Now my Sixers fan heart is Fultz

Now my Sixers fan heart is Fultz

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.

Chip Kelly shares how close Eagles got to trading for Marcus Mariota

Chip Kelly shares how close Eagles got to trading for Marcus Mariota

Chip Kelly will make a transition this fall from coaching on the sidelines to analyzing games in the television booth for ESPN.

The former Philadelphia Eagles head coach sat down with his new co-worker Adam Schefter about his new challenge of doing television. Chip seems excited at the opportunity to study new trends and see where the game is going.

He also spoke about a couple of the hot button issues from his days with the Eagles. Those were the days before Carson Wentz was the quarterback in Philly so the Birds were always in search of a franchise quarterback.

"It is the most important position on a football team," Kelly said of the quarterback position. "When you have a good one, everybody else becomes a better player."

"That’s why everybody is always looking for the next great one."

Perhaps the Eagles' most hyped hypothetical from the Chip era was the inability to trade up to get Marcus Mariota from the Tennessee Titans in 2013. Schefter asked Chip if there was anything they could have done differently to land Mariota in Philly.

"No," Chip said. "From all the conversations with Tennessee, they weren’t moving off the pick. Rightly so. They were looking for the same thing to get themselves a really top quality quarterback. We didn’t really get into a conversation about what we could or couldn’t offer.

"We didn’t offer anything because they weren’t taking any offers for it. I would have loved to coach him."

A couple of other areas of interest to Philly fans:

On night Shady got traded

"That was one of those deals where the trade had been initiated but not approved yet from the league. Before anything ever got approved, we weren’t going to say or comment or do anything in that situation. Then obviously the story got out before we ever had a chance to communicate with the guys being traded. I never got the chance to talk to LeSean before he got traded. I always say that’s on us."

Is Chip done with coaching? Could he see return to coaching?

"I’m excited about what I’m going to do for ESPN then I’m going to see what happens after that. I don’t have any set plans how long I’m going to do anything. We all like to think we have control of our lives but we really don’t. The unknown really keeps you going. It gives you a little bit of energy, a little bit of juice. I know what I’m going to be doing in the fall. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing after that."

On the Running of the Bulls in Spain

"Everybody is dressed the same. You usually have a white t-shirt and a red bandana. When I was in the ring for maybe 20 minutes, it was hot, I'm trying to figure out how many bulls are left. I'm ready for this thing to end. Out of the corner of my eye, in the middle of Pamplona, Spain, I saw a guy in a Tim Tebow jersey in the middle of the ring. I decided to stay near him. No bull was going to go near Tim Tebow, so no bull is going to go near me."

You can listen to the full Chip Kelly with Adam Schefter podcast right here.

Eagles Better or Worse 2017: Offensive line

Eagles Better or Worse 2017: Offensive line

The Eagles didn’t change much about their offensive line from last season. In fact, they retained pretty much everybody, even handed out a few contract extensions, while also going out and signing Chance Warmack in free agency.

The question is whether that was good enough. There are plenty of question marks among a nucleus of Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson, and standing still didn’t necessarily provide many answers.

BETTER

Depth

The Eagles haven’t been this deep up front in years. First and foremost, 2016 draft picks Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai both got significant, meaningful experience in their rookie seasons, and should only be better for it going forward. Vaitai gives the club a capable backup at right tackle, while Seumalo will compete to start at left guard, but can play pretty much anywhere in a pinch.

Chance Warmack bolsters a strong interior. Formerly the 10th-overall choice by the Titans in 2013, Warmack hasn’t really panned out in the NFL, plus missed all but two games last season with a hand injury. However, he has 48 career starts under his belt, only turns 26 in September, and is reunited with Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland from his college days at Alabama. It’s a great situation.

Veteran Stefen Wisniewski was retained after his one-year trial, and can fill in at guard or center, giving the Eagles quality backups at all three positions.

