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May 26, 2017

Sixers draft scenario du jour: What if the Lakers pass on Lonzo Ball?

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There's just under a month left until the Sixers are on the clock with the third-overall pick, and that means we need something to kill time during the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft. 

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between now and the draft, Rich Hofmann and I will examine a different potential scenario for the Sixers. Some days, there will be trades. Other days, the Sixers may remain at three, but the players left on the board could be different due to another trade or a surprise pick. And since there are only two teams ahead of them, we should be able to get through a good amount of the most likely possibilities before June 22.

After we've outlined the scenario and offered our thoughts on the likelihood it actually happens and whether or not it should happen, we'll ask you for your thoughts on it. We also encourage you to elaborate in the comments section. When it gets closer to the draft, we'll put the results together in a single post to show you which outcome fans are most hopeful to see play out.

Here's a look back at the scenarios we've already covered:

•  Shipping Dario to Boston for top pick?
•  An initial offer to move up to No. 1
•  Selling third pick back to Kings ... with interest

Let's get right into it:

THE SCENARIO

After three straight scenarios involving trades, today's is a little different. Let's assume Markelle Fultz goes first overall to the Celtics, but for some reason the Lakers don't do what people expect – take UCLA guard Lonzo Ball with the second pick – and instead draft Josh Jackson. 

Should the Sixers, who are reportedly working on setting up a private workout with him after he turned down the Celtics, select Ball with the third overall pick?

1. CELTICS: Markelle Fultz
2. LAKERS: Josh Jackson
3. SIXERS: Lonzo Ball?

SHOULD THEY DRAFT HIM?

Rich Hofmann

Lonzo Ball is one of the most polarizing prospects I can remember, and this has nothing to do with LaVar. Strictly from an on-court standpoint, Lonzo’s strengths and weaknesses are so pronounced. 

STRENGTHS: Ridiculous passing vision (especially in the open court), legitimate 30-foot range, an ability to make his teammates better/unselfish, absurd advanced metrics 

WEAKNESSES: Nonexistent midrange game due to lack of advanced ball-handling moves and a weird jumper that makes it almost impossible to shoot off the dribble going right, low release on said jumper, so-so athleticism that shows up on both ends of the floor 

I’m sure some people are going to love my #take, while others will hate it: If the Lakers draft Josh Jackson second, I’m running Adam Silver right back to the podium to announce the Sixers are taking Lonzo Ball third. Like, actually tossing the commish back on the stage.

LaVar aside, I get Lonzo’s on-court concerns. I think they somewhat limit his upside as a lead guard, but the beauty here is that the Sixers don’t need a lead guard. They have Ben Simmons! Lonzo understandably wants to play at home, but from a personnel standpoint, he and the Sixers are a perfect match. Look at the Sixers’ two main needs:

• Spacing: Lonzo can make deeeeeeep threes off the catch from a Simmons or Joel Embiid pass all day 

• Secondary ball-handling/playmaking: Lonzo is overqualified for this and should run the offense when Simmons is out of the game

I don’t really buy the argument that Lonzo’s teammates made him look so much better than he was. UCLA was garbage in 2015-16, Lonzo and TJ Leaf showed up, and voila, they were an offensive juggernaut. He had solid personnel around him, but let’s not overthink it.

Lonzo and Simmons can co-exist because Lonzo doesn’t need the ball in his hands for more than a couple of seconds to be effective. And unlike De’Aaron Fox or Josh Jackson, I’m confident Lonzo is going to make an open three. And when you consider his range, that provides so much more space for both Simmons and Embiid to operate. 

Put these two guys on the floor together with Embiid and Dario Saric and the Sixers’ passing would be incredible. Their offense could be a juggernaut. And if they can ever keep Embiid healthy, that’s the core of a two-way force.
 

Matt Mullin

It's hard to talk about Lonzo Ball™ these days without talking about his father (and, for our purposes more importantly, his agent) LaVar. In some markets, it might not be a big deal to have that big a personality speaking on behalf of your young star. But in Philly? Yeah, that would go well... 

Just think about what a big deal was made over the ridiculous rumors that Ben Simmons wasn't going to play this year because he wanted to still have a chance to get the Rookie of the Year bonus in his contract in 2017-18. Now imagine a new one of those every week. As a writer, it would be incredible job security (not to mention it would make my job so much more fun). As a fan, I would be a little nervous.

As far as the on-the-court stuff, there's no way I'm not going to do a better job than Rich just did at breaking down not only Lonzo's game, but also how it would fit with the Sixers – for what it's worth, I agree that he would fit extremely well.

So would I draft Lonzo with the third pick?

HAVE YOUR SAY

And don't forget to leave your feedback in the comments section below.


Follow us on Twitter: @matt_mullin  @rich_hofmann

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