The700Level

Now my Sixers fan heart is Fultz

Now my Sixers fan heart is Fultz

It's been lottery night all weekend for Sixers fans, since the news started to trickle out Friday that the Philadelphia 76ers were deep into talks with the Boston Celtics to swap picks in the upcoming NBA draft -- presumably for the Sixers to take Markelle Fultz, consensus No. 1 pick and potential franchise point guard. Now, a variety of sources (including NBA omniscient narrator Adrian Wojnarowski and Sixers Twitter's own Derek Bodner) report that the deal is done in principle, with only a Monday phone call awaiting for it to become official. The Sixers will trade the No. 3 pick and the L.A. first-rounder still owed to us for 2018 -- with protections on the pick (only conveying if it lands between 2-5) meaning we may end up owing Boston our 2019 first-rounder from Sacramento instead -- in exchange for the No. 1 pick. 

If this seems like a huge win for the Sixers, that's because it probably is. The Colangelos took a handful of the crown jewel assets of Sam Hinkie's tenure -- the pick swap and first-rounder from the Nik Stauskas heist of summer 2015, the Lakers pick from the robbery-in-retrospect Michael Carter-Williams deal of the '15 trade deadline, and don't forget the Saric/Payton swap of draft night '14, which gave us our '17 1st-rounder back from Orlando -- and synthesized them into the guy who could truly be the final piece, without selling the farm to do so. It's a major accomplishment, and both our current GM and our Once and Always Dark Lord deserve all the credit in the world for pulling it off. 
 


Fultz, at least as advertised, is just about everything the Sixers are looking for in a lead guard. Shooting, playmaking, athleticism, intelligence, and (potentially) defense -- I won't pretend to know how good Fultz already is or could be (like a lot of us, I only know the YouTube stuff) but smarter people than myself seem to think he's an elite two-way talent, and to match him with the couple other elite two-way talents we already have on the roster could make for a pretty cool next 5-10 years of post-Process Sixers' ball. He seems to be the perfect complement to Ben Simmons especially, as a guard who can devastate on or off the ball. You know those Chris Paul/Blake Griffin pick and rolls that always seem to end with DeAndre Jordan slamming down the easiest alley-oops in the world? Picture that with Fultz, Simmons and Joel Embiid and you have a pretty good snapshot of how beautiful the Sixers could be in a year or two's time. 

What's more, the timing of the deal couldn't have been much better. Sixers fans worrying about a major overpay of an aging free agent like Kyle Lowry to help make the team immediately better shouldn't toss those fears out the window, exactly, but they can certainly breathe a little easier than they were a week ago. There's no major fixes currently needed, really: Adding Fultz to our lineup from day one next season gives us -- knock on Ronnie Wood, James Woods, Wood Harris and several VHS copies of 1999 dramedy The Wood -- a complete young core to go out and compete with pretty much immediately. Dream with me for a moment: 

Starting 5: Fultz-Stauskas-Covington-Simmons-Embiid

Next 5: McConnell-TLC-Henderson-Saric-Holmes

VP in Charge of Bench High-Fives: Jahlil Okafor

Ain't gotta dream no more -- in October, failing any one of several potential crises to afflict the Sixers in the interim, this will by our Day One reality. And that's not even included any further free agents, or whatever we do with our quartet of second-rounders. But the most important part of this is that we isolated the guy we wanted, and we got him. And now we're ready; truly, finally ready. 

Is there a "but"? Well, sure. First off, make no mistake: We paid a high price for this. That Lakers pick is one of the most valuable draft assets in the league right now (NBA Assets ranks it 11th among all current and future draft picks, and 35th among all assets) and I'd say it's at least 50% likely to convey to L.A. next year as a top-five pick. That's not nothing, certainly, and if Boston really didn't see Fultz as being a better player and/or fit for them than Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum -- both likely available at No. 3 -- then you could say they essentially added a top 5 pick from us for nothing. (And for the record, unless the Kings make a dramatic turnaround net year, I think Sixers fans probably should root for the Lakers pick to be as high as possible next year -- so that either we get it at No. 1 or the Celtics get it at 2-5, and we get to enjoy the '19 Kings pick unfettered, which should also be top 10 at the very least.) 