Trades could change the outlook here, as Allen Barbre and Jason Kelce have both been rumored on the block. Even if both were to go – which seems unlikely – the Eagles’ depth looks improved based on the increased experience alone.

Lane Johnson

Theoretically, Johnson could test positive for performance-enhancing drugs and wind up being suspended for the entire 2017 season. However, we’re going to assume he’s learned his lesson.

Johnson was slapped with a 10-game ban last season after his second positive test, and it turned out to be a crushing blow for the Eagles. Case in point: the team had a 5-1 record with Johnson, but went 1-9 without him. As long as he can put that stuff behind him once and for all, the arrow is still pointing up. Johnson is only 27, and there’s absolutely no debate about his importance to the offense now.

WORSE

Getting older

Between Johnson, Seumalo, Vaitai and Warmack, the Eagles have no shortage of young talent along the offensive line. Evan Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks are only 28 this year. That being said, two of the most vital members of the unit are going to be on the wrong side of 30 – and their performance has already shown some signs of decline.

Jason Peters rebounded after a dismal 2015 campaign that left doubts about his viability at left tackle, earning his ninth invitation to the Pro Bowl last season. He’s no longer the dominant force who was once considered the best O-lineman in the league, but was still one of the more dependable players blindside players out there. Nonetheless, Peters is 35, and despite being rewarded with a contract extension two weeks ago, there naturally is concern that the age- and injury-related decline could be sudden.

Meanwhile, Jason Kelce has already been drawing criticism for the past two seasons, and the fact that he turns 30 in November isn’t likely to help. Though still one of the NFL’s top centers in space, people still have hang-up about his size, and the fact that he doesn’t appear to be getting any stronger with age. Kelce is a better player than he is often credited for at the local level, but that 30th birthday is something to watch.

If the Eagles’ line takes a step back in 2017, it will likely be because one or both of these guys isn’t hacking it anymore.

THE SAME

Brandon Brooks

Brooks was as advertised last season at right guard after signing as a free agent from the Texans. At 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, Brooks is capable of engulfing defenders in the ground attack, particularly at the second level, and he was perfectly solid in pass protection as well. He has the tools to go from good to great, and seeing as he only turns 28 in August, reason to think he may still have that leap in him.

Even if Brooks is what he is, that’s a plus-blocker in both phases. The only concern here really is he wound being a late scratch two times in three weeks with an illness in 2016, and was later diagnosed with anxiety as the apparent cause the symptoms. Brooks addressed the issue, so his unexpectedly winding up on the inactive list two hours before a game should be a thing of the past.

THE UNKNOWN

Left guard

The unknown isn’t always a bad thing, and the Eagles’ competition at left guard is a perfect example. Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo are going head-to-head for the job, and whoever wins, the offensive line should be fine.

Barbre started 28 games at left guard over the past two seasons, and was surprisingly better than serviceable, even when everything around him was falling apart in 2015. A third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2016, Seumalo appeared in nine games for the Eagles as a rookie and started four, and did not look out of place.

For obvious reasons, it would be better for the Eagles’ long-term outlook if Seumalo wins the battle, as is sort of expected. Should that come to pass, it could allow the Eagles to move Barbre, in which case, Warmack is right there to back him up. Or, if Kelce is traded, and Seumalo moves to center, Warmack is there to push Barbre. Wisniewski can play left guard, too! In other words, we don’t know precisely how it will shake out, but the Eagles have plenty of options.

BETTER OR WORSE?

Barring a sudden drop-off from Peters, the Eagles appear to be in good shape up front. Even if something happens to Peters, Johnson can play left tackle, and Vaitai takes over on the right. There is no shortage of moves along the interior, so consider that group vastly improved before any trades are made. The only question is depth behind Vaitai at tackle, though Seumalo can play outside as well. Everything points to an already solid group staying that way, and in many cases, continuing to develop. Better

 

Previously:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Offensive line
Defensive line
Linebackers
Defensive backs