Ben Simmons has shaken off some NBA opening night jitters to lead his revamped Philadelphia 76ers to a dominant victory over Boston Celtics.
The Philadelphia 76ers have agreed to terms with the Boston Celtics, sending their number three pick in the draft – along with a 2018 protected first round pick – gaining the Celtics number one pick in 2017 NBA Draft where they will draft Washington’s Markelle Fultz.
He was always thought as being the clear cut number one pick, ahead of other notable prospects such as Lonzo Ball, De’Arron Fox and Josh Jackson, except by the Celtics.
The focus will be on what becomes after this trade. Boston now has the chance use this pick to add to their growing young roster with small forwards Josh Jackson and Jason Tatum being the most likely candidates, maybe even Lonzo Ball if the Lakers decide to go with De’Aaron Fox or Jackson.
The other option which has been talked about now for months is using this pick along with the many others they have stockpiled away in a trade for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George.
It could be used to move Gordon Hayward to the East from Utah after he signs a max deal with the Jazz.
If I was Danny Ainge, Jimmy Butler would be my main target and the one I’d be doing anything to get. Butler is a three-time All Star who could be one of the final pieces to help Boston challenge the Cavaliers for the title as the best team in the east.
He can play the two or the three and is an upgrade on what the Celtics have now with Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. Paul George seems to have his heart set on going to the Lakers in 2018 as a free agent so I wouldn’t waste trading for George who may only stay a season in Boston.
Gordon Hayward is an option but the Jazz like the Celtics are a growing team and beating the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs may have given some confidence to Hayward that if he stays and the team improves they can move deeper into the Playoffs, plus also the fact the Jazz can offer Hayward a max contract with more money.
So if I was Ainge Butler would be target number one and I’d be working to do anything to move him to the Celtics.
On the other side of the trade in Philadelphia, ‘The Process’ may have just started their own big three.
Fultz and Simmons – both number one picks – and Embiid, who is a number three pick. Embiid after two years of injury played his rookie season and was the favourite to win the Rookie of the Year until injury struck again, ending the season. He managed only 31 games averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in only 25 minutes a night.
Simmons drew comparisons with a young LeBron James with his playing style and physical attributes. He made the Summer League first team averaging 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game and it looked to be he was more focused on facilitating and setting up his teammates, which is a great skill to have for a guy at 6’10. Simmons suffered a foot fracture in training camp which was expected to miss four months, but a slow healing process and complications ruled him out for his entire rookie season.
Markelle Fultz is the interesting one here. The Celtics had reservations of Fultz after he worked out for them that he lacked team success, and going to the Sixers who have been a losing team for years in the NBA won’t be a major adjustment for him. But adding him with Simmons, Embiid could slowly start to change the success of the Sixers.
He is a modern day point guard and has no big weaknesses that will get found out in the NBA. His versatility is his biggest strength. He is able to play as a scorer, shooter, playmaker and already has the qualities of a young floor general.
He can play next a combo guard or a pure shooting guard and at 6-4 with big hands and large wingspan has the ability to also guard multiple positions.
Fultz like most modern day point guards can shoot the three. He averaged 41 per cent from beyond the three point line in college and can shoot off the dribble as well as play as a spot up shooter. In his one season with Washington he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game while shooting at 50 per cent from the field and 41 per cent from the three point line.
His only question mark, as thought by the Celtics and other draft experts, was with all these stats couldn’t lead his team to a winning record with Washington finishing the season 9-22.
Now Fultz is there, someone can now run the offence and organise the team properly. Having someone to properly feed Embiid in the offence down low is going to do wonders of Embiid’s confidence and for the team.
I see Simmons maybe playing a point-forward role, taking control when Fultz is off the ball. The Sixers were full of young and dynamic players last season but no one took control and ran the team.
Fultz now has that opportunity to leave his own blueprint on the team and run it properly having all these young players working together to move Philadelphia into the Playoffs.
Fultz, Embiid and Simmons might be the Sixers big three of sorts but it’s the veterans and role players that are really going to help them move up the standings.
Players like Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Nik Stauskas all will have a part to play down the stretch and with veterans such as Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson helping teach and guide this young team this can be the start of something special for the Sixers and give hope to the Philadelphia faithful who continued to ‘Trust the Process’