The Philadelphia 76ers have slowly been gathering foundational talent and in today’s NBA draft, they’re expected to tab potentially the final puzzle piece of their young core in Markelle Fultz.
After moving up from the third overall pick to number one through a trade with Boston, Philadelphia are in position to select the top prospect and perhaps complete their drawn-out ‘Process’.
In a draft full of promising players, especially near the top, Fultz stands out as someone with arguably the highest floor and ceiling. The Washington guard filled up the stat-sheet in his lone collegiate season, averaging 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting 47.6 per cent from the field and 41.3 per cent on 3-pointers.
Though his team managed a disappointing 9-22 record, the 19-year-old’s potential has outweighed the lack of collective success and the Sixers are hoping he can form a tantalising young core with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons – Philadelphia’s No3 and No1 overall selections the past two years.
While there’s little to no suspense as to what the Sixers will do at number one, the Los Angeles Lakers at two aren’t set in stone.
Though all signs point to Lonzo Ball being selected by his hometown team, the Lakers reportedly have interest in Kansas forward Josh Jackson and Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox.
UCLA’s Ball has received extra attention because of his outspoken father LaVar, who has made no secret of his desire to see his son get drafted only by the Lakers. As such, Ball has only worked out for the 16-time champions in the lead-up.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, have been in trade talks with Indiana for Paul George, with the California native making it clear to the Pacers that he plans to hit free agency and sign with the Lakers next summer.
In anticipation of adding George either through a trade or free agency, the Lakers cleared cap space on Tuesday by trading prospect D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov’s massive contract to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick this year.
As well as shedding salary, the move opens up minutes at point guard, which Ball could fill.
Following the Lakers, all eyes will be on the Celtics, as they have been ever since they won the draft lottery last month.
After passing on Fultz, Boston is expected to choose between a pair of forwards – Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum.
While Jackson is the type of player general manager Danny Ainge covets – a defensive-minded, hard-working bulldog –Tatum offers more immediate scoring and shot-making, something Boston is in desperate need of, especially from the frontcourt.
The Celtics, however, could flip the pick as part of a trade package for Chicago star Jimmy Butler, who they’ve reportedly been chasing for some time now.
TOP 10 MOCK
1. Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz
There’s a lot of optimism that Fultz is the real deal and a can’t-miss prospect, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
In his only season at Washington, he blended volume and efficiency to be an unstoppable offensive force, even with opposing teams gearing up defensively to slow him down.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball
It’s easy to point at all of Ball’s red flags, like his wonky shot form or his loudmouth father LaVar. As far as his shot form, it may not matter if he keeps shooting like he has, while his father will have much less leverage in the NBA. Add in Ball’s amazing playmaking skills and passing and he should be a perfect fit in Los Angeles.
3. Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum
If there’s one thing that stands out with Tatum, it’s his innate ability to score. It just so happens that’s what Boston need most, especially from a frontcourt position. His footwork and one-on-one moves are advanced for his age (19), and he could be a deadly small-ball four, as long as he becomes consistent on D.
4. Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox
Lightning quick with a motor that just won’t quit, he seemingly has it all… except for a reliable outside shot.
It’s almost impossible to play heavy minutes as a lead guard in today’s game as a non-shooting threat, but his mechanics seem to be promising. Would fit well alongside Devin Booker for the future.
5. Sacramento Kings: Josh Jackson
The Kings might have a point guard at the top of their priority list, but Jackson is more than just a consolation prize. His defence and ability to make winning plays with his hustle and effort will earn him minutes right away, though if his shot mechanics can improve his upside is sky high.
6. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac
As far as raw talent and tools, Isaac has the potential to be a home run pick. The Florida State product offers shooting in a 6’11’ frame, making him an intriguing prospect that could easily turn out to be the best wing in the draft. How he fits with Aaron Gordon is another question, but it’s worth finding out.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lauri Markkanen
If you’re a 7-footer with a smooth shooting stroke like Markkanen, it’s going to be hard for teams to pass on you. His ability to space the floor would be ideal alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and though Minnesota is in need of defence, they can address that in other ways.
8. New York Knicks: Malik Monk
The Knicks are in serious need of something to be excited about and Monk certainly provides that. He’s undersized for a two guard and it’s unknown how much he can play the one, but regardless his fantastic shooting and ability to light it up in a hurry is just what Madison Square Garden needs.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr
There’s arguably no better athlete in the draft than the North Carolina State point guard. His ability to jump out of the gym and get by defenders gives him a high ceiling, but he’s not the most polished player. Still, the Mavericks won’t mind swinging for the fences at a position they need.
10. Sacramento Kings: Frank Ntilikina
After not taking a point guard at No5, the Kings could select the first international player on the board. His size at 6’5”, combined with his length makes him physical appealing, but he’s a bit of a mystery outside of his defence. The upside could be worth the risk.