76ers

Fadool: Why De'Aaron Fox should be Sixers' pick at No. 3

Fadool: Why De'Aaron Fox should be Sixers' pick at No. 3

The process, as it is, was in full swing Tuesday night. As the Sixers and their fans watched the draft lottery envelopes open one by one, the dreams of two picks in the top five evaporated. But, fear not, because that pick-swap did occur. 

The Sixers should have had the fifth overall selection in next month's draft, but thanks to Sam Hinkie's machinations, that was swapped out for the Sacramento Kings' actual selection spot, third overall. 

What to do with that third selection in the NBA draft? 

That's the big question that will be asked until June 22. There will be arguments, as there usually are with drafts, whether to take best player available or take a player that might best fit the system. And both sides will have valid reasoning behind their selection. But for me, it's the best player available. I think there is more risk in taking a player who might best fit your system, or who you perceive to fit best. And right now, I don't think the Sixers are in a position to take risks. 

So with that said, here's why I like De'Aaron Fox for the Sixers at No. 3. 

Now, I know some aren't surprised I'm here to talk about a Kentucky guard. But you might be surprised to see that it's Fox on my radar and not my favorite player from the latest crop of one-and-dones: Malik Monk. Yes, I watched more Kentucky basketball than other teams. But I also watched it critically, as anyone who's been within five feet of me during a UK basketball game can attest. 

Fox is the player who improved the most this season. In Kentucky's last 14 games, 13 of which they won, he shot nearly 48 percent from the field. He is the fastest player in the draft, end to end, and has shown that he can do more than just slash his way to the basket. He's one of the better defenders out there. One of the reasons his draft stock shot up was people got a look at Fox in tournament competition, both conference and NCAA. Those are crunch-time opportunities. 

His draft stock went way up when he went toe-to-toe with Lonzo Ball, presumedly the No. 2 overall selection, not once but twice. Fox put forth a great defensive effort to hold Ball to 14 and 10 points, respectively, in those two meetings. 

And who could forget Fox's 39 points in the tournament win over UCLA?

So here's where the dilemma comes in. Fox is a point guard who needs the ball in his hands. Simmons is the Sixers' point-forward. There is only one basketball to go around. But if Simmons is at the point on offense to distribute, is he then guarding point guards on the defensive end? I don't see how that can work. And that's not a knock on Simmons. That's the issue with having a point-forward. You can't expect Simmons to stay in front of Isaiah Thomas, John Wall or Kyrie Irving. But Fox can be expected to do that. Also, Fox is an unselfish player, so I think he can learn to play off the ball a bit on the offensive end. 

Fox's slashing ability would be such a positive for a Sixers team that wants to push the pace in games. And his shot will come. There was once a guard out of Kentucky that many said had a terrible shot and was only speed. That guy was John Wall. So take that for what you will. 

Select the best player available or address a need? 

I think the Sixers can do both with Fox.  

Imagine how good Sixers can be once this trio gets rolling

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Imagine how good Sixers can be once this trio gets rolling

As we collectively bask in the glow of the Southern California smackdown the Sixers administered to the Clippers and the Lakers to close out their road trip at 3-2, let’s take a little inventory of just what they’ve accomplished overall this season.

Through 14 games, they are 8-6. That’s two wins shy of their total amount of victories just two seasons ago and we’re still in November. The times they have a changed in Sixer-land.

The team has not one, but two transcendent stars who are capable of taking over games.

Joel Embiid’s last two performances have been pure dominance. 78 points, 31 rebounds, eight blocks and nine assists, while shooting 25 of 40 from the floor and averaging 35 minutes. He’s made whomever is guarding him look foolish, including one of the better defenders in the game, DeAndre Jordan.

From Game One, Ben Simmons has looked like a 10-year veteran. His poise belies his years. Simmons is a double-double machine and a triple-double threat every night. He’s posting gaudy early numbers of 20.3 points per game, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. Despite not being a threat beyond 12 feet, Simmons' ability to get to the rack and finish with either hand more than compensates for his outside shortcomings. That duo has been awesome.

