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.