OF ALL the drafts the 76ers have gone through since the beginning of the biggest rebuild in sport history, next month's is the most important.
It really is that simple, and scary at the same time. On Tuesday in New York, the team will find out through the draft lottery where its pick or picks will be. The Sixers pick can fall no lower than seventh. If the pingpong balls are not kind to the Los Angeles Lakers and they fall out of the top three, that pick goes to the Sixers. Should Sacramento's pick land better than that of the Sixers, then the Sixers can swap with the Kings.
The Sixers can do no worse than the seventh overall pick, and could land two selections in the top seven. So many different variables come into play, such as who fits well with whom and is there anyone at the top of this draft who can help fill the team's most pressing need, which is shooting.
Should they get lucky - not something that has exactly surrounded this organization over the past four years - and wind up with Markelle Fultz, they'd be getting someone many consider the best all-around player in the guard-heavy first half of the first round. At close to 6-5 and possessing combo-guard abilities, Fultz appears to have many of the traits that coach Brett Brown is looking for from a player - someone who can run the floor, play solid perimeter defense, shoot threes and get to the rim. Fultz can do all those things.
Although he could help get the University of Washington to only nine wins this past season, Fultz is a product of DeMatha High School in Maryland, one of the most powerful basketball programs in the country, so his basketball IQ should be up to standards. He is probably the best fit for the Sixers. Problem is, they would probably have to move up to one of the top two spots to have a real shot at him.
If they aren't fortunate enough to move up, then things get real interesting as to what direction general manager Bryan Colangelo and Brown will choose to go. They insist that Ben Simmons is their point guard, both offensively and defensively. I understand the offensive part of it, don't see the defensive side. I think, ultimately, a true point will have to be in the lineup to guard. Offensively, that point guard will have to be someone who can knock down open shots, be able to play effectively without the ball, set good picks and just know how to play at that end of the floor. Preferably, he would be a dogged defender, one who could start fastbreaks with steals or deflections and be able to capably fill lanes when the team runs. The best player out there for to fit those needs, after Fultz, seems to be Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox. The lanky 6-4 lefthander is just an all-around talent in so many areas, even though his shooting still needs improvement. His offensive ability off the ball would allow Simmons to be the facilitator, while Fox could be able to contribute in so many other areas. He, too, is a terrific hounding defender and also can get to the rim very well.
Long-range shooting isn't really a strength, but he does have the ability to hit midrange jumpers and certainly doesn't seem flawed in his shooting form. Fox just has that it factor that would seem to fit with most teams and schemes.
His backcourt mate at Kentucky, Malik Monk, may be the best pure shooter in the draft, but his 6-3 height and slight frame have some wondering whether he'll be able to handle big minutes and get his shot off consistently. But, with Joel Embiid and Simmons and Dario Saric garnering a lot of attention near the basket, Monk should be able to get a lot of open looks and if he becomes a consistent knockdown shooter, Embiid, Simmons and Saric will surely prosper.
If those players aren't available when the Sixers use their pick or picks, they'll have to consider others. I don't see Lonzo Ball fitting here with Simmons. Josh Jackson is wonderfully athletic and gifted, but has very limited outside shooting ability. If he is added, the lane becomes even more clogged. If you can guarantee he'll get most of his looks off fastbreaks, then terrific. If the Sixers do get him they will still need to address the shortage of shooters. Same goes if they wind up with Duke's Jayson Tatum or Florida State's Jonathan Isaac.
This is a wonderfully gifted group at the top half of the first round, and Tuesday's drawing will obviously go a long way in determining which way the Sixers will go. With the talent they have collected over the past few years, though, specific needs now should be the game plan for the Sixers, whether it happens with their pick or picks in June or some other way.