By Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Can it just get here already?
With each passing minute since the 76ers apparently stripped Boston of its shorts in a trade made official Monday, the impact of what will likely yield Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick has grown smaller and smaller.
Oh, 2017 NBA Draft, you fickle bee …
Not for nothing, but ever since Bryan Colangelo and Co. reportedly “schooled” master wheeler-dealer Danny Ainge, the buzz has been elsewhere. It’s like the acquisition started depreciating the moment it touched down, much like a new vehicle immediately after purchase.
Extenuating factors haven’t exactly helped, either.
Not with rumors of LeBron James bolting Cleveland being reported, essentially, as fact, right along with actual facts such as Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis being on the trading block, and, oh, yeah, best “white men CAN jump (and ball)” talent Gordon Hayward being available via free agency.
With Boston a possible landing spot for one, or two, of them.
Ugh. So much for the latest steal of the century.
Thing is, there was/is nothing inherently wrong with what the Sixers did. Moving up to get a guy they want, hey, should be applauded. It’s a trend that, remembering Eagles big cheese Howie Roseman’s moves to get Carson Wentz at No. 2 in the 2016 NFL Draft, just might be taking hold in Philly.
About damn time …
But, what are we talking about here with Fultz? Just what are the Sixers getting?
We’re not talking the undisputed, hands-down, everyone-loves top talent available as the clock ticks down to Thursday night’s draft. Even to those beholden to hyperbolic bluster in differentiating players, Fultz, at best, is a nothing more than a consensus favorite … almost in the cautiously optimistic vein.
As far as the Sixers go, he brings one critical element to their roster that is critically lacking: shooting ability. From the floor, mind you. He’s somewhere between Wilt for his career and LeBron circa 2017 from the foul line – which is a red flag, if anything, when considering how much Fultz may have the ball in his hands.
Make no mistake, though, his outside marksmanship would be of utmost value to the team. They have more than enough players will to shoot it from distance, with even big men Dario Saric and Joel Embiid cocked and loaded from beyond the arc just about every other trip down the floor.
But someone who can really stroke it? No. That’s been sorely missed among the layers of brick bestowed upon the backboard in recent seasons, right along with all the losses.
The concern here, though, is that the Sixers’ brass is fooled into thinking that acquiring Fultz takes care of the team’s shooting woes. It’s potentially a nice start to fixing the problem.
As the recently completed NBA Finals showed, you need more than one sharpshooter on your squad to do some real damage. Sometimes more than two.
With that, you’d hope the Sixers would join the likes of those in the market for Butler, Hayward et al. Not even saying they have to go as big time. In fact, they’d be better off focusing on guys such as J.J. Redick, whose one recognizable talent is being able to bury the outsider jumper.
The guy, who, like Hayward, is a free agent, shoots 41.5 percent from “3” for his career, and has gone off for 44.0 combined the last four seasons with the L.A. Clippers while transforming himself into a solid, all-around NBA player.
For everyone who pooh-poohs Kevin Love, now that he’s being mentioned as a trade chip, keep in mind he just buried 3s at a 41.2 clip in the postseason … and he’s only 28 years old.
Point being to all this. Sure, celebrate the trade, but the Sixers need to realize they still have issues with their make-up even with adding Fultz. That is, if they have the intent of contending for a title in the coming years.
University of Washington combo guard Markelle Fultz (second from right), the likely No. 1 pick in Thursday night's 2017 NBA Draft, poses for a picture Saturday night after working out with, from left, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, for the Philadelphia 76ers.
By Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
Got no issue with the trade.
Got no issue with it resulting in the drafting of Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
Even got no issue with it requiring the 76ers to get in bed with the hated Boston Celtics in order to make it all happen.
No matter the cost in future considerations.
Really, truly, only got one issue with the whole thing … and it seems to be a developing situation not only within the confines of the team’s front office but throughout the Delaware Valley and Sixers Nation everywhere.
That being: the subtle, but still shocking, devaluation of Ben Simmons.
Not for nothing, people, but there is, and still will be only one potentially transcendent player on the Your Team, Your Town, Your 76ers’ roster once things become official on the Fultz trade/selection front … and it ain’t gonna be the new guy or that Joel Embiid guy.
It is amazing how that seems to escape the entire Philly pro hoops following community anymore.
Embiid as The Process … huh? Yo, the social media star has serious tools, but even his staunchest supporters have known in their guts from Day One that with his health history Embiid was living each day on an NBA court on borrowed time.
The genesis for departed GM/self-proclaimed revolutionary Sam Hinkie’s process to reinvent the franchise was centered around acquiring one piece, one talent, one guy – Simmons. Yeah, yeah, assets, assets, assets, gotta stockpile those assets. Welcome to Sam’s Shell Game.
Simmons always was the goal for Hinkie. The once-in-a-lifetime player – possibly – who showed enough for the visionary among us to believe, or dream, that he could lead the Sixers not just to prominence, but prosperity, and, more important, relevancy. In town and abroad.