And there's another minor "but" to be found here in that if Boston was willing to part with Fultz this easily, we might want to consider that there could be a reason why. Not that Celtics GM Danny Ainge's judgment is infallible by any means, but he has a pretty good track record with trades like this, and doesn't pull the trigger easily -- he's not Vlade, in other words. Of course, Markelle makes more sense in Philly, where we have no blue-chip guards, than in Boston, where they already have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Still, if Ainge believed Fultz to be the generational talent some Sixers fans are billing him has, it's hard to believe he wouldn't have taken the point guard anyway -- and indeed, some reports have already trickled out that Boston passed on Fultz in part because they didn't believe he was a "winner." That sounds like bulls--t, certainly, and it's easy to dismiss it as such, but again, Ainge isn't an idiot: If he had real concerns about Fultz, we shouldn't disregard them outright just because LOL BOSTON. 

One more thing: Sixers fans certainly don't want to think about this today, but before we start camping out on Broad Street in advance of the parade next June, we should take a moment to consider how uncertain everything still is for this Sixers team. Lest we forget, in four combined player seasons between Embiid and Simmons, we've only actually seen 31 games' worth of (mostly) healthy performance. JoJo lived up to and above expectation over those 31 games, but they didn't exactly quell fears that injury concerns would plague his beautiful body for the entirety of his career. 

Meanwhile, we've still never even Simmons and Embiid healthy on the court together, or to get any kind of assurance that the broken foot that ended up knocking Simmons out for the season won't be a continued hindrance for the 6-foot-10 point forward. Hell, we don't know for sure how good Simmons actually is, or how he fits with Embiid and the rest of this Sixers team, or if he even shoots with the correct hand. We hope these two dudes are Sixers' fixtures forever, but both are still very far from safe bets. Markelle Fultz is such an appealing get for Philly in large part because of how brilliantly he seems to slot in alongside Simmons and Embiid, but if those two dudes can't stay on the court with him, giving up the Lakers' pick to move up for him might start to seem like an overpay. 

Still, these are relatively minor misgivings when you consider how the implicit goal of the NBA for about as long as smart people have been running teams has been to find three star-caliber talents to build around -- preferably players who mesh together on and off the court, and who are all on roughly similar developmental timelines. The Sixers, at least for one shining, pre-tragedy moment, appear to now have that; and we still have Dario, RoCo, all our own future draft picks and one hammer pick still owed to us. The Process is complete, Retweet Armageddon lies just around the corner, and the lingering promise of the last four years has finally been paid in Fultz.

Grading the Eagles' 34-24 Week 7 win over the Redskins

Grading the Eagles' 34-24 Week 7 win over the Redskins

Grading the Eagles' 34-24 win over the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football.

QUARTERBACK

Carson Wentz: 17/25, 268 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT

Four drives into this game, Wentz had completed 2 of 7 attempts for 24 yards with two sacks and an interception. On the Eagles' fifth possession, he connected with Mack Hollins on a 64-yard touchdown, and it was almost as if a weight had been lifted. Wentz hardly missed a throw the rest of the way. He also made plays with his legs, rushing for 63 yards. Even his interception on the first series of the game effectively amounted to a long punt on 2nd-and-forever. This kid simply cannot be stopped right now (see 10 observations).

Grade: A-

RUNNING BACKS

Wendell Smallwood: 8 ATT, 25 YDS

You have to appreciate the way Smallwood runs — when he's healthy enough to play. He can explode through a hole and make a man miss, but will doesn't shy away from contact and always fights for extra yards. There simply wasn't much room to run against Washington. LeGarrette Blount didn't fare any better, either, carrying 14 times for 29 yards.

Grade: C+

WIDE RECEIVERS

Mack Hollins: 1 REC, 64 YDS, 1 TD

Hollins' touchdown changed the complexion of the entire game. Up until that moment, the Eagles were trailing 10-3, and the offense was struggling to move the football. Then they scored touchdowns on three straight possessions, going up 24-10 in a matter of roughly eight minutes. Nelson Agholor added four receptions for 45 yards and a score. But what's the deal with Alshon Jeffery? Even against Washington's depleted secondary, he could not get open, catching just two passes for 37 yards on six targets.

