Markelle Fultz and Bryan Colangelo

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Uram: Pressure on Fultz, Brown, and Colangelo

Dave Uram
May 15, 2018 - 11:59 am

​"They're going to be really good for a really long time." 

That's a declaration you often hear about the Philadelphia 76ers, which is entirely fair.

What about the Boston Celtics though? Aren't they going to be a difficult task for many years to come? 

The answer is yes, as proven when Boston beat Philly in fives games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

"To say that this group could [get us where we want to go] now," Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo said at his end of season press conference, "they obviously proved they couldn't. Adding another talent and another piece is certainly something that we're striving for." 

Credit Colangelo for the honesty, but now it's up to him to figure out how to make the 76ers better so the Celtics won't be a nightmare. 

If the Sixers are going to beat a really good, extremely well coached Celtics team that's welcoming back Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward next season, Brett Brown must improve his in game decision making, Markelle Fultz needs to show he's worth being the top pick and it would behoove the team brass to add a big name free agent.

Adding A Big Name Free Agent 

"If that portion of the fan base is still prepared to take this notion [of growing organically] and that's going to equal a championship, it's noble, but I don't agree with it," Brown said at his exit interview press conference. "I think that a high level free agent is required." 

Cough, cough .... LeBron James. 

That would be the right way to go considering James is the best player in the world and could be a tremendous mentor to protege Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

But, what about those who say Simmons would struggle playing with a ball dominant player, such as James? 

"If this player you're describing was great," Brown said with a slight smile without diving into names for obvious tampering reasons, "we'd figure it out, truly." 

Others would hope the Sixers trade for Kawhi Leonard, but the injury he dealt with last season is concerning. 

Some want Paul George, but his experience with ball dominant Russell Westbrook in 2017-18 resulted in a first round ouster by the Utah Jazz. 

There is one player the Sixers should truly focus on for 2018, or if necessary 2019, and it's James. ​

And if the Celtics end up taking out the Cavaliers as well, en route to the NBA Finals, someone should tell LeBron his best chance to beat Boston and get back to The Finals is with the young, upstart Sixers in the Eastern Conference. 

​Markelle Fultz Can't Be The Next Jahlil Okafor 

​There is no more debilitating setback a franchise in any sports can endure, than missing on a really high draft pick. 

Luckily for the Sixers, they managed to avoid major disaster from Jahlil Okafor not working out and the best piece from the Jrue Holiday-Nerlens Noel trade ended up being Dario Saric, so Noel not fitting in wasn't catastrophic either. 

But, Fultz not being a part of the future will certainly be a problem, even if it doesn't result in losing seasons. 

"I’m just looking to prove that I belong to be here really," Fultz said at his exit interview press conference. "I don’t have anything to go out there and prove, just that I’m an NBA player and just go out and prove why I’m here."

Fultz deserves a full season to prove himself, but what the soon to be 20-year-old needs to show that he's worth the price of swapping first round picks to move up two spots, while giving away a future first round selection. He needs to prove that he can play with Simmons, create his own shot and fire from long distance, whether it's catch-and-shoot or off the dribble. If he can do that next season, it will be an internal way for the 76ers to improve so they can take down the Celtics. 

Unfortunately for Fultz, him not playing a single second in the Boston series wouldn't be as big of an issue if Jayson Tatum didn't average 23.6 points a game against the Sixers in the playoffs. But, he did. 

Not only is added pressure on Fultz, but Colangelo as well, if not more. His decision to deal with onference foe Boston for the right to draft Fultz couldn't look worse. 

"Jayson is a great talent," Colangelo said. "I'm really proud of what he's done. He was very high on our board, but when you make a deal and you move forward, you do it with purpose and you do it with reason and we had our reasons why we moved forward with that." 

Colangelo shouldn't be proud for potentially misjudging the potential and fit of Fultz and Tatum if the latter proves to be a better NBA player by a fair margin. 

Not to mention, if the Celtics turn the future first rounder into another really good player, Colangelo should hope that Fultz is more valuable than both them combined. 

For now, Colangelo better hope the Lakers pick from the Michael Carter-Williams trade doesn't end up being the 2nd or 3rd selection in tonight's NBA Draft Lottery, or the Fultz deal will keep looking worse and worse. 

What happened to Fultz with his shoulder and jump shot may not be fair, but it's the reality everyone is left with. The "consensus" top pick must work out, starting next season. 

Brett Brown Under The Spotlight 

Speaking of fair or unfair, Brown is well aware of the criticism he received for the way he coached the Celtics series. 

"I have heard [the outside noise] and I think the things that come up are, at times, like wildly unfair," Brown said. "But, I get it. Like I said all along I'm the son of the coach. I get it.  I am my harshest critic. I'm fine on my personal judgement day. And I sleep at night. I sleep just fine at night. And what we did and what we're going to do makes me say that with confidence." 

The Sixers looking flat in Game 1, not calling the timeout in Game 2 and the costly turnovers of Game 3 are being put onto Brown by some, and rightfully so. 

Brown admitted the team lost some edge after the six day layoff of the Boston series, which should fall on the head coach. 

There's no argument to be made about the lineup on the floor or how much time was left before the half. A timeout was greatly needed during the Celtics surge in the second quarter of Game 2. 

"In the light of day, probably I should've," Brown said. "But what goes on in my mind is this, is I have the number one ranked team on the court. The best team in basketball. And when you're looking at it, there was never like a defining moment where you said, 'Oh my god the world's caving in. Now is the time to do it.' I never felt that and, in the light of day, there are portions of that period where you could've said, 'It's kind of caving in. You could of done it then.' But I didn't ... and to think like that is the reason that that game was lost, a large lead in the second period on the road of an NBA game, and to pivot back and say that's the reason, it ​is wildly reckless. It might've contributed to not sort of holding some stuff, but to point at that for the reason, is unfair.

The untimely giveaways in Game 3 were back breaking. 

There's nothing "wildly unfair" or "wildly reckless" about criticizing Brown for the way the Boston series turned out. He's a very good head coach who deserves tons of credit for the maturation of the 76ers program and their 52 win season.

His contract should be extended because he earned it, and going into a lame duck year is never a good thing. 

But, that extension should be no more than two years, and maybe even one. 

Brown is one of the best at what he does, but he needs to be better to beat teams like the Celtics, coached by Brad Stevens, who is arguably top in the sport at this time. 

If Brown, Fultz and Colangelo don't come through the way they need to, the Sixers will always be playing second fiddle to the Celtics. Find me a 76ers fan, "Process Truster" or not, who's OK with that.