The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics have agreed on a deal that will send the No. 1 overall pick in next Thursday’s Draft to Philly in exchange for the third overall pick and at least one future first-round pick, per a league source.
Acquiring the first pick will allow the Sixers to take University of Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz, considered by many to be the top point guard prospect in the Draft. Fultz worked out for the 76ers in Philadelphia on Saturday as the two sides got close to agreement on a deal; the 76ers’ agreement was contingent on getting clearance from their medical staff after reviewing Fultz’s physicals and getting other medical information on the 19-year-old.
"I really don't pay a lot of attention to [the rumors]," Fultz said after his workout. "I'm blessed enough. I pray every night before I go to sleep, and I let God take care of it, really. I wake up every morning and get ready to go to the gym. I don't really pay attention to everything that's going on. I'm truly blessed to be in this position. Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to taking my talents to wherever I go."
Boston will receive the third overall pick in Thursday’s Draft, which will still allow the Celtics to choose—if they keep the pick—from a group of quality prospects. Either Kansas forward Josh Jackson or UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball will be available at three, along with other talents like Duke freshman forward Jayson Tatum, Kentucky freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox and Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac.
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The Celtics will also get at least one future first-round pick from Philadelphia, believed at present to be the unprotected 2018 first-rounder the 76ers will receive next year from the Lakers, via the Suns, as part of a three-team deal in 2015 between Philly, Milwaukee and Phoenix. The 76ers got the 2018 first from the Suns in a deal that sent Michael Carter-Williams from Philly to Milwaukee, and guard Brandon Knight from Milwaukee to Phoenix. The Suns had originally acquired the pick from Los Angeles as part of the trade in 2012 that sent Steve Nash to the Lakers.
Boston will thus have at least two potential lottery picks in 2018—the Celtics already have Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick next year—along with 2019 first-rounders from the Clippers and Memphis. That haul will give the Celtics an opportunity to package all those firsts and make a run at an established star player to go with their current core group, featuring All-Stars Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, and second-year forward Jaylen Brown. The Celtics had discussions with both the Pacers and Bulls before the trade deadline last February on Paul George and Jimmy Butler, but couldn’t come up with a deal. Many around the league believe Boston will take another crack at Butler this offseason; the Celtics would still be able to create enough cap room even if they got Butler to make a max offer to an unrestricted free agent this summer. Boston has been linked to both Utah’s Gordon Hayward and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin for months.
If Philly follows through on its current plans to take Fultz, he would provide the 76ers with a major scoring threat and ballhandler who could take some of the playmaking and decision-making pressure off Ben Simmons, who the Sixers took first overall in last year’s Draft. Simmons missed the entire season with a foot injury but is expected to play his rookie season in 2017-18.
"It would be pretty cool," Fultz said, when asked about playing in Philadelphia. "Just being with a young team. The upside of it would be crazy. I'm close to home, so a lot of my family can come out and just show love. This city has great fans."
Teaming Fultz with Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric will give the Sixers one of the longest and most talented young cores in the league, after years and years in the NBA wilderness as the team went through the achingly slow “Process” of former general manager Sam Hinkie—basically, trying to get top picks in the Draft by losing as many games as the Philly fan base could stomach.
But there’s finally, it seems, light at the end of the tunnel.
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