For most people following the 2017 NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 prospect. As I wrote earlier this week, there are very few, if any scenarios, where he doesn't go first overall to the Celtics. He's good enough to deserve that selection.
Before the draft lottery, Sixers fans dreamed of adding Fultz to a roster that already includes Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The perfect one-guard complement to Simmons, a player who can create while playing off the ball and guarding opposing point guards.
But now Fultz lies just outside the Sixers' reach, a couple picks away yet firmly outside their grasp. Even if the Celtics somehow passed on him, the Lakers would seem foolish to pass him up even if Lonzo Ball is still on the board.
CSN New England's A. Sherrod Blakely proposed a few trade scenarios for the Celtics, including one that moves the Sixers into the No. 1 spot. His deal was as follows:
Sixers 2017 pick (3rd overall)
Lakers 2018 pick
2017 Number 1 Pick
As Blakely says in his article, the Sixers would almost certainly pass up on this deal. While they'd get Fultz (and an affordable 3-and-D guy in Crowder), they'd give up three highly valuable assets, including a relatively proven one in Saric, for an unproven one.
Fultz may be great, but that *may* is a big qualifier when you can get something solid at No. 3, already have Saric and could get an even better talent with what should be a top lottery selection from the Lakers next year.
When you start thinking through other scenarios to flip No. 3 and change for the No. 1 overall selection, it simply doesn't work out because the Celtics and Sixers don't match up on a trade. The average team selecting No. 1 overall would gladly accept a haul of draft picks. Let's say it was the Nets making the pick: Wouldn't Brooklyn be interested in No. 3 pick this year, the Lakers' pick, one of the Sixers' other selections in future seasons and another lesser asset for No. 1?
But the Celtics aren't the Nets. They are coming off an Eastern Conference finals appearance and the team is looking to get past the Cavaliers and into the NBA Finals next season. Sure, the team suffered a gentleman's sweep at the hands of the Cavs and don't have the firepower to handle the Warriors either. Still, the team appears committed to trying to compete in the short term while using a core led by Jaylen Brown, their other 2016 draft picks and the 2017 No. 1 pick to wait out LeBron and fight for titles down the road.
You can say the Celtics' two-prong approach is foolish and that's fair. Maybe they should go all in right now or potential tear down their current roster to reach their peak in a few years. However, with the team a round from the finals, the latter route is unlikely.
If the Celtics are going for it right now, a package of draft picks from the Sixers doesn't look all that enticing. The Celtics have an upcoming roster crunch and would likely want to consolidate assets, not add to their stockpile.
The Sixers could offer Saric, yet the steps forward he took last season make him a strong piece of the team's core. He's not quite on the Simmons-Embiid level and shouldn't be untouchable, but he doesn't make sense to trade just to move up a couple spots in the draft. Fultz is a fantastic talent, but a couple of top prospects ranging from Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson to Jayson Tatum and Malik Monk will be available at No. 3. They all could fit the Sixers while keeping intact the core the team has put together.
On top of all of this, the Sixers and Celtics are geographic, division and historic rivals. That shouldn't be an impediment to a deal, but it is something to consider. Would you want the fruits of your rebuild finding the ultimate success for a close rival? Probably not.
With all of these factors in mind, the two teams don't fit very well on a draft night trade. It could certainly happen, but I wouldn't count on it. The Sixers are probably best sticking at No. 3 or trading down, not dealing top assets to move up.