The Philadelphia 76ers might have screwed themselves worse than you think.
The Sixers traded up with the Boston Celtics to land the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. They then selected Markelle Fultz, while the Celtics, who acquired the No. 3 pick in the trade, subsequently selected Jayson Tatum.
That is a missed opportunity in and of itself for the Sixers. Fultz had a disastrous rookie season in which he battled major problems with his shooting mechanics, while Tatum looks like a future superstar after already emerging as a legitimate scoring threat for the Celtics. Not to mention Philadelphia relinquished an additional high-end draft pick to move up two spots and pick Fultz.
The real salt on the wound, however, could be felt this offseason as the Sixers, among others, try to sign LeBron James in free agency. Philadelphia still has a strong young core — anchored by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — but Colin Cowherd suggested Thursday on FS1 that picking Fultz over Tatum ultimately might prevent James from landing in the City of Brotherly Love.
This isn’t because of some strong connection between James and Tatum, although LeBron heaped tremendous praise on the Celtics rookie after the Cleveland Cavaliers eliminated Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. Instead, it has to do with the Sixers blowing a chance to build a roster that James might have found too good to resist.
Sure, James still could pick the 76ers, in large because Embiid and Simmons are an explosive tandem. But drafting Tatum would have given the Sixers an awesome wing player to boot. Plus, the Celtics’ situation wouldn’t be quite as good without Tatum (and the additional draft pick they acquired), further weakening the Eastern Conference competition outside of Philly.
Maybe Cowherd is right. Drafting Fultz could wind up being the mistake of the decade. And it sounds like the Sixers can blame their since-fired general manager, Bryan Colangelo, for dropping the ball.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports