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June 23, 2017

Five takeaways from what the Sixers did in the 2017 NBA Draft

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The 2017 NBA Draft has come and gone, and whether or not you think The Process is over, there Sixers are still wheeling and dealing like crazy on draft night. Here is what the Sixers officially ended up with, and you bet there is a reason that word is italicized:

     •    Pick 1: Markelle Fultz (6’4”, 195 lbs.), PG, Washington
     •    Pick 25: Anzejs Pasecniks (7’2”, 229 lbs.), C, Gran Canaria
     •    Pick 36: Jonah Bolden (6’10”, 227 lbs.), PF, Radnicki Basket
     •    Pick 39: Jawun Evans (6’1”, 177 lbs.), PG, Oklahoma State
     •    Pick 46: Sterling Brown (6’6”, 230 lbs.), SG, SMU
     •    Pick 50: Mathias Lessort (6’9”, 250 lbs.), PF/C, Nanterre

Here are five takeaways from what the Sixers got done on draft night and what it means going forward.

1. Wait, what are Evans and Brown doing here? It was strange to hear Bryan Colangelo act as if Evans and Brown were Sixers after it was reported that they had been traded to the Clippers and Milwaukee, respectively:

Let’s get the overseas players (Pasecniks, Bolden, and Lessort) out of the way first. Colangelo, who described the Sixers roster as “moderately full,” said that they will all likely stay overseas despite the fact that Bolden made it sound like he wants to play in the NBA right away. Colangelo indicated that the Aussie forward signed a recent two-year contract with Red Star Belgrade, and that looks to be the case.

Colangelo described that the Sixers roster is “moderately full.” And since he hinted there’s a decent chance that Furkan Korkmaz is making the jump to the NBA next season, I would tend to agree with him. If Korkmaz is in the fold, I count 13 likely roster players before the Sixers have to make a decision on Gerald Henderson’s team option sometime in the next week.

Colangelo indicated that he wanted to leave a few roster spots open for veteran free agents/trade targets, and you really have to wonder if Jahlil Okafor could be someone that the Sixers look to move on from to create another roster spot.

Oh, yeah, back to Evans and Brown. When he was asked about those picks, Colangelo gave you plenty to read between the lines (emphasis mine).

“Well, we’ve drafted a few players, we retain the rights to those players, he said. “And we’ll see how the dust settles here in the coming weeks as to how this all plays out.”

I haven’t even seen the exact compensation for the Brown trade with the Bucks, but this likely goes back to the salary cap rule that places a limit on the amount of cash a team can pay or receive per season. This year’s limit is $3.5 million, but the Sixers already have received $3.4 million combined from the Sasha Kaun and Tibor Pleiss trades. You don’t sell a draft pick for $100,000, but that number will be increased to $5.1 million per year in the next CBA, which will go into effect on July 1st. At that point, the Sixers can receive a whole lot more than 100K.

So basically, Brown and Evans are likely Sixers in name only for a week. If this is in fact what the Sixers are doing, will the NBA be happy about this? I have no idea, but they very well might not be. But for next year, this likely means that…

1B. Markelle Fultz will very likely be the only Sixers draft pick on the 2017-18 roster.

2. If a free agent can’t shoot, the Sixers probably aren’t interested: Listening to Brett Brown talk about free agency, those J.J. Redick rumors sure aren’t going anywhere.

“What’s the common denominator that on the court can help them succeed best?” Brown said of Fultz, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid. “It’s space. It’s clear, it’s space. And with that comment, if you can have a hybrid of both worlds, you look at veteran shooters, people that can come in and provide that type of leadership.”

3. The Sixers are beginning to establish a culture, and Embiid is primarily responsible: When the Sixers were losing night in and out with so many journeyman players, there were plenty of calls from the outside for a need to establish a culture. Those teams played hard, but creating an identity was always going to be impossible until the Sixers roster was filled with players who could stick around in Philly for a while. Brown calls those guys “keepers.”

Well, the Sixers have their share of keepers now. And while there are a bunch of talented and promising players in Philly now, everything seems to run through Embiid and his charisma.

I’m not quite sure what it is exactly, but the way that Embiid and his teammates embraced Fultz before he was officially drafted counts for something. The Sixers’ defining trait at this stage of the game is what Brown described as “a youthful enthusiasm.”

“It’s amazing, sometimes something like this happens and it sets off a schism in the organization or a team doesn’t like, perhaps, what the direction management or the coaching staff is going,” Colangelo said. “But there is a pretty good unity here that everybody is on the same page.”

Give most of the credit for that to Embiid.

4. I loved loved loved Fultz’s answer about defense: The top overall pick was asked what parts of his game that he could improve.

“I want to improve on all aspects of my game,” he said. “But most importantly, at the defensive end just being locked in every play. I’m not a terrible defender, but there are times where I have mental lapses and I’m going to have to be locked in at the NBA every play. Not only when I’m guarding the ball but on help defense too.”

Fultz has the tools to be at least average defensively and Brown has proven to be a good defensive coach. It says here that Fultz understanding and openly admitting one of his major weaknesses is a good thing.

4B. Speaking of Brown, good for him: The Sixers head coach received the question of Ben Simmons and Fultz coexisting as primary ball-handlers, and we’ll have all season to figure that one out. What struck me is that Brown has coached approximately 600 point guards in Philly, many of them journeyman types. I mean, Ish Smith was viewed like a savior! For Brown to have two playmakers as talented as Simmons and Fultz at the same time, he has to be thrilled.

5. Give Fultz and Simmons some time: There is plenty of time for season predictions, but in general, I think that Embiid is the exception to the rule. Young guys don’t tend to play winning basketball, and I expect that from Fultz and Simmons, at least initially. They’ll be fun right away, but there will very likely be growing pains.


Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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