[Editor’s Note: This was courtesy of a prospective Sixers writer, let’s call him Rone. You can follow him on Twitter here.]
What a beautiful night. What an absolutely beautiful night. The draft was laid out perfectly for the Sixers and all they had to do was not fuck it up. And guess what? They didn’t fuck it up. In fact, they did such a good job of not fucking it up that even the Sam Hinkie truthers had to put down their pitchforks and applaud Bryan Colangelo. Even if it’s only for one night.
The prize of the draft was Ben Simmons. A few people made a predraft case for Brandon Ingram, but when the dust settled there was only the Austrialian Adonis standing. If that sounds a bit gay, that’s cause it is. Some slo-mo softcore Simmons.
Let’s go through the draft topic by topic.
Now that Simmons is officially on the squad, the fun really begins. Simmons becomes the lens through which the Sixers should view the rest of their players. How does everyone else fit with Simmons? So first, the question has to be answered, where does Simmons fit? Is he a 3? Is he a 4? Can he play the 1?
Brett Brown gave some insight into that question in his presser directly after the pick. As Brown sees it, you are whatever position you can defend.That means, right now, the Sixers see Simmons as a 4 who will play a little bit of the 3. Simmons has repeatedly called himself a point forward, but until he proves he can stay in front of Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving, being a plain old point guard is off the table. There was a bit of a twinkle in Brown’s eye as he talked about not throwing Simmons into the fire at the 1 too early, as he seemed to be fantasizing about Simmons endless potential. He mentioned Giannis Antetokounmpo as a comparison, and that has to be the eventual dream for Simmons. A 6’10, 245 Centaur who can defend the point and run the offense.
Still, the likelihood is that Simmons won’t turn into a pure point guard anyway, because frankly, he doesn’t have to. He’ll be ball dominant by his prime, a position-less factotum who can attack from anywhere on the court. The jumper needs work, so did LeBron’s, so did Westbrook’s, so did Magic’s, etc. Simmons has been busy building the muscle memory of bully ball. The rest can come later.
My only problem with Simmons right now is the accent. Are you even Austrialian bro? That is the most watered down brogue I’ve ever heard. Listen, you don’t have to be Steve Irwin or Keith Urban, but Jesus man, give me a little bit of twang just to show be you’re proud of where you’re from. Dude sounds like he’s in witness protection.
Tim from Cannes got the Sixers faithful pretty fired up by the time they selected him with the 24th overall selection. Luwawu played for Mega Leks in the Adriatic League, a league where a Hot Pink and Electric Teal color scheme can not only happen, but flourish. But when Timothe isn’t manning his beachfront ice cream stand, he was busy being the number two prospect in Europe.
Luwauw’s biggest immediate impact on the Sixers will be as a defender. As the roster becomes fleshy with offensive juggernauts like Simmons, Okafor and Embiid, players who can play meaningful defense will become more important. Luwawu is an athletic, calm defender who is valuable right away in an Andre Roberson type role. Eventually, he should turn into a Thabo Sefolosha type player, and he says he models his game off of Paul George. Why? Because George does everything. This makes me happy.
And the good news: he wants to come play right away. His buyout is an easily manageable $600k, but his main reason for wanting to get to the NBA is the fact that he’s living in Belgrade, which has a very depressing zoo.
Luckily for Luwawu, Philadelphia’s zoo is world class, and their basketball organization is soon to be. Luwawu is going to take a little time to develop on offense. He shot an average 36% from three, but promisingly did so at a high volume. He already has the vicious dunks down. If he can provide spacing on offense and tenacious perimeter D, he could have a valuable place going forward with the Sixers.
The Sixers got another Furkan! After we sent Furkan Aldemir out to sea for his Eskimo Burial, some thought the city would never see another Furkan. How wrong we were. At look at our new Furkan, throwing around the 12 kilo weights like packing peanuts. Good Furkan!
Korkmaz was another of of the most highly touted Euros. While 14 of them went in the first round, the selection of Korkmaz gave the Sixers the top two wings. And if “raw” is the best way to describe Luwawu’s talent, then “polished” is the best adjective for Korkmaz. He has a smooth wing game and a silky shot, though he didn’t get huge minutes on his Euro-league team, Andolu Efes. If their name sounds familiar, it’s the same squad where future Sixers teammate Dario Saric has been patiently biding his time and aggressively growing his mustache.
Korkmaz is one of the younger players in the draft and has a prohibitive $2 million buyout, so he might wind up being a draft and stash type player. The Sixers will already be flush with rookies, as Simmons and Luwawu will be joining Embiid and Saric, so keeping some talent in the pipeline is a good long term move.
Neither Korkmaz nor Luwawu is going to take anyone off the dribble. Korkmaz isn’t a particularly high flyer, tho the Vader mask distracts from that. But both offer spacing and a high basketball IQ to a franchise thirsty for both. If one of the two turns out to be a serviceable role player for the Sixers, this draft will be the gem that everyone is projecting. If both do…nah, I won’t get ahead of myself. That many good things don’t happen to us. This is still Philadelphia.
