the Sixers will surrender the third pick in this year’s draft and either the 2018 first-rounder they acquired from the Lakers (protected 2-5) or the 2019 choice acquired from Sacramento.

Seems fair, all the way around.

Boston stockpiles assets in an attempt to make a run at Jimmy Butler or Paul George and doesn’t muddle the backcourt picture that already includes Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart (with Thomas and Bradley poised to become free agents next summer).

And the Sixers get the best guy in this draft, as opposed to facing some thorny questions about the possibilities at No. 3. Would Lonzo Ball’s dad be a pain in the butt (if the Lakers, holding the second overall choice, pass on him)? Would Josh Jackson’s off-court issues be a preview of coming distractions? Can De’Aaron Fox shoot? Can Malik Monk do anything other than shoot?

None of that matters now. They will get their guy, with the help of assets acquired in the Sam Hinkie Era. (A pause here, while a certain segment of the fan base genuflects.) They have their nucleus and can watch it grow.

This is not to say that The Process ends here; it’s just to say that it’s at warp speed now, that basketball gypsies (to borrow Brett Brown’s terminology) have given way to basketball thoroughbreds.

Now they’ve just got to get ’em out and run ’em.

This, of course, assumes good health, the all-time asterisk with this outfit. That Joel Embiid, who has played all of 31 NBA games to date, can hold up. That Ben Simmons, last year’s top overall pick, has put his foot problems behind him. That Fultz, who missed six games last season with a knee issue, can avoid the time-honored tradition of the Sixers’ top pick sitting out his entire rookie season.

It also assumes Brown can sort out who plays where. He has said he is wedded to the idea of Simmons being his point guard, but that was before Fultz became part of the equation. Will that still be the case, and if so, can Fultz adjust to playing off the ball? Or will the team play more conventionally? (Side note: There is an NBA club in Northern California that has shown it’s possible, even prudent, to accommodate multiple playmakers, and is about to hang its second championship banner in three years.)

Even given those caveats, there would appear to be little downside. Fultz’s story — told by, among others, Bleacher Report’s Jason King in March and the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach on Friday — actually echoes that of none other than Michael Jordan: high school JV one year, varsity star the next. (In Fultz’s case, the process was hastened by a seven-inch growth spurt after that soph season; he now stands 6-foot-4.)

He averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds last season for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent and 41.3 percent from three-point range.

Now he’s The Next Big Thing.

And it would appear that big things await the Sixers as well.

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart drafted in 1st round, goes to Lakers; undrafted Kris Jenkins reportedly joins Wizards

Josh Hart heard his name called, while Villanova teammate Kris Jenkins did not.

Hart snuck into the first round of Thursday night's NBA draft, going 30th overall to the Utah Jazz. However, the Wildcat is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, via a trade.

While Jenkins went undrafted, it looks like he'll have a shot with an NBA team. Jenkins will join the Washington Wizards this offseason to compete for a roster spot, according to a report by NBA.com's David Aldridge.

After winning the national title as a junior with Villanova, Hart collected plenty of accolades in a standout senior season. The 6-foot-5 wing was named a consensus first-team All-American, Big East Player of the Year and took home the Julius Erving award as the top small forward in the country.

For the 32-4 Wildcats, Hart, a Silver Spring, Maryland native, averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, while shooting 40.4 percent from three-point range.

"I'm my biggest critic," he said last week after a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. "I drive myself as much as I can. I demand perfection from myself."

As Hart travels west, Jenkins, on the other hand, will head home for his NBA opportunity. The 6-foot-6 forward, beloved for his buzzer-beating three-pointer to win Villanova its 2016 national championship, is from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He worked out for the Wizards in early June. He also worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday.

"It's a blessing," he said after his session with the Wizards, via the Washington Post. "You always root for the hometown team, you always want them to do well. Honestly it's humbling to be in this position, to grow up in this area, to have some games here and play college ball here and then come back and work out for the Wizards."

After flirting with the NBA draft process following their title-winning season, both Hart and Jenkins decided to return to school for their senior campaigns.

They both took to Twitter on Thursday night following the draft — Hart in excitement, Jenkins more in a humorous manner.

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

Sixers 'dug very deep' into Markelle Fultz's perceived weaknesses

CAMDEN, N.J. — You don't have to do much research on Markelle Fultz to find his perceived shortcomings.

Washington finished 9-22 his only season there. Draft experts also questioned his effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

None of that concerned the Sixers when they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night (see story).

"One of the weaknesses was, 'Does he bring it every night defensively? Did he have that killer instinct?'" Sixers head coach Brett Brown said following the pick. "I think if you take a high character person and you take an athlete, you have the foundation to coach him to be an elite defender."

There isn't much question about Fultz's offensive game. The 19-year-old guard averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in his only season with the Huskies. He also shot an impressive 41.3 percent from three-point range.

His skill set as a shooter and scorer seems to complement the skills of franchise centerpieces Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With his selection, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is hoping the Sixers can start to build a winning culture.

But does Fultz's nine-win season at Washington concern him at all?

"You look at every aspect of evaluating a prospect," Colangelo said. "We've dug very deep on this and we feel that regardless of whatever the performance of the University of Washington Huskies was last year, it's not relevant to who Markelle represents, what he represents as a player, and how he is going to fit in and help us turn this program around."

Fultz took an interesting path to being the No. 1 pick. He didn't make the varsity team at famed DeMatha High School in Maryland as a sophomore (see story). A growth spurt helped bring more attention to his game.

He chose Washington because of the relationship he had developed with its coaching staff. He also thought he'd have the opportunity to play with sophomores Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray. Instead, both players were surprise one-and-dones and Fultz was forced to carry the team on his shoulders.

"He wasn't always considered the best prospect, but he emerged and earned the right to be the best prospect," Colangelo said. "You're talking about a young man who goes to the University of Washington, didn't have great team success. Unfortunately, part of that may be personnel driven, part of that may be circumstantial.

"To do what he did at the level of the Pac-12 and to be able to average 23 points a game, six rebounds and six assists. You're talking, again, about great performance on the floor, a player that does so many different things and we believe someone that's going to help make his teammates better. "

Colangelo mentioned that Fultz "has the tools" to become an excellent defender. Fultz stands at 6-foot-4 with an impressive 6-foot-10 span. He also has plenty of athleticism and strength to compete defensively against NBA ones and twos.

Brown acknowledged that defense could be the biggest hole in Fultz's game, but feels like he could get the most out of Fultz on the defensive end.

"I think that down deep he understands the knock against him and I believe that when we get him with our program, he understands how we see the world here," Brown said. "It's gonna be an evolution, no doubt. But it's a willing defensive player and it's a willing athlete, a gifted athlete under a roof of a quality person. I think having those types of qualities lets you have a far better chance to mold him into the type of defensive player we need here."