The Lakers and 76ers have had some prime draft choices in the last few years to build two rosters jam-packed with young prospects. But one team is a little further along in the process than the other. You can catch them on the same court tonight on TNT.
The first two selections of the last two drafts will all be on the same court tonight. In 2016, the Sixers took Ben Simmons first overall and the Lakers followed with Brandon Ingram. Earlier this year, the Sixers took Markelle Fultz who was followed by Lonzo Ball.
They will all be on the same court only because Fultz just rejoined the team yesterday after spending some time in Kentucky to rehab under the watchful eyes of the professionals seeing him through his current shoulder problem. He’s still some time away and won’t play in this game.
Simmons is the only one of the four who has turned into a superstar and he’s done it quickly after missing all of last season. He came a rebound short of a triple-double the last time these two teams met, three weeks ago in Los Angeles.
Ingram has improved last season to this, but he isn’t close to being an elite-level player yet. He scored 26 on 11-of-18 shooting in one of his finest games of the season in the Lakers’ loss to the Sixers in the middle of November and is averaging about 16 a game this season on improved efficiency.
But the guy who ruled the floor for that game was Joel Embiid. The third-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft feels almost as new as the other four guys because he hasn’t played many more games — Ingram has played exactly twice as many career games as Embiid. He scored 46 points with 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks, the first stat line of its kind since the NBA started recording blocks in the early 70s. Fellow Kansas Jayhawk Wilt Chamberlain surely put up those numbers more than a few times in his day.
Then there’s Ball, who completes the matchup of possibly the two worst outside shooting point guards we’ve even seen. Simmons doesn’t even try to shoot outside of 15 feet and Ball must must be having serious considerations about doing the same. He’s shooting 25 percent on nearly five three-point attempts per game. He was 0-for-3 from three and missed his only two-point attempt in the Lakers’ last game against Houston on Sunday and looked like a man who has lost all confidence.
Some final housekeeping: Dario Saric might not play after lacerating his eye in practice yesterday. He’ll be all right but might need to sit a game. There should be more word after the Sixers’ shoot around this morning. If he can’t go, it will just mean more Richaun Holmes and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who are both better defenders than Saric but will hurt Philadelphia’s floor-spacing.
The Lakers’ bigs have something to prove after Embiid embarrassed them at the Staples Center and on national tv. This is their chance to win back some respect. The Lakers have had three days to rest and prepare for this game but with Ball playing on zero, I can’t get behind the them on the road.
Free Pick: Philadelphia -7.5