Grade: B+

TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz: 5 REC, 89 YDS, 1 TD

Another week, another big game for Ertz. I honestly couldn't tell you what kind of night he had blocking, but does it matter when he continues to produce at this level?

Grade: A+

OFFENSIVE LINE

Jason Peters: Exited game in 3rd quarter (knee)

For the second week in a row, the O-line experienced issues early. Lane Johnson in particular looked rusty after missing last week with a concussion — granted, he had his hands full with Ryan Kerrigan. The unit began settling down in pass protection toward the end of the first half, though it never quite got into a groove running the football. Wentz was hit just six times total, but Eagles backs averaged only 2.56 yards per carry. Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaced Peters at left tackle and had a quiet game, which is a good thing of course.

Grade: B-

DEFENSIVE LINE

Derek Barnett: 3 TFL, 2.0 SK

The front four controlled the point of attack all night. That won't necessarily show up in the box score, but Kirk Cousins was under pressure from start to finish. Barnett and Fletcher Cox each registered a sack, while Brandon Graham hit the quarterback's arm mid-throw to force an interception. Meanwhile, the NFL's No. 1 rush defense was at it again, limiting Washington's backs to 54 yards on 14 carries.

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS

Jordan Hicks: Exited game in 1st quarter (ankle)

Hicks went down on the second play of the game, which was especially tough, because the Eagles were already without Mychal Kendricks. The absences showed, as Najee Goode was more like Najee Bad (ahem). Goode failed to pick up an assignment that resulted in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Chris Thompson in the second quarter, and generally was a liability in coverage over the middle. Nigel Bradham did what he could recording three tackles, two quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss, but the linebackers were shorthanded, and it showed (see breakdown).

Grade: B-

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Malcolm Jenkins: 10 TKL, 1.0 SK

On paper, Cousins' line looks borderline spectacular, completing 30 of 40 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns. Then again, most of that production — 203 yards and all three scores — went to tight ends and running backs. The Eagles really didn't allow Washington to do anything significant on the perimeters or deep down the field. Jenkins was all over the field making key stops, and Corey Graham came up with a gift-wrapped interception.

Grade: A

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jake Elliott: 2/3 FG, 4/4 XP

Nothing spectacular. Just another all-around solid special teams performance for the Eagles. Elliott was mostly automatic once again, connecting on field goals of 50 and 42 yards, and only missed from 45 after the outcome was all but decided. Donnie Jones averaged 51.0 yards per punt, with one kick downed inside the opponents' 20. And Kamu Grugier-Hill forced a fumble that Corey Clement very nearly recovered deep in Washington territory. The units were a strength, as usual.

Grade: A-

COACHING

Eagles' record: 6-1

Credit Doug Pederson — he never got away from the run against Washington, even though it clearly wasn't working. His team also never lost its composure despite a rough start against what some would consider an inferior opponent. The Eagles also survived injuries to some of their best players, yet never missed a beat on either side of the ball. This team is for real, in part because so is its head coach. Great job taking care of business at home, even when for awhile there is seemed things might be askew.

Grade: A+

Carson Wentz is a magician and Eagles fans are freaking out

Carson Wentz is a magician and Eagles fans are freaking out

Carson Wentz is the truth.

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback didn't exactly shoot out of the gate on Monday Night Football but once he and the Birds offense got going, oh my! His second half was a thing of beauty.

Two plays in particular had football fans at a loss for words.

First, the scramble and touchdown toss to Corey Clement has a "how'd he do that" vibe:

But it was this Houdini-like, Barry Sanders-esque escapability that had the Internet abuzz. Just watch. Over and over.

Former Eagle and elusive dude in his own right Shady McCoy was impressed.

Oh and we haven't even mentioned his TDs to Zach Ertz, Mack Hollins, and Nelson Agholor yet. All pretty, pretty, pret-ty good.

It's safe to say Carson has the city of Philadelphia believing.

Wentz finished the night 17-25 for 268 and 4 TDs. Not to mention his 63 yards rushing. The quarterback of your favorite football team is a stud. Oh and one interception that was basically an incredibly good punt.

The Eagles won by a final of 34-24 and remain the class of the NFC at 6-1.