The danger, if it can be called that, in drafting a guy this coming Thursday who may lessen the impact of Simmons simply because he’ll take some of the ball-handling responsibility away from last year’s No. 1 pick is that we’ll be looking at a watered-down product.
It’s not that we’re going to get too much of a good thing. It’s that we’re never going to get what Simmons may have offered.
No offense to the tape measure-challenged, but it really is more fascinating to see a 6-foot-10 guy lead a fastbreak or run an offense from inbounds pass to basket than, say, someone 6-3 or 6-4 doing that – especially in slower fashion. The anomaly factor … factors.
In fan interest. In star power.
It just does.
Fultz? Hell, he’s a terrific talent. If you have any concerns, check out some YouTube videos. All highlight packages of players spin a positive tale. But the kid has elite body control – some of his attack-the-rack antics are absolutely unreal – and he can really shoot if from the floor, and distance, and he displays some serious cojones on the court.
But his playmaking ain’t anywhere near what Simmons can do. He lacks the vision and the innate “think outside the box and be super smooth with it” ability the big fella has. He also ain’t exactly lickety split out there … and will be expected to play a position – either the point or shooting guard – that kinda requires him to be a lot of the time.
If Bryan Colangelo and Co. are thinking this move erases any defensive concerns that may have arisen with Simmons sometimes getting locked into guarding smaller, quicker guys, they’re going off faulty reasoning. Fultz doesn’t display the footwork on that end of the floor to be anything more than passable.
Thing is, not against the Sixers choosing Fultz. He brings a lot of offensive firepower to the equation.
It’s fearing that choosing him will cause their further diminishing of what Simmons could be.
By Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s more than a bit out of hand.
It’s a complete disconnect from reality, all in the name of trying to profess something new as gospel – just to be making that damn statement. That “know better than you” revelation.
Look, we get it, Kevin Durant is a special player, a terrific talent. He, without question, was the X factor in this year’s recently completed NBA Finals.
Better than LeBron James?
Yo, peeps, put down the hookah pipe, please.
He is, in no way, either of those things.
It’s not his nature. Not his game. He’s a “play off others” performer. He’s not a “take over a game” through sheer will kind of guy.
For starters, he’s never had to be. Not in the NBA at least.
That role was handled by Russell Westbrook during KD’s entire tour at Oklahoma City, and, really, by James Harden for part of it, too. Same thing with Steph Curry this season with Golden State.
The beauty of his game is that he doesn’t, and hasn’t had to, force … anything. Durant just plays, and naturally weaves things into the flow of games – which is why often you’ll check the box score and wonder how he had 30 points.
In the finals, his scoring efficiency was superb and his timing was impeccable. Great traits.
But best in the game? Hardly.
No one was more dominant than the King in that series. As infuriating as he can be, and was during that series, with wasting so much damn time at crucial, late-game junctures trying to involve his teammates, he did take over – because he had to.
There were moments, comical moments, where he had to bull his way to the basket and awkwardly force up shots … because there was no time to mess around, to win style points. Buckets had to be made, and he went about making them in sure-fire fashion: physical domination of an opponent.
That is not something you will see in KD’s repertoire. Heck, if we're talking take-over guys, even LeBron's sidekick, Kyrie Irving, fits that bill better than Durant.
No knock against the latter there. Almost leaves his game more pure. More fine. More appealing to watch.
Funny thing is, to me he always looks goofy and gangly. His all-timer of a nickname, “Slim Reaper,” is a perfect testament to his appearance, but also his lethal impact on games.
He is graceful and smooth. He has a beautiful shooting stroke, and his shot, especially in those five games against Cleveland, deadly. He even has a nice handle, can distribute the ball pretty nifty, block a few shots and pull down his share of rebounds.
But, please, no more Paul Pierce-type insanity out there. He ain’t anywhere near LeBron. Not only does he not possess the take-over skills required to draw that comparison, he’s never had to display them.
FYI: LeBron not only averaged a triple-double in the finals, he also shot better from the floor overall than KD did, .564 to .556. Take away Game 1, when the Cavaliers inexplicably decided to leave Durant all alone the entire night, James probably ends up being the series high scorer, too – as well as being its top rebounder and assists guy.
Oh, and knock it off with the 7-footer crap with Durant. He’s 6-9. Always has been. This silly Charles Barkley reversal crap needs to stop. With the 76ers, Philly media was so desperate to hype up the guy and make his accomplishments that much more impressive, so it “shrunk” him from his college height of 6-7 to 6-3 – wow, and all those rebounds. Just amazing.
Durant? Hey, look at his ball-handling skills and that shooting. Unreal for a 7-footer, right?
Yeah, especially when the dude is 6-9.
Yo, just enjoy the guy for what he is, a great player. Not the best. He’s never going to be. But a great player. Who had a great series. Who proved to be the ultimate X factor in that series.
Nothing more. Nothing less.