Markelle Fultz Traded to Magic from 76ers for Jonathon Simmons, Picks

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2019

In this April 30, 2018, photo, Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz watches from the bench during Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, in Boston. The Celtics surprised many last June when they passed on drafting Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick and instead traded it to the 76ers for the third pick and a future first rounder. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Markelle Fultz was a Philadelphia 76er for less than two seasons.  

The Sixers traded the 2017 No. 1 overall pick to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, an Oklahoma City Thunder first-round pick and a Cleveland Cavaliers second-round pick, the Magic announced.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer first reported the details of the deal.  Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported Fultz was on the move.

Fultz's brief tenure in Philadelphia was bizarre.

The Sixers acquired the No. 1 overall pick in 2017 from the Boston Celtics for last year's No. 3 overall pick and a conditional future first-rounder to select Fultz, who was supposed to become the third star on the team alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. That future first-rounder will become Sacramento's 2018 first-rounder unless it is No. 1 overall, in which case Philly will keep it and Boston will get Philadelphia's own first-round pick instead.

It was believed the skill set Fultz showed in college as a three-level scorer who was dynamic in the pick-and-roll and could play off the ball made him a strong fit alongside Simmons, who operated as the point guard.

But either due to a shoulder injury or alterations to his shot mechanics during the offseason—or perhaps both—Fultz came into the 2017-18 season with an ugly shot that didn't resemble the stroke he displayed at Washington or even in Summer League.

The 20-year-old ultimately appeared in just 14 games during his rookie season, averaging 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. He shot 40.5 percent from the field but attempted just one three-pointer, missing the attempt.

While Fultz finished the regular season on a high note, with a 13-point, 10-rebound and 10-assist triple double against the Milwaukee Bucks, he largely fell out of the team's rotation during the postseason in favor of the more experienced T.J. McConnell, appearing in just three playoff games.

Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum—whom the Celtics selected at No. 3 overall—averaged 13.9 points per game during the regular season and 18.5 points in the postseason, flashing the potential of a future superstar. 

Fultz was better for the Sixers this year. He was inserted into the starting lineup by head coach Brett Brown early in the season, though the smooth and consistent perimeter jumper he showcased in college didn't completely resurface. 

And once the Sixers traded for Jimmy Butler, rounding out a big three alongside Simmons and Embiid, Fultz was moved to the bench and the odd start to his NBA career made him a candidate to be a potential trade piece.

That became all but inevitable in late November when Fultz missed several games before seeing a specialist regarding shoulder and wrist injuries. At that time, Fultz reportedly was said to "prefer a fresh start with a new team," per The Athletic's Jared Weiss, Derek Bodner and Sam Amick.

While Fultz's agent Raymond Brothers responded to that report, telling ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that no trade request had been made to the Sixers, the team obviously felt Fultz needed that fresh start and it was best to cut ties.   

For Orlando, Fultz will try to become the superstar the Sixers thought they were drafting. If he regains confidence in his jumper, he has the talent and upside to be special. His playmaking ability as the primary ball-handler is underrated, and he's made strides finishing around the rim. But everything hinges on whether he can become a threat from the perimeter like he was in college. 

Philadelphia simply wasn't willing to wait any longer to find out.

The Magic can afford to be patient, however, as they remain mired in a rebuilding effort. And Fultz, at least on paper, fits several needs. For one, he's a point guard, a weakness of Orlando's in recent seasons. For another, he's long and athletic for the position, fitting Orlando's philosophy of building around size. 

The Magic's young core—Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and Fultz—all bring length, size and athleticism to their positions. While there are some fit questions between the four, the upside is clear. If Fultz ever regains his Washington form, Orlando's core four could be nasty.

For that reason, adding him in a trade was a worthwhile gamble.