Generally, I consider myself to be pretty in tune with the Process and its many practitioners. That's not to say I always agree with the prevailing Process viewpoint, but usually I can at least guess with reasonable accuracy what said perspective is going to be -- how a trade or signing will be perceived, whether a former player will get booed or cheered upon return visit, if we'll pretend to have opinions about a second-round selection, and so on. After four years of Trusting this thing, you'd hope you develop a pretty good instinct for it.
Tonight, though, I was definitely off. After the Philadelphia 76ers jumped up from 4 to 3 via Sacramento Kings pick swap, I looked around the Rights to Ricky Sanchez Lottery Party expecting the moment's disappointment at not getting 1 or 2 to give way to overwhelming gratitude, if not outright ecstasy, as the many implications of the moment had a chance to settle in for the TTPers in the crowd. But it never came. Instead, as fans filed out of Xfinity Live, everyone still seemed to be mid-negotiation -- weighing jumping up to 3 against not getting 1 or 2, and landing the Kings pick swap vs. not having the Lakers pick convey. (LAL slid up to no. 2, a climb sure to jump-start a generation of conspiracy theories.)
It's understandable for Sixers fans to feel mixed emotions about what transpired on Tuesday. But then again... c'mon.
As much bargaining as I did with myself going into the night, there's two words you could have told me before the draft that would have made all other worldly concerns irrelevant: Pick Swap. That's it. After that, I'm good. You mean we're going to use our 10% chance of the Kings jumping into the top three -- roughly the chances of the Celtics and Spurs meeting in the finals this year -- and thanks to a comically one-sided trade we made with Vlade and Vivek two years ago at the height of Hinkiemania, we're going to jump into the top three for the fourth straight year? We're really gonna look at that and say "OK, what else?"
It feels pretty bizarre to say, but I had no idea Process Trusters had gotten this spoiled. Perhaps this is the greatest accomplishment of the lottery party -- after three years of making it past the commercial break, capped by our One Shining Moment of landing at No. 1 in 2016, we've actually become entitled as a fanbase when it comes to lottery night. Now, simply not sliding down even further (as I'd convinced myself we were finally due for) is far from good enough. We want the pick swap, and we want it to get us all the way to No. 1, with a top-five Lakers pick to complement -- and anything less is a "Yeah, but..." Tsk, tsk.
Personally, I think the night was a damn miracle. Yes, we only moved up one spot -- though really, when you consider the Sixers were most likely by far to finish at no. 5 (and in fact did land there with our own pick), we really moved up two. And yes, we have to wait another year for the Lakers pick, and they'll have another top-two pick to improve around in the meantime -- though if you think Lonzo Ball in his rookie season is gonna be the difference between L.A. winning 26 games and L.A. winning 41 games, I have some $500 sneakers to sell you. And yes, we probably aren't going to get Markelle Fultz -- though he probably would have chafed behind guaranteed starter T.J. McConnell in the rotation before long anyway.
But guys. GUYS. Guyyyyyyyyyyyyyys. We got the friggin' pick swap. Pick Swap! If you had to sum up the final two years of the Process in just two words, it would undoubtedly have been "pick swap." When it came time for the Lottery Party faithful to articulate their evening's greatest desire, it wasn't "LA-KERS PICK!' or "NUM-BER ONE!" that we chanted -- even though both were actually more likely outcomes. No, it was "PICK! SWAP! PICK! SWAP! PICK! SWAP!" And it should have been. And we got it. And it was beautiful.
So, what for the Sixers at No. 3, then? Well, Josh Jackson seems like a strong bet -- a two-way wing with major potential on both sides of the ball, assuming he can get his jump shot sorted. UK guards Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox will certainly get extended looks, as will Duke wing scorer Jayson Tatum. And even though it's considered preordained to the point of him already being penciled into the draft's Wikipedia page, don't rule out Lonzo Ball as a possibility either. Remember, we Knew the Lakers were gonna pick Jahlil Okafor two years ago, too -- sometimes, reality just ends up outweighing the narrative to an unignorable degree.
And one last note on the Lakers: Yeah, I wanted the pick this year, too. It would've been nice to have it, to know that it was ours, and that nothing was gonna come along in the next 12 months to potentially ruin it. But it's not going away. We have it next year, and we have it entirely. Remember how annoying it was to root for the Lakers to lose, lose, lose, and then no you've lost too much now you need to win, win, win, wait maybe lose a couple BUT DAMMIT DON'T LOSE THAT MANY GAHHHH? Well, now it's gonna be easy: We want the Lakers to lose in October, in April, and in all months in between, as frequently and as discouragingly as possible. That, my friends, is gonna be fun -- even if Paul George does decide he wants to jump ship to a 26-win team for some reason.
So yeah, the Sixers should have some options, and all of them seem like pretty good ones. The Sixers will add a top-three pick this summer to a core of Joel, Ben, Dario and RoCo, they still have all the cap space in the known universe this off-season, and then in the next two drafts, we own totally unprotected picks from two teams that haven't drafted outside the top ten since 2013. And now, forever and always, we have Pick Swap, the final validation for Our Once and Always Dark Lord. And if all that's not enough to make you one smilin' Sixers fan this week, then I have to ask if we were even trusting the same process all these years.
Rain drop, drop top, we be converting on the pick swap. #ThanksSac 😜
— Nik Stauskas (@NStauskas11) May 17, 2017