Elton Brand: Jimmy Butler Trade Not a Reflection on Faith in Markelle Fultz

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2018

Philadelphia 76ers Markelle Fultz in action against Chicago Bulls Zach LaVine, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 127-108. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand stressed the team is still confident in Markelle Fultz's development even after acquiring Jimmy Butler via trade. 

"Not at all. It wasn't a changed view of Markelle's future," he said on Tuesday, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com. "It was more of a changed view of being able to get a superstar right now and seeing where other teams were. There are some really talented teams [in the Eastern Conference]. ... It was just a chance to have our team take another leap."

For his part, Butler was complimentary of Fultz during his introductory press conference and pointed to how hard the Washington product works, via Begley:

"He's a talented young player. From what I can tell, a lot of things [with Fultz] are mental. In this league, I think 90 percent of it is mental. If you think you can do something, you really can.

"I know how hard he works because I'm in L.A. [where Fultz] trains. [The people who train with Fultz] tell me how great he wants to be. As long as he goes hard and he's giving it all every day, the guy has my respect. I just want him to go out there, play hard, be who he is, stick to his strengths, and I know he's just going to thrive—he's going to be successful."

Fultz played just 14 regular-season games in 2017-18 due in part to a shoulder injury, although concerns about his shooting were an overarching topic. He missed his only three-pointer of the season and is shooting 30.8 percent from deep in 2018-19.

His shooting woes took center stage again Monday when he double-clutched a free throw during a win over the Miami Heat.

Fultz started Philadelphia's first 15 games, but Butler figures to cut into his playing time as a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection and four-time All-Defensive selection. He could guard the likes of Jayson Tatum, Victor Oladipo, Kawhi Leonard and even Giannis Antetokounmpo for stretches during playoff series and take some of the defensive pressure away from Ben Simmons.

Butler is also shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range and is better suited to play alongside Simmons, who has his own shooting concerns considering he is yet to make a three-pointer in 95 career regular-season games.

Opposing defenses are often able to sag off Fultz and clog Simmons' penetration and double Joel Embiid on the blocks.

Despite those concerns, Brand has clearly not lost faith in the No. 1 pick of the 2017 draft.

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