76ers

Best-case scenario for Sixers? No. 1 pick and nothing else

Best-case scenario for Sixers? No. 1 pick and nothing else

The Sixers may finally see the result of Sam Hinkie's trade of former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.

If the Lakers' pick falls outside of the top three on Tuesday, it will convey to the Sixers. So, obviously, Philly fans should want the Sixers (or the Kings) to land the No. 1 overall pick and for L.A. to fall outside the top three, right?

Maybe not.

There's no doubt this is a deep draft class. Washington guard Markelle Fultz seems well on his way to being the No. 1 overall pick. He'll be followed by UCLA's Lonzo Ball, who's as electrifying as his dad LaVar is ridiculous. Then there's Kansas' athletic swingman Josh Jackson, Kentucky's dynamic guard duo of De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and don't forget about polished Duke forward Jayson Tatum.

If the Sixers were to land any two of these players, they'd be in pretty good shape. They certainly wouldn't complain. But it's not the team's best case scenario.

Landing Fultz and having the Lakers' pick not convey would be ideal. In this scenario, they land Fultz, who would fit the current roster perfectly. Fultz is a point guard by trade, but could easily play off the ball. He shot 41 percent from three (52 of 126) and 38 percent on his catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Fultz's ability as a ball handler could also be a huge help for Ben Simmons as he attempts to play point guard next season. If Fultz and Simmons were to share that load, it could help both players as they transition into the NBA. It could also be a whole lot of fun to watch. And imagine a pick-and-roll with Fultz and Joel Embiid. How do opposing teams defend that?

The Lakers have been dreadful the last two seasons. Dreadful enough to hold on to their pick last season and perhaps again this year. But next year, that pick becomes unprotected. Meaning if the Lakers win the draft lottery next season, the Sixers will have the No. 1 pick.

There has been plenty of speculation that the Lakers and Pacers swingman Paul George have a mutual interest. There's a fear the Lakers will improve too much with the addition of George and the pick the Sixers would obtain will not be as valuable.

But how much better will they really be? 

To acquire George, they'll have to pay. There's a chance the Pacers could ask for whatever pick the Lakers get Tuesday night. The Lakers may also have to give up some of their valuable young pieces like Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram. Couple that with the Lakers' cap situation (they signed Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng to horrendous contracts last offseason) and what kind of team surrounds George?

So if the Sixers get the No. 1 pick this season and land Fultz, they could then be in a position to land young phenom Michael Porter or Spanish shooting guard Luka Doncic next year. Having the Lakers' pick still in their back pocket also gives Bryan Colangelo more ammo to pull the trigger on a possible trade. After (hopefully) seeing Embiid, Simmons and this year's pick on the court together, the team will be in a better position to see where a talented veteran could fit into the nucleus.

It would be instant gratification to have the Lakers' pick convey Tuesday night. But it's better for the team long term to have more ping-pong balls in 2018.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”