NBA Trade Ideas from Latest Buzz on Markelle Fultz, Bradley Beal, Kemba Walker
Markelle Fultz's trade value quintessentially mirrors the start to his NBA career: It is either indecipherable or beyond salvaging, most definitely not what it should be and maddening, if not impossible, to reconcile.
Treat Fultz's mysterious shoulder-wrist-shooting issues as meaningful omens, and he's more albatross than promising prospect or project. His rookie-scale deal doesn't provide him any cover. He is earning $8.3 million this year, will get $9.7 million next season and has a $12.3 million team option for 2020-21. His average salary over that span ($10.1 million) easily outstrips the value of the non-taxpayer's mid-level exception.
On the flip side, Fultz is a 20-year-old No. 1 pick with fewer than 35 games on his resume! Killing the Philadelphia 76ers for trading the third selection in 2017 and this year's Sacramento Kings pick (top-one protected) is easy, but he was the consensus transcendent talent of his rookie class.
In some ways, Fultz's lack of availability sells. He is more of an unknown than a certified bust. There is mystique in that uncertainty. The Sixers have to figure out whether his market tilts toward hopeless or intriguing, or if it lands somewhere in between.
Fultz doesn't have a future in Philly, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey. Similar sentiments were echoed to Bleacher Report's Yaron Weitzman, but with the following disclaimer from a rival executive: "I'd be surprised if they get any type of first-round pick. It's just hard for any team who is trying to have space this summer to take a flier on a guy like that who will eat into their space like he will."
These trade ideas seek to juggle all possible outcomes to potential Fultz deals. We'll begin with sell-low propositions and work our way up from there.
Prioritizing Cap Space (After Jan. 11)
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons, 2019 second-round draft pick (less favorable of Brooklyn's and Orlando's selections)
Orlando Magic Receive: Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Justin Patton
Get ready for a handful of packages that won't work until mid-January. The Sixers have limited salary filler after acquiring Jimmy Butler. Justin Patton's $2.7 million price tag looms large for them if they don't want to part with Wilson Chandler, T.J. McConnell or Landry Shamet, and he cannot be dealt in combination with other players until Jan. 12.
Anyhow, the Sixers would be selling incredibly low. This is a salary dump masquerading as a helpful return, a type of bounty they'll need to entertain if they're bent on moving Fultz before February's deadline. Again: His pay grade is closer to that of a high-end veteran role player than developing newbie.
This isn't to say Terrence Ross and Jonathon Simmons are placeholding dreck. They're not. Philly is light on wings and reliable shooting. Ross has caught fire from beyond the arc in recent weeks, and he and Simmons can pitch in with coverage at the 2 and 3 spots.
Still, cap space is the primary draw. Ross will come off the books after this season, and Simmons is guaranteed just $1 million until July 1. The Sixers have a path to more than $20 million in spending power as it stands. Waiving Simmons and renouncing Ross, along with every other free agent besides Butler and McConnell, would ticket them for somewhere between $27 and $29 million in wiggle room depending on the placement of their own first-round pick.
That isn't quite max money, but it would put the Sixers in play for an impactful addition or two. It might be enough to poach Kemba Walker from the Charlotte Hornets. Philly could even carve out a 30-percent max salary—i.e., Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard money—if it really tries.
The Orlando Magic shouldn't have any qualms about pulling the trigