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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On June 18

Give the 76ers credit. They identified Markelle Fultz as the player who could help them improve the most, and then went out and got him.

Although we don’t know all of the details, and the trade with the Celtics still needs to be approved by the NBA, the bottom line is that the Sixers made a bold move to get the player they wanted.

If the Sixers had remained at No. 3, they should have been able to draft a good player. Perhaps UCLA guard Lonzo Ball would have been available. If not, then Kansas forward Josh Jackson could have been the selection. But Jackson doesn’t have much an outside shot and it’s unclear how well Ball would mesh with Ben Simmons. Both are terrific distributors but aren’t good shooters. Teams would try to sag back to clog driving lanes without too much concern for the outside shot.

Kentucky’s Malik Monk might be the best pure shooter in the draft. But the rest of his game needs work. Taking him with the third pick doesn’t make much sense. The Sixers could have traded back in the draft – a deal involving the Kings’ picks at Nos. 5 and 10 had been rumored – but the quality seems to fall off after the top eight players.

The player who seems like the best fit for the Sixers is Fultz. A point guard for Washington, Fultz could play the point or shift to shooting guard for the Sixers. He made 41.3 percent of his 3-point attempts during his only season at Washington. Outside shooting is a huge need for the Sixers.

Fultz also fits into the Sixers’ defensive philosophy. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds and extremely quick, Fultz has the physical attributes to cover opposing guards. His nearly 6-foot-10 wing span enables him to close off passing lanes and create turnovers, which should help kickstart the Sixers’ fastbreak.

Don’t expect miraculous results overnight. Fultz played one season of college basketball. Simmons has yet to play an NBA game. Joel Embiid has played 31 games in three NBA seasons. But the Sixers have assembled a young core that can grow together. They should get better every season. No excuses.

There were several players who would have helped the Sixers improve next season, but the best choice in this year’s draft, both for next season and their future, is Markelle Fultz. The Sixers deserve credit for doing what it takes to get him.

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SECOND THAT EMOTION: The Sixers aren’t the only local franchise in position to select a nearly “sure thing” in a draft this week. The Flyers, with the No. 2 overall pick Friday in the first round of the NHL Draft, will end up with either center Nolan Patrick or center Nico Hischier, depending on which one the Devils select with the top overall pick.

Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) is a little bigger. Hischier (6-1, 176) is a little more creative with the puck. Patrick, who was a teammate of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, registered 20 goals and 26 assists in 36 games with the Wheat Kings this past season. Two seasons ago, Patrick had 41 goals and 61 assists in 72 games. Hischier registered 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

With two talented centers at the top of the draft, the Flyers are in a “can’t miss” situation with the No. 2 pick.

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SEEKING PROTECTION: The Flyers’ list of protected players for Wednesday’s expansion draft has not been released, but the intrigue centers around which goalie they protected. Did they protect veteran Michael Neuvirth or Anthony Stolarz?

Stolarz suffered a knee injury at the start of the Phantoms’ postseason, so Las Vegas might not select him. If the Flyers don’t want to take the risk of losing Stolarz and Vegas selects Neuvirth, it will be interesting to see if the Flyers renew interest in re-signing Steve Mason, who is an unrestricted free agent.

The Flyers’ plan was to protect seven forwards. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Valtteri Filppula are the obvious choices. With unrestricted free agent Jordan Weal unsigned, Michael Raffl seems like the most likely forward to get the seventh spot, although the Flyers love Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s character.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas are almost certainly protected. The third defenseman protected is likely Brandon Manning. The Flyers will gamble that Andrew MacDonald’s huge salary will prevent Vegas from selecting him – although the Flyers may secretly be hoping that MacDonald’s contract is taken off their books.

First- and second-year players such as Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny do not need to be protected. Each team can only lose one player in the expansion draft.

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CATCHING ON: Eagles minicamp produced the inevitable flood of stories about a potential resurgence by receiver Nelson Agholor. I’ll believe he’s a valuable player when I see him make catches during the regular season.

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CAPTAIN OBVIOUS: The Phillies are really bad. I just felt like that needed to be said.

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GOING DEEP: Although the Sixers and Flyers are almost certainly going to get good players with their first selections, they can enhance their drafts by finding gems in later rounds. The Sixers have four second-round picks in the NBA Draft – unless they trade one away in the deal with the Celtics to move up to No. 1. Malcolm Brogdon, the only non-Sixer finalist for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, was selected 3in the second round (36th overall) last year by the Bucks.

The Flyers will have 10 or 11 selections in the NHL Draft. Finding the next Shayne Gostisbehere (a third-round pick), or the equivalent at forward, in the middle rounds would be a huge boost for the Flyers.

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FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Entering the final round of the U.S. Open, the top 16 players on the leaderboard have not won a major championship. So it seems likely that this will be the seventh straight major tournament with a first-time major winner.

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SOUL STAY UNBEATEN: The Soul’s 62-41 triumph over second-place Tampa Bay on Saturday improved their record to 9-0, raising the possibility that the defending Arena Football League champions could run the table this season. The Soul have five regular-season games remaining.

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MOUTHS THAT ROAR: The competition between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to see who can make the most outrageous comments before their Aug. 26 boxing match may be more entertaining than their actual fight.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 29 years, doesn’t see any way the Flyers or Sixers could mess up their first-round picks.

 

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