Since Sunday night, viewing Nick Foles highlights has become a nightly tradition. Of course, it’s only the successful highlights worth watching. Foles threw 19 touchdown passes before he even threw an interception in 2013. Thinking back to those days with Foles as the de facto franchise quarterback, and it’s hard to believe that was only four years ago. It feels like an eternity considering the Eagles have started three quarterbacks since.
It feels like a long time ago that the 76ers were playing regular season basketball. After Joel Embiid went down for the season at the end of January, the 76ers still played some meaningful and competitive basketball, including wins over the Clippers and Celtics. Richaun Holmes flashed, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had his moments and Dario Saric was the focal point of the offense. With the Philadelphia season set to begin Wednesday night, I decided I will write on this site regularly about most 76ers games I watch. There will be gifs, thoughts and just random observations.
He made his NBA debut almost a year ago. The atmosphere was electric. You could feel something special in the making. I was there with my cousins Mike and Pat. The game had everything. It was Russell Westbrook’s first game without Kevin Durant following a dramatic summer. It had a doctor flip off Westbrook with not just one, but two middle fingers. And then there was Joel Embiid.
Embiid, the bruising, enthralling seven-foot-two center from Africa, made a nifty turnaround jumper in Andre Roberson’s face for the first two points of his career. It didn’t matter the 76ers lost the game.
NBA Summer League’s product isn’t usually exciting. The quality of basketball looks like a bunch of non-NBA players trying to make an impression on NBA teams. That’s the nature of the league. NBA rookies and some second-year players, however, sometimes demonstrate why many expect them to eventual be superstar-type players. Jaylen Brown owned the first game against the 76ers Monday, prompting many to say he shouldn’t even play the remaining summer league games for the Celtics. Jayson Tatum flashed his scoring potential, particularly late, as Boston used a late surge to complete a comeback win. Tatum, the third pick in the 2017 draft, had the eventual game winner. The 76ers’ top pick, Markelle Fultz, was supposed to be a Celtic as last month’s draft approached. But Danny Ainge thought Tatum was the better prospect, trading picks and receiving a sweet future first via the 76ers. Monday’s game then wasn’t just Markelle’s first NBA-action it was his first opportunity to show Ainge he made a mistake.
Markelle Fultz didn’t seem like a possibility a month ago for the 76ers. The final trade parameters are official, or at least reported as such, the 76ers send the third overall 2017 pick and the 1, 6-30 protected Lakers 2018 pick. If the pick falls 2-5 next May, the Celtics get the pick. If the pick falls anywhere else, the 76ers have to send a top-1 protected 2019 Kings pick. It’s a strange trade, provided the protections, but it definitely helps Philly that at least one of those beautiful assets will stay in Philadelphia. And keeping that pick if it miraculously becomes the top pick was essential for Colangelo.
The 76ers finally have a top prospect visiting their practice facility Thursday with just a week remaining until draft night. Malik Monk arrived in Philly on Tuesday according to his Instagram. (Side not: Monk’s a fan of the band the 1975, and they are freaking awesome). Monk has been lost in the shuffle certainly because he’s considered a reach at three. But Philadelphia clearly has interest in the six-three two guard as it should. Monk’s a natural scorer, and he’d help spacing big time as early as this year.
The most popular rumor deals with Sacramento trading the fifth and 10th picks to Philadelphia for the third. If Sacramento offers that deal, Bryan Colangelo better have the league office on speed dial. This time of year, however, there’s always rumors. Some of them end up being relatively true, but usually they are just smoke. Another popular rumor is one of the top-three teams assured Josh Jackson he’d be selected in that position. Jackson cancelled a workout with Boston, and scheduled a second with the Lakers, prompting many to assume the Lakers were the team that promised Jackson. The Lakers won’t reveal who they’re picking even a day before the draft. There’s no reason for them to do that, and plus Los Angeles will bring Lonzo Ball in for a second workout. It’s been reported that Ball didn’t necessarily impress the Lakers brass in his first workout, but Ball isn’t the type of player to impress in individual workouts, and the Lakers know that. Ball’s the second best player in this draft, and if for some reason Los Angeles passes on him, the 76ers better not deal three for five and 10. Ball better be a 76er in that scenario.
This weekend Fox is supposed to visit Philadelphia. The interest, I’m sure, is real, but it’s hard to see Fox making sense in Philadelphia. The 76ers don’t appear desperate to draft a point guard for the sake of drafting one. Some teams consider Fox the third best prospect, I’m sure. Sacramento does. Maybe Philly’s bringing in Fox not just because they have interest, but also to show other teams picking after Philadelphia the team has interest. The best scenario for Philly, outside of Markelle Fultz magically becoming a Sixer or the Lakers bypassing Ball, has to be Sacramento trading five and 10 for three, which I’ll breakdown now.
Five and 10 give Philadelphia endless possibilities in a real impressive draft. According to Draft Express, the fifth would be Jayson Tatum and the 10th Frank Ntilikina. If the trade happens, Ntilikina would be an absolute dream at 10. As for the fifth pick, Jonathan Isaac would be the guy I’d hope Philadelphia draft. In this scenario Philly adds two of the most versatile players on offense and defense. Ntilikina might not be a solid shooter right away, but he’s a great fit next to Simmons defensively. He’s also not expected to contribute right away, which is 100 percent OK with the 76ers. The NBA Finals, again, demonstrated the importance of versatility. Colangelo focused on adding wing depth last draft, adding Furkan Korkmaz and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Luwawu-Cabarrot made positive contributions in his first season, while Korkmaz appears to be a player who will make a splash in the NBA as soon as he arrives from Europe.
