Ethan Norof

NBA Fantasy Mailbag

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Mailbag: Trusting the Process

Monday, June 19, 2017


Question 1 from Alex B. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: I haven’t slept since the Sixers acquired the No. 1 pick. With a core of Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Robert Covington, what’s your take on where the Sixers go now?

 

I’d be up all night trying to process my thoughts, too.

 

Despite the cost, this has to be viewed as a major win for Philadelphia.

 

Pairing Fultz with Embiid and Simmons gives the Sixers potentially one of the most dynamic and talented young cores in recent memory, and it’s scary to think that these players can now all grow together under Brett Brown’s guidance. After an absence of culture for so long, it’s now very clear the type of team the Sixers want to become.

 

Although Philadelphia still needs some proven producers as well as quality depth on the roster, the Sixers look to now have foundational pillars in place in at least three different positions. Health, not talent, is the major question mark for this particular trio.

 

Although it didn’t happen overnight and some really had to slog through the mud to arrive at this point, I’m now comfortable assuming that just about everyone who calls themselves a Sixers fan has learned to trust the process.   

 

Question 2 from Joe G. in Des Moines, Iowa: Danny Ainge finally trades a premium pick…and it’s for more picks. What’s the endgame with this strategy?

 

Let’s say you’re in the market to buy a car. You’ve set a budget of $30,000, but you’re not sure how to invest that money. Once you’ve finally decided on your vehicle of choice, any potential for another option vanishes and you have to live with the decision. From that point forward—even if a better deal presents itself—the asset is the car because the cash is gone.

 

Until the point in time Ainge identifies a truly game-changing endeavor, the Celtics are going to remain as flexible as possible in order to be open to all possible outcomes. That’s not necessarily a strategy that’s going to sit well with some that want to see a tangible return on asset, but optionality is key in today’s NBA, especially in the pursuit of a foundational superstar.

 

Make no mistake: Just as Chris Mannix of The Vertical wrote, passing on Fultz is a massive gamble for Ainge and his lasting legacy in Boston.

 

Question 3 from Connor T. in Mobile, Alabama: Before the Celtics and Sixers agreed to a deal, there was some conversation that the Lakers were considering including Julius Randle in an offer for the No. 1 pick.  What do you make of it?

 

Let’s start here: It doesn’t feel like a scenario the Celtics were really ever going to consider.

 

In dealing the No. 1 overall selection, Boston was never chasing proven talent, but instead assets and flexibility for its short and long-term future. Randle is an underappreciated player who stands to get paid—I think he’s going to have a classic “contract year” after whipping himself into incredible shape and now that he’s comfortable in Luke Walton’s system—but Ainge was after more poker chips to play at the table, not looking for an opportunity to go all in.

 

It feels as if the Lakers had legitimate interest in acquiring the top overall selection in order to have the chance at Markelle Fultz—he reportedly “murdered” his workout in Los Angeles and Magic Johnson was said to be “in love” according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express—but they simply didn’t have the same availability of assets that Philadelphia could offer, and moving Randle—an unfinished product requiring a big commitment sooner rather than later—was never going to change that.

 

Question 4 from Jay N. in Las Vegas, Nevada: If you had to pick just one team to be the offseason wild card, which would it be and why?

 

I love questions like these because they prompt good conversation.

 

The Denver Nuggets have been dancing around the same fire for a while but have been unable and/or unwilling to touch the flames. This is a team that needs an established star to pair with its budding superstar in Nikola Jokic, and moving some of the overlapping depth in order to start building something sustainable is a move that makes sense. Although the Nuggets aren’t necessarily one of those traditional teams that first come to mind when thinking of the NBA’s movers and shakers, Jokic’s arrival as a legitimate weapon is a point of attraction that the franchise could not offer prior.  

 

Danilo Gallinari’s free agency provides an opening on the wing and the power forward position is anything but settled. It’s hard to imagine a free agent like Gordon Hayward spurning what Utah has built in order to head to Denver, but one could certainly see the potential appeal for Blake Griffin—a player the Nuggets have flirted with in the past on more than one occasion—should he crave a fresh start out of Chris Paul’s shadow.

 

Question 5 from Buddy T. in Raleigh, North Carolina: Care to give us your prediction for how Thursday’s draft lottery shakes out?

 

Let’s do it.

 

  1. Philadelphia: Markelle Fultz, Washington
  2. Los Angeles (L): Lonzo Ball, UCLA
  3. Boston: Jayson Tatum, Duke
  4. Phoenix: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
  5. Sacramento: Josh Jackson, Kansas
  6. Orlando: Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
  7. Minnesota: Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
  8. New York: Frank Ntilikina, France
  9. Dallas: Dennis Smith, Jr., North Carolina State
  10. Sacramento: Malik Monk, Kentucky
  11. Charlotte: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
  12. Detroit: Luke Kennard, Duke
  13. Denver: Zach Collins, Gonzaga
  14. Miami: Harry Giles, Duke


Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.
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