It's been lottery night all weekend for Sixers fans, since the news started to trickle out Friday that the Philadelphia 76ers were deep into talks with the Boston Celtics to swap picks in the upcoming NBA draft -- presumably for the Sixers to take Markelle Fultz, consensus No. 1 pick and potential franchise point guard. Now, a variety of sources (including NBA omniscient narrator Adrian Wojnarowski and Sixers Twitter's own Derek Bodner) report that the deal is done in principle, with only a Monday phone call awaiting for it to become official. The Sixers will trade the No. 3 pick and the L.A. first-rounder still owed to us for 2018 -- with protections on the pick (only conveying if it lands between 2-5) meaning we may end up owing Boston our 2019 first-rounder from Sacramento instead -- in exchange for the No. 1 pick.
If this seems like a huge win for the Sixers, that's because it probably is. The Colangelos took a handful of the crown jewel assets of Sam Hinkie's tenure -- the pick swap and first-rounder from the Nik Stauskas heist of summer 2015, the Lakers pick from the robbery-in-retrospect Michael Carter-Williams deal of the '15 trade deadline, and don't forget the Saric/Payton swap of draft night '14, which gave us our '17 1st-rounder back from Orlando -- and synthesized them into the guy who could truly be the final piece, without selling the farm to do so. It's a major accomplishment, and both our current GM and our Once and Always Dark Lord deserve all the credit in the world for pulling it off.
Fultz, at least as advertised, is just about everything the Sixers are looking for in a lead guard. Shooting, playmaking, athleticism, intelligence, and (potentially) defense -- I won't pretend to know how good Fultz already is or could be (like a lot of us, I only know the YouTube stuff) but smarter people than myself seem to think he's an elite two-way talent, and to match him with the couple other elite two-way talents we already have on the roster could make for a pretty cool next 5-10 years of post-Process Sixers' ball. He seems to be the perfect complement to Ben Simmons especially, as a guard who can devastate on or off the ball. You know those Chris Paul/Blake Griffin pick and rolls that always seem to end with DeAndre Jordan slamming down the easiest alley-oops in the world? Picture that with Fultz, Simmons and Joel Embiid and you have a pretty good snapshot of how beautiful the Sixers could be in a year or two's time.
What's more, the timing of the deal couldn't have been much better. Sixers fans worrying about a major overpay of an aging free agent like Kyle Lowry to help make the team immediately better shouldn't toss those fears out the window, exactly, but they can certainly breathe a little easier than they were a week ago. There's no major fixes currently needed, really: Adding Fultz to our lineup from day one next season gives us -- knock on Ronnie Wood, James Woods, Wood Harris and several VHS copies of 1999 dramedy The Wood -- a complete young core to go out and compete with pretty much immediately. Dream with me for a moment:
Starting 5: Fultz-Stauskas-Covington-Simmons-Embiid
Next 5: McConnell-TLC-Henderson-Saric-Holmes
VP in Charge of Bench High-Fives: Jahlil Okafor
Ain't gotta dream no more -- in October, failing any one of several potential crises to afflict the Sixers in the interim, this will by our Day One reality. And that's not even included any further free agents, or whatever we do with our quartet of second-rounders. But the most important part of this is that we isolated the guy we wanted, and we got him. And now we're ready; truly, finally ready.
Is there a "but"? Well, sure. First off, make no mistake: We paid a high price for this. That Lakers pick is one of the most valuable draft assets in the league right now (NBA Assets ranks it 11th among all current and future draft picks, and 35th among all assets) and I'd say it's at least 50% likely to convey to L.A. next year as a top-five pick. That's not nothing, certainly, and if Boston really didn't see Fultz as being a better player and/or fit for them than Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum -- both likely available at No. 3 -- then you could say they essentially added a top 5 pick from us for nothing. (And for the record, unless the Kings make a dramatic turnaround net year, I think Sixers fans probably should root for the Lakers pick to be as high as possible next year -- so that either we get it at No. 1 or the Celtics get it at 2-5, and we get to enjoy the '19 Kings pick unfettered, which should also be top 10 at the very least.)
And there's another minor "but" to be found here in that if Boston was willing to part with Fultz this easily, we might want to consider that there could be a reason why. Not that Celtics GM Danny Ainge's judgment is infallible by any means, but he has a pretty good track record with trades like this, and doesn't pull the trigger easily -- he's not Vlade, in other words. Of course, Markelle makes more sense in Philly, where we have no blue-chip guards, than in Boston, where they already have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Still, if Ainge believed Fultz to be the generational talent some Sixers fans are billing him has, it's hard to believe he wouldn't have taken the point guard anyway -- and indeed, some reports have already trickled out that Boston passed on Fultz in part because they didn't believe he was a "winner." That sounds like bulls--t, certainly, and it's easy to dismiss it as such, but again, Ainge isn't an idiot: If he had real concerns about Fultz, we shouldn't disregard them outright just because LOL BOSTON.
One more thing: Sixers fans certainly don't want to think about this today, but before we start camping out on Broad Street in advance of the parade next June, we should take a moment to consider how uncertain everything still is for this Sixers team. Lest we forget, in four combined player seasons between Embiid and Simmons, we've only actually seen 31 games' worth of (mostly) healthy performance. JoJo lived up to and above expectation over those 31 games, but they didn't exactly quell fears that injury concerns would plague his beautiful body for the entirety of his career.
Meanwhile, we've still never even Simmons and Embiid healthy on the court together, or to get any kind of assurance that the broken foot that ended up knocking Simmons out for the season won't be a continued hindrance for the 6-foot-10 point forward. Hell, we don't know for sure how good Simmons actually is, or how he fits with Embiid and the rest of this Sixers team, or if he even shoots with the correct hand. We hope these two dudes are Sixers' fixtures forever, but both are still very far from safe bets. Markelle Fultz is such an appealing get for Philly in large part because of how brilliantly he seems to slot in alongside Simmons and Embiid, but if those two dudes can't stay on the court with him, giving up the Lakers' pick to move up for him might start to seem like an overpay.
Still, these are relatively minor misgivings when you consider how the implicit goal of the NBA for about as long as smart people have been running teams has been to find three star-caliber talents to build around -- preferably players who mesh together on and off the court, and who are all on roughly similar developmental timelines. The Sixers, at least for one shining, pre-tragedy moment, appear to now have that; and we still have Dario, RoCo, all our own future draft picks and one hammer pick still owed to us. The Process is complete, Retweet Armageddon lies just around the corner, and the lingering promise of the last four years has finally been paid in Fultz.