And just like that, the Sixers could end up with the No. 1 pick for the second year in a row, this time with an unexpected twist.
The Celtics seemed locked in on Markelle Fultz at the coveted first selection they acquired from the Nets in an epic steal on draft night of 2013. On Friday night, however, that changed when multiple reports emerged on the Celtics' interest in swapping the No. 1 pick with the Sixers in exchange for the No. 3 and other assets (see story). The Vertical reported that could possibly include the 2018 unprotected first-round pick from the Lakers.
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This level of a move is very surprising since Fultz has been projected as such a promising talent. Taking a closer look, it would be a strong deal for both sides.
The Sixers have said there are multiple players they are looking at for No. 3. The choice at No. 1 is far more clear than weighing the pros and cons of top-10 prospects that could potentially complement the young core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Fultz could play alongside Simmons in the backcourt and give the Sixers the offensive burst they have been missing. Last season, the Washington product averaged 23.2 points (47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three), 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds. The Sixers will need a guard who can play on and off the ball when Simmons is running the point, and Fultz's numbers are staggering. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he fights his way to the glass and is a reliable passer.
The Sixers would have to give up a serious package of picks, but after all those trades in which they acquired a first-rounder here, a second-rounder there, they have plenty of assets to offer. They could cash in on their future first-round selections now if they feel they will be more valuable than in the future.
And it's no secret the Celtics like to make deals to land more picks.
So why would the Celitcs pull off a trade that seems so beneficial to the Sixers? Well, they wouldn't be doing this as a friendly favor.
Yes, Fultz is a fit for their system and could help in their quest to dethrone the Cavaliers in the East. He also could be the predecessor to Isaiah Thomas if the C's don't re-sign him.
This deal would be about so much more than rookies. The Celtics could take these picks and package them in a future deal to acquire a big-name player that takes them to the next level faster than Fultz would.
Danny Ainge is no stranger to a draft deal. In 2007, he acquired Ray Allen from the SuperSonics in a trade for the No. 5 pick. Four years ago, he shipped out the beloved Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to start a new chapter that very quickly turned into conference contention. Ainge and the Celtics have been stockpiling assets for years now, each time thinking steps ahead of how they can translate into a viable piece down the road.
The Sixers and Celtics are in two different places in their development. The Sixers could solidify their core for the future with the addition of Fultz and set them up for years to come. The Celtics would further the success of their veteran team and give them the assets and salary flexibility to acquire impact players to make an immediate difference while this window opportunity is open.
The excitement of the draft could happen sooner than June 22.