The Trades That Didn’t Happen
Few things gave me as much joy on draft night as Danny Ainge bitching about the shitty trade offers he got on draft night. He thought that he was gonna get some kind of massive haul for the third pick in a two player draft? Ha! You’re not gonna screw the rest of the league like you screwed Brooklyn. Not every team has Billy King as a GM. (Speaking of, Thad Young for Caris LaVert? God Billy King’s Dumb.)
The rumors before the draft were that the Sixers wanted Kris Dunn badly. The trade that got flushed out of the internet was Nerlens, Covington, 24 and 26 for Dunn, though Colangelo intimated that the rumor was fugazi. It makes sense why the trade didn’t go through; Sixers fans thought we were giving up too much, Celtics fans thought we were giving up too little.
Regardless, I didn’t want to do the deal with the Celtics anyway. The onus was on them to make a move. What were the Celtics going to do, take a 5th point guard? They are in win-now mode and are desperate for interior help. Meanwhile, there’s no rush for the Sixers to make a move. So instead of taking pennies on the dollar while filling the last hole on a bitter rival’s roster, why not just stand pat?
This move really gave me some faith in Colangelo. I was afraid he was going to make a move just to make a move, but he put his balls on the table and stared down Ainge until Ainge broke. The Celtics came into this Lottery and Draft process in hopes that they could pick up a star to put them over the top. Now, despite their million draft picks, they are in worse disarray than they were coming into the process, and their pain causes me great joy.
Plus, it would have killed me to see Jahlil or Noel killing it in Boston for the next eight years. Let’s just not deal with the enemy.
Since the mutiny that left Bryan Colangelo in charge of the Sixers, one of the hottest buzzwords getting thrown around by the team has been “roster balance.” A code for “we have too many big men and no guards.”
While some of the wings got fleshed out, the problem in the paint remains. Most people expected one of Okafor or Noel to get traded, but as we wake up the day after the draft, those two and Embiid are still on the roster. It feels like an episode of Elimidate, only no one’s getting eliminated.
And while that might be the ideal for the Elimidate dude, it’s not an ideal way to build a franchise. If Simmons and Dario Saric both project to start their careers as 4s, that means that one of these five lottery picks is going to be on our third string.
The pairings would be something like:
?I can’t imagine last year’s number three overall pick being happy as a third stringer. Nor Noel, if those two were swapped. And this doesn’t even account for talented young players on the squad like Richuan Holmes or Jerami Grant, who was recently named a member of the Olympic Select Team. There simply aren’t enough minutes to go around.
There are a few ways to ease the congestion. If Simmons and Saric prove they can reliably defend the 3, the ultimate pipe dream lineup of Embiid/Okafor/Simmons is possible with Noel and Saric as the Night Shift bench unit. The likelihood of this working is very low, especially considering all that size and lack of speed on the court, which doesn’t exactly fly in the pace and space era.
Another option is Saric stays in Turkey for another year. This would delay his much anticipated debut, but would allow the team to asses what it has, as well as giving time to Simmons to gravitate more towards a perimeter role. That said, everyone wants Dario and we want him now.
Still another option is to let them all play it out. Get all the big men on a practice court and see who comes out as the alpha dog. Then establish the pecking order accordingly. With the lack of trades happening on draft night, this looks like the current most likely scenario.
The last option, however, might be the best one: making a trade. As much as there is a case to keep each of these big men, sadly, it seems that one must go. And while he’s the only one who has registered multiple healthy seasons with the squad, Noel is the one to go. While he is the most elite defensively, he is a restricted free agent this summer. The team still sees Joel Embiid as the ideal center for the future, so the $20 million a year that Noel could command in the open market would be prohibitive for someone who you hope is your backup center.
At the end of the day, I’m ok with trading either Noel or Okafor because a) I am irrationally optimistic that Embiid is going to be the savior I’ve been imagining, and b) because of #rosterbalance.
A current look at our guard situation yields some grim results. If the season were to start today, our back court would blindingly be Nik Stauskas and T.J. McConnell. A great advertisement for white kids everywhere to keep chasing that basketball dream, but not a promising formula for watchable NBA action. So whether the bigs get traded for guards directly (like a Noel for Bradley Beal swap) or if we trade some other combination of assets for a placeholder point (like Brandon Knight or Patrick Beverly), our guard situation needs to be addressed.
Luckily next draft features a glut of talent, and it’s conveniently concentrated at point guard. And with our probable lottery pick, the Lakers‘ top-3 protected pick, and the option to swap picks with the Kings, we will set ourselves up to get one of Lonzo Ball (UCLA), De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky) Markelle Fultz (Washington) or Dennis Smith (NC State), all of whom are freshmen.
Again, the pressure isn’t on the Sixers to be great tomorrow. They have time to find a few more pieces as they build. But on June 23, 2016, they got a whole lot closer to their goal.