Not to be overlooked is Robert Covington. The 26-year-old, who transformed himself into a top-10 defender in the league, is putting up monster offensive stats after an inconsistent season from the floor last year. Covington is scoring 18.3 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and nearly 50 percent from three-point land. Couple that offensive production with his defensive prowess and the Sixers got a pretty good bargain for a reported four years, $62 million.  

But what’s even more remarkable when considering the Sixers' good start is who they are doing it without. First-overall draft pick Markelle Fultz has played in just four games this season as he continues to battle a shoulder issue. Take a look at the contribution the NBA’s best team thus far, the Celtics, have gotten from third-overall pick, Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old is scoring nearly 14 points per game and pulling down more than 5.5 rebounds, while shooting close to 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from three. He’s been an integral piece in their 14-game winning streak. The Sixers have not had that luxury.

Beyond Fultz, Dario Saric has not been able to find a rhythm all season. Saric averaged 15.8 points per game over the final three months of last season. He hasn’t rebounded or shot it as well this season either. No doubt there were going to adjustments and growing pains incorporating with Simmons and with more availability from Embiid, but as the season progresses they will need more from Saric.

The other crazy thing about the wins against the Clippers and Lakers was the manner in which J.J. Redick struggled. He shot 7 of 25 from the floor and 1 for 15 from three-point land. He did make some late buckets inside in the Lakers game, but he’s here to knock down shots.

I believe Brett Brown will figure out a way to get more out of Saric. The Croatian works way too hard and cares far too much to not get going. With Redick, shooters can be streaky, it happens. And even when he is not making shots, he provides a lot in terms of leadership and example. How Fultz will fit in and what his shooting form will look like is anybody’s guess but they didn’t give up a lot to move up two spots for nothing. He wasn’t the consensus first-overall pick by accident. My sense is in addition to the shoulder issue, he is struggling mightily with his confidence. So it could be a process with him when he’s ready to return.

To be winning without much of a contribution from these players speaks volumes about how good the Sixers' big three (Embiid, Simmons, Covington) have been. And it’s been noticed nationally. The Laker win was a coming out party of sorts for those on the fringes. They are coming to the realization that we’ve known in this city for some time now.

This team is a playoff contender now. The question is how much better will they be at full compliment?

Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

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Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving had 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that put Boston ahead in the closing seconds, and the Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday night for their 14th straight victory.

Jaylen Brown had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Kevin Durant has 24 points for Golden State. The defending champion Warriors had won seven in a row.

Playing his second game since suffering a facial fracture, Irving shed his protective mask in the second quarter. Then, with the game tied at 88, he was fouled on his layup attempt and calmly made a pair of free throws. Durant then came up empty on his jumper on the other end.

Golden State led by as many as 17, but had to lean heavily on its reserves as its trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant struggled offensively.

Curry, who returned to action after missing a game with a bruised right thigh, was the most ineffective. He was 3 of 14 from the field -- 2 of 9 from the 3-point line -- and had nine points (see full recap).

Harden’s 48 points ignite Rockets’ rout of Suns
PHOENIX -- James Harden had 23 of his 48 points in the second quarter while the Houston Rockets scored 90 points in the first half en route to a 142-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

Houston dominated with Chris Paul back in the lineup after missing 14 games with a knee injury. The Rockets made 61 percent of their first-half shots to get the second-most points in a first half in NBA history.

Houston came up 14 points shy of the franchise record for points in a game. The Rockets knocked down 21 of 44 3-point attempts, and Harden made all 18 of his free throws (see full recap).

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, had 33 points at halftime. Houston used a 13-1 over the final 3:08 of the first quarter to take control and was never threatened after that, leading 45-23 going into the second.

Paul, who hadn't played since the season opener, got the start and didn't miss a beat, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists in limited action.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that getting the two stars, Harden and Paul, in sync will "take care of itself over the next week or so." D'Antoni planned to play Paul for 20 minutes; Paul saw 21 minutes of action and sat out most of the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson added 24 points for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight (see full recap).