Matt Haughton

Sixers' NBA draft decisions should serve as a warning for Markelle Fultz

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Sixers' NBA draft decisions should serve as a warning for Markelle Fultz

The Friday after any NBA draft is a crowning moment for all of the league’s franchises. They trot out the previous night’s selections and hold introductory press conferences with smiles all around.

The Sixers were no different as they showed off first-round picks Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet at their training complex Friday morning.

However, make no mistake that this one was a little bit different. 

While the event was all about the new faces joining the organization, it also served as a direct warning shot to Markelle Fultz.

Brett Brown sat at the podium sandwiched between the two players he selected in the first round of his initial foray as Sixers interim general manager. Both guys happen to be bigger guards and each possess a particular top skill (athleticism for Smith and shooting for Shamet) that the Sixers thought they were getting right from the start in Fultz.

“The real reason they’re here is their talent,” Brown said. “Their ability to grow into NBA players, to play a modern style of basketball. The ability we felt that their base foundation had so much more room to grow. 

“The notion of how we play here in Philadelphia. The values that we have on defense, how we want to play offense. How we all look into a crystal ball and suspect the sport is going to be played in 2025. When you added those up, it made perfect sense and aggressively targeting these two players that sit on my right and sit on my left.”

It was just a year ago that the Sixers made an aggressive move to the top of the 2017 draft for Fultz. And while the franchise isn’t ready to give up on him after a rocky rookie season, it certainly sounds more and more like the team has settled on him becoming just a piece and not a cornerstone.

“When we started looking at the players available and I especially start looking at how we want to play and who can be sandwiched in between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, we’re looking for that modern-day type of player,” Brown said when asked whether taking two guards in the first round meant something about Fultz’s status. “To say position-less basketball, it’s really not that. To me, it might give you better vision of what I’m trying to say. I just think that the skill and things that we require, these two have, especially as you look sandwiched in between. And whether that’s Markelle, T.J. (McConnell) or Cov (Robert Covington), I would tell you the same thing. 

“When you look at the league, the league switches defensively a lot. When you look at the league, the league drives, dishes, needs three-point shot-makers and playmakers a lot. So whether it’s apples for apples is fine by me, but probably what you should hear the loudest is I don’t think there’s overlap. I think that they can play together.”

Playing together is completely different than playing around. It’s pretty clear the Sixers now reserve that status for Embiid, Simmons and whatever stars they plan to chase in free agency or via trade.

That doesn’t mean Fultz can’t reclaim the standing within the organization he was seemingly destined for when the Sixers called his name at No. 1 last year. After all, he just turned 20 years old last month (he’s actually 14 months younger than Shamet).

It all starts during this crucial summer for Fultz, which apparently is already going well (see story). But Smith and Shamet will have the chance to make impacts of their own coming up in the next few months as well.

“If you just base it on math and you look at percentages of what does a 10th player do and what’s a 26th player do, rarely do you see people immediately come in and claim a large role in rotations and heavy minutes. That historically isn’t the trend,” Brown said. “I say that from a factual base more than something that might be challenged. I expect these guys to challenge that. 

“Where this ends up, the expectations in relations to role and minutes and all of that, they’re going to tell me. We’ve got a summer league coming up. They will have ample opportunities to draw their own line in the sand.”

Fultz better be focused on drawing his too.

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Sixers send pair of 2nd-rounders to Mavericks, end up with Shake Milton

Sixers send pair of 2nd-rounders to Mavericks, end up with Shake Milton

Updated: Friday, 2:30 a.m.

After all of their wheeling and dealing in the second round of the 2018 NBA draft, the Sixers finally ended up with a player they want (we think).

The Mavericks used the 54th overall selection to take SMU guard Malik "Shake" Milton, who comes to Philadelphia after the Sixers traded picks Nos. 56 and 60 to Dallas.

Ultimately, the Mavs ended up with Louisville center Raymond Spalding (No. 56) and Dayton forward Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60).

This was after the Sixers shipped pick No. 38, Khyri Thomas, to the Detroit Pistons and reportedly dealt No. 39 Isaac Bonga to the Lakers (see story).

Milton is a lanky point guard at 6-6, 205 pounds with plenty of scoring ability. He averaged 18.0 points last season to go along with 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals per contest.

Like the Sixers’ other draft picks of the night in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet, Milton is dangerous from three-point range. He never shot less than 42.3 percent on three-pointers during his three years at SMU.

“I feel like the trades that we made to acquire future picks and to move up closer to somebody that we really like like Shake Milton, I think that the room was fantastic in organizing and allowing us to do that,” Sixers head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said.

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Sixers trade No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to Pistons; No. 39 Isaac Bonga reportedly to Lakers

Sixers trade No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to Pistons; No. 39 Isaac Bonga reportedly to Lakers

Updated: Friday, 2:30 a.m.

The Sixers opened up their crop of second-round picks by opting for another trade.

The Sixers drafted Creighton guard Khyri Thomas and traded him to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks.

They followed that up by selecting Isaac Bonga, a small forward from Germany, with the No. 39 choice. However, that pick had already agreed to be dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday in a transaction that netted the Sixers a 2019 second-round pick and cash, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (see story).

“You go to 38 and we traded it. We got two seconds from Detroit,” Sixers head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said. “You go to 39 and with Isaac, I can’t really comment on that until the end of the moratorium. You can read into that as you should.”

The Sixers also traded picks Nos. 56 and 60 to the Mavericks for the 54th selection, which ended up being SMU guard Shake Milton (6-6/207) (see story).

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