Sam Hinkie’s done it again – this time long after being relieved of his duties by the Philadelphia 76ers. Yep, in what turned out to be a busy weekend in the NBA world, the Sixers and Boston Celtics agreed in principle to a trade that saw Philly acquire the number one overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
In return, the Celtics will get the 3rd overall pick, plus the 2018 first-rounder the L.A. Lakers owe the 76ers (provided it falls between numbers 2-5). If it doesn’t convey, the 76ers will send a 2019 first-rounder to Boston via the Sacramento Kings.
According to sources the league over, Fultz is the closest thing to a sure thing this year’s draft has to offer, and will be an intriguing addition to the Sixers talented young core, which already features Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric.
It may be a bit soon to get too excited – the Sixers haven’t actually drafted Fultz yet, Simmons hasn’t played an NBA game yet and Embiid has just 31 professional appearances to his name – but provided all four are able to stay healthy, they could realistically be in a position to challenge in the East within a few seasons.
Hangin' with the fellas. pic.twitter.com/KNFjdoF0gN
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) June 18, 2017
This is largely due to the fact that the 6-foot-4 guard, who averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 25 games during his lone college season at Washington, seems like the perfect fit alongside Embiid and co. due to his ability to play on and off the ball.
And his impending tenure with the club is all thanks to the much-lauded “process”, not the mention the man behind it, Sam Hinkie:
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) June 18, 2017
Thanks to him, Sixers fans have suffered for this.
Over the course of the past four years, they’ve witnessed the home team notch a mere 75 wins, which has in turn enabled them to gather the assets required to do exactly what they’ve just done.
And thanks to Embiid, who they drafted 1st overall in 2014, Saric, who they acquired by trading Elfrid Payton to the Orlando Magic that same year, Simmons, who they took 1st overall last year, and, barring some major change of heart on Thursday, Fultz, they should be in a position to attract a decent free agent or two this summer.
Hinkie’s vision of failure has delivered (in a sense) and fans will no doubt be delighted to banish the “Trust the Process” slogan to the annals of time – because let’s not forget that the 76ers still have 2015’s 3rd overall pick Jahlil Okafor on their books, as well as talented forward Robert Covington and the recently acquired Justin Anderson to boot.
Add the new guy, some shooting in free agency (say, a J.J. Redick type), a fully-fit Simmons, a more robust Embiid and this quickly becomes a team people want to watch again (renew those League Pass subscriptions now, people).
Things are a little less clear for the other team involved in this trade, the Celtics, though.
Although they probably had a good reason for doing so, no team has traded the first overall pick since the Orlando Magic did it back in 1993:
And yet there are a number of proviso’s at play here.
For instance, we should remember that this year’s draft is well and truly stacked with talent (check out Joe and Jordan’s pods on this if you haven’t already), and that a lot of experts are of the opinion that there isn’t a whole lot between the top nine or so prospects.
We should also remember that Fultz suffered some knee and ankle issues back in February, which may still be of concern to those assessing his workouts.
We should also remember that the Celtics are closer than anyone to topping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, and that sticking with veteran guard and Boston folk hero Isaiah Thomas makes a lot of sense right now.
We should also remember that they probably “undersold” the pick (in the sense that they didn’t take any players back) because they want to keep as much cap space as possible for free agent additions this summer.
And, we should also accept that the move gives them even more assets that could potentially be used to go after the kind of blockbuster trade that would make them serious contenders in the East.
Don’t expect anything to happen until draft day itself, but they have obviously been linked to want-aways Jimmy Butler and Paul George for some time now, and there’s even been talk about them making a play for Anthony Davis in the past few days.
While the potential success of all these deals is a matter for debate, Ainge most likely swapped picks knowing that all it really does is strengthen his team’s overall position for the next few seasons, even if Celtics fans won’t necessarily agree right now:
Another trade is coming…
Life as a Celtics fan.
— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) June 18, 2017
But the bottom line is that he now has even more assets than before and could still end up trading down again to gather even more, whilst also drafting an NBA-altering talent in Thursday’s draft.
That said, if Fultz turns out to be the player everyone’s predicting he’ll be, Ainge could end up in a tricky position (although, realistically, the outcome of that scenario won’t become apparent for years to come).
This feels like a “win-now” move for the Celtics and and if they are to use their newly acquired assets to go after either Butler or George things may get interesting in the East next year, event if Ainge was keen to play down the implications of his decision on a recent phone call:
Danny Ainge explains the reasoning behind trading the No. 1 pick in Thursday's Draft as he fields questions from media members: pic.twitter.com/fvg8COFilv
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 19, 2017
Many have labelled this a “make or break” move for the Celtics, but it sees more likely that what they actually do in the draft coupled with what they do in free agency will have a far greater impact on the future of the franchise, which as just as well really, given that the more immediate winners here are definitely the 76ers.
And their erstwhile general manager Sam “Trust the Process” Hinkie.
Sean is the site's resident hoops historian, exploring some of the NBA's most significant moments through the 'Step Back' series. He's also written for Fansided's Orlando Magic Daily and the Last Word on Sports network.