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.  

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”

Sixers' 2nd-half dominance emblematic of team's growth

Sixers' 2nd-half dominance emblematic of team's growth

Remember when the Sixers regularly stuttered out of the gates in second halves, coughing up leads?

That feels like a long, long time ago.

The ridiculously rapid growth of this team is hard to fathom. It's turning previous weaknesses into strengths, and its second-half performances are a perfect example.

The third quarter was pivotal in the Sixers’ 104-91 win Tuesday night (see observations), as they outscored the Heat 34-20 to take control of the game. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons provided the bulk of the Sixers’ offense in the first half, but that changed in the third quarter. Dario Saric scored eight points in the period, while Robert Covington made a pair of momentum-swinging three-pointers.

In total, out of 10 second-half quarters in the series, the Sixers lost just one — the fourth quarter Tuesday. 

That second-half dominance is turning into a big part of this team’s identity.

“It’s just the way we play — we play hard and we never let up,” Simmons said. “At the start of the season, we had a few letups where we just weren’t used to it, a few guys playing their first season, a new team. I think we’ve grown a lot.”

Erik Spoelstra experienced an unpleasant feeling of déjà vu during the second half of Game 5.

“In the second half, it felt like the majority of our fourth quarters vs. Philadelphia,” Spoelstra said. “Each of the games — except for Game 2 — they’ve stepped up their defense in the fourth quarter and it was tough to generate good, clean offense or at least getting the ball where we wanted it to go and executing with some level of coherency. You have to credit them.”

While the Sixers are developing at warp speed, this particular trend didn’t just start in the playoffs. As JJ Redick pointed out, the Sixers started taking over in the second half late in the regular season.

“I don’t think this is something we just started doing this series,” Redick said. “If you look at our winning streak, there were a lot of games that were close at halftime and the third and fourth quarters, especially defensively, were just terrific, and that’s what allowed us to have that winning streak.

“So this is something we’ve been doing now for a while. I know earlier in the year we certainly had blown a few double-digits leads in the second half. It’s something we were coached on and worked through as a group, so a lot of credit goes to Brett (Brown) and his staff for that.”

During the Sixers’ current stretch of 20 wins in 21 games, they’ve outscored their opponents in the third quarter by nine or more points 10 times. It’s a staggering reversal of their early-season issues coming out of halftime.

While we’re talking about the Sixers’ growth, we could delve into their newfound ability to take care of the ball (with the glaring exception of Game 4), or the massive improvements in their bench play, or Simmons hitting free throws under pressure.

However, the second-half dominance speaks volumes about the ways this precocious team has grown, and how it continues to develop.

“I think we’ve stayed on to something and we haven’t pivoted out of it,” Brown said. “This is how we want to play offense, this how we want to play defense, this is how we substitute, these are our crunch-time plays. This is just what we do. 

“We’ve been able to just incrementally get better as the season has unfolded. That’s always the thing that makes coaches most proud: the fact that your teams get better. And this team really is getting better. The pieces within the team are getting better and so it all adds up.”