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June 20, 2019

NBA Draft 2019: Sixers trade No. 34 pick in frustrating, yet defensible swap with Atlanta Hawks

The Sixers traded the No. 34 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for a trio of second-round picks, a source told PhillyVoice on Thursday night.

The pick breakdown, when you show the value of each individual pick, is theoretically a good exchange for the Sixers:

Atlanta gets: No. 34 in the 2019 NBA Draft

Philadelphia gets: Atlanta's 2020 second round pick, the highest second round pick between Atlanta/Charlotte/Brooklyn in 2023, and No. 57 in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Getting three picks for one in the second round is, on paper, good value. The further down in the draft you go, the more of a crapshoot the exercise becomes. By stockpiling more and more of those picks, you have a better chance to hit on somebody who can be a real contributor to your team.

However, one of the primary reasons to keep turning over second-round picks into the future is to get the higher value ones at the top of the second round. It's an area of the board filled with players who could have been first-rounders if the board had broken a different way, and it allows you to get cheap contributors on the roster without having to give them guaranteed contracts. The combination of flexibility and talent is excellent for teams that will be operating over the cap.

And that's what makes the Sixers' draft day decisionmaking so perplexing. The Sixers had a pair of picks sitting right near the top of the second, and there were talents in that range that would have added value to the program.  Instead of taking a swing, they punted the chance into the future, with no guarantee those picks will be 

There was Villanova's Eric Paschall, who would have brought some defensive toughness and versatility as a forward. There was Bruno Fernando, who the Hawks took with pick No. 34 themselves, a big man the Sixers could have groomed to be Joel Embiid's backup. They could have gone after Luguentz Dort, a sort of perimeter defensive stopper they've lacked at the point of attack.

Hell, take it a step further — if they had not telegraphed their plans to draft Matisse Thybulle, as was reported by ESPN's Jonathan Givony after that trade, they would have potentially had two swings at contributors early in this second round. For a team that is looking to compete now, that sounds like a tantalizing opportunity.

The easy thing to do here is to put this on ownership, and they deserve a decent amount of scrutiny for their role in the Sixers' handling of second-round picks in recent years. After basically selling No. 42 in conjunction with cap maneuvers, trading away the one high-value second you had left after the Matisse Thybulle deal makes it look like an effort to keep more money off of the books.

But other parties are culpable here, too. The front office has to properly value these specific sorts of second-round picks. Brett Brown has to be willing to play and develop more young players. Since ownership is further removed from the fan experience, it becomes easy to use them as a punching bag. But this is a multi-level decision that runs through all the important parties in Philadelphia's organization.

Will the Sixers come out on the winning end of this deal in the long run? It's impossible to say right now. But this is a move that is not going to help the team in the short run, and that's the period of time where most of their resources have been invested. Tough to figure out.

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