Sports junkie Kelly Hogan ’19 answers questions from fans about the latest stories in the sporting world, from a caveat in the rapidly approaching NBA draft to former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo’s plans for retirement.

What should the 76ers do if they land the Lakers’ first-round draft pick?

                                                                                                   —Cameron, Oakland, CA

The 2017 NBA draft class is as good as any since 2003—a draft that featured the likes of LeBron, Melo, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh. The results of the NBA lottery on May 16 will go a long way in determining which franchises return to glory and which franchises continue down the path of mediocrity. An interesting wrinkle of the lottery this year involves the Lakers. If the Lakers’ pick falls among this year’s top three teams, they get to keep it. Lonzo Ball would likely be their target. However, if their pick falls out of the top three, that coveted pick will belong to the 76ers. In that scenario, the 76ers would have two top-five picks: their own, along with the Lakers’ former pick.

Let’s say those picks turn out to be numbers four and five (which is likely). This brings up an interesting question: If you are the 76ers—and you have the fourth and fifth overall picks in the NBA Draft—do you try and bundle those picks together and trade for the number one overall pick, or would you rather have two top-five picks?

Let’s look back at the 2003 Draft to better analyze this question. The first overall pick that year was LeBron James. Transcendent talent. The fourth and fifth overall picks were Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Which scenario is better? Would you rather have James, or both Wade and Bosh? I think the answer to that question is James.

This year the top two players in the eyes of most are Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. I wouldn’t put either in the LeBron category, but surely they could both be perennial All-Stars. After these two, there is a bit off a drop-off, but not much. Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Jonathan Isaac all have All-Star potential.

If this was 2003 and LeBron was available, I would trade the fourth and fifth picks to move up to number one. This year, I would not. If I were the 76ers, I’d prefer to have both the fourth and fifth picks. Having, let’s say, Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox is far superior in my eyes than having just one of Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball.

Who should win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this year?

                                                                                                    —Mike, Basking Ridge, NJ

There are many players in contention for the league’s most improved this year. Often times, this award goes to a player who fortuitously sees his minutes increase, and subsequently his numbers. Other times it goes to a fringe NBA player who makes a significant jump to becoming a serviceable contributor. This year, however, the players in contention for the award were already established NBA players, who elevated themselves into the All-NBA discussion over the course of the season. Here are my top three candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: The Greek Freak has tapped into the potential that made him such an intriguing prospect, and the Bucks are reaping the benefits. The 7-footer is the Bucks de facto point guard. He is averaging 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Each season, NBA GMs are given a survey. One of the questions is: if you could start a team with any player, who would you select? The dominant response over the past decade has unsurprisingly been LeBron. Next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 22 year-old from Milwaukee garnered several votes.

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: John Wall’s backcourt mate may be the main reason the Wizards will have home-court in the first round of the playoffs. The 6’5” sharpshooter is averaging 23 points per game with over 40% accuracy from three-point range. Washington’s coach Scott Brooks should receive some credit for taking the leash off of Beal and giving him the ultimate green light. It certainly has paid off for the Wiz, as they look to gain momentum heading into the postseason.

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets could have traded the 7-foot Serbian for Demarcus Cousins last season, but nixed the trade at the last moment. They are certainly happy that they did. Jokic is averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly 5 assists per game—an incredible line of stats for a center. Although he is just a second year player and improvement is expected, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen Nikola’s improvement to be on this trajectory.

What do you think about Tony Romo’s retirement plans? 

                                                                                                               —Greg, Coronado, CA  

I have a couple of thoughts regarding Tony Romo and his decision to “retire” from football. I put retire in quotations because he doesn’t truly want to hang up his cleats—at least I don’t believe so. I believe if a team wanted him, he would be playing.

Why do teams value draft picks so highly? You are telling me not a single team was willing to surrender a 2nd round pick to acquire Romo? Just the chance that Romo might be his old self should surely warrant that a team gamble with at least a mid-round pick, but not a single team did so. The value placed on draft picks in the NFL is absolutely mystifying. If Romo turned out to be 70% of the player that he used to be, that would be enough to elevate either the Texans or the Broncos to legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The player who they will select with their draft pick will be considered a success if he contributes at all in his rookie season. This infatuation with draft picks in the NFL is infuriating. Hell, if I were a GM and I could get my hands on a top-tier quarterback, I would be willing to surrender my entire draft class—Herschel Walker style. Without a quarterback in this league you are essentially in purgatory.

From Romo’s perspective, things are a little less clear. If you’re Tony Romo, you want to go where you feel wanted, right? Since no team was willing to offer a middling pick for the 36-year old, he opted to go into broadcasting where he’ll immediately be placed on the premier NFL package. Who knows how often a gig like that comes around? He bypassed on somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million this year, but now he will stand to make somewhere between four to six million calling football games for as long as he pleases. Playing football has an expiration date—analyzing it does not. I think Romo made a wise decision.

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