Let’s say the 76ers keep the third pick with Fultz and Ball presumably gone. What happens now? Jackson appeared to be the guy immediately following the lottery. He’s still could very well be the guy. There hasn’t been much chatter about him in Philadelphia outside of a source saying he was assured a top-three selection. Ian Begley, from ESPN, reported how some in Philly’s front office remaining super interested in Dennis Smith Jr. There’s no such thing as reaching for a player at three as far as I’m concerned. Obviously if you have the opportunity to move down and still get the guy you want, do it. But this notion that Philly picking Smith at three would be some kind of mistake seems trivial. This won’t help anyone, but at this point no name would shock me as Woj reveals Philadelphia’s pick eight minutes before Adam Silver does.
The NBA’s playoffs were a drag. The draft and subsequent offseason, however, will not be. There’s potential for batshit crazy things to happen next week in Brooklyn. What’s LaVar’s reaction if the Lakers bypass on the homegrown superstar? Could Paul George or Jimmy Butler be dealt on draft night? What about Kevin Love? The likelihood of something truly shocking happening appears low, but the NBA has never been short on drama.
Photo from Getty Images (Andy Lyons)
I didn’t watch the lottery. Work got in the way of seeing the genius Sam Hinkie trade from two years ago come into fruition. The Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia swapped picks. It’s a beautiful thing to have happened. Of course one of my best friends cheers for the Celtics while the other loves the Lakers. And the same thing that happened last year happened this year as all three of our teams made the commercial break to guarantee a top-three pick in a loaded draft. The results, however, were in reverse with Boston claiming the top pick, Lakers staying at second and Philly picking third. The attention immediately flips to who Philly will select third overall, especially after the presumption of Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball going one and two. It’s Josh Jackson, and I don’t think it’s particularly close.
Jayson Tatum’s name will surface. As will Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith. But Jackson’s the guy for the Philadelphia 76ers to add to an already fascinating core. The potential perimeter defense of Robert Covington and Jackson appears substantial. Covington made waves as a dominant wing defender during last season, and Jackson’s defensive potential draws comparisons to former 76er Andre Iguodala. It’s a beautiful situation for Philadelphia to be in from a defensive standpoint. In today’s space and pace NBA, defensive flexibility is a must. Jackson makes too much sense for Philly’s efforts to become the best defensive team in the NBA. Head coach Brett Brown would be enthralled with the idea of pressuring teams with Covington and Jackson with Joel Embiid protecting the rim. There’s another aspect of basketball, however. And on offense people will question whether Jackson’s the right selection or not.
Jackson shot the ball well from three during the second half of his lone season at Kansas. But it was a small sample size, and college three-point shooting success doesn’t always translate to NBA three-point shooting success. Free-throw shooting usually determines NBA three-point shooting at a more consistent rate, but Jackson struggled from the line. It wasn’t Aaron Gordon bad (42.2 percent), but it wasn’t much better (56.6 percent on 173 attempts) Philly fans probably cringe anytime they hear a prospects a jumper away from being a bona fide stud. Memories of Nerlens Noel working on his jumper, and Michael Carter-Williams clanking shot after shot come to mind. Yeah, Jackson has to re-tool his shot. It’s not a pretty from a mechanical perspective. Kevin O’Connor, of the Ringer, provided this assessment of Jackson’s shooting mechanics: Poor shooting mechanics needing an overhaul: wide base, elbow out, brings ball to shot pocket early, low and slow release, has a hitch. (By the way, please check out Kevin O’Connor’s NBA Draft Guide, it’s tremendous. I trust Draft Express the most for NBA draft material, but the NBA Draft Guide better be bookmarked on your computers).
Can Jackson ever be an average three-point shooter? Will spacing work with non-shooter Ben Simmons? Don’t the 76ers need to draft Monk to be the team’s perimeter, go-to scorer? These are valid questions. Some won’t be answered until years from now. It takes the top-picks plenty of time to figure the NBA out. And Jackson won’t be any different. Jackson, however, has the superstar potential every NBA team desires. Jackson also isn’t just this athletic wing with little offensive diversity. Jackson was a playmaker at Kansas, averaging three assists per game. His ability to quickly drive by his defender and find a teammate with a solid pass will translate to the next level. The idea is for Embiid to remain healthy. Jackson doesn’t have to be the absolute workhorse on offense. Philly’s style of play will be team friendly. Everyone will get touches, and it’s Embiid who will be the focal offensive point. In that respect, Jackson makes more sense for Philly’s offense than a guy like Tatum. Tatum is a throwback, DeMar DeRozan-type scorer capable of scoring from all over expect from three. Jackson could play some power forward, too. I admit Monk would be the perfect offensive fit for Philly, but basketball is a two-way game, and Jackson’s just a much better overall prospect than the sharpshooting Kentucky freshman.
It’s unclear who Bryan Colangelo favors for the 76ers. Two years ago I tweeted something along the lines of: welcome to Philadelphia, DeAngelo Russell. I assumed Los Angeles would pick Jahlil Okafor. But we know how that ended. The Lakers are destined for Ball, but crazier things have happened. Embiid said after the lottery he expected Fultz and Ball to go one and two, and the two guys he thinks Philly would chose are Tatum and Jackson. I tend to agree with Embiid, but the guy has to be Josh Jackson.
And Jackson tweeted this out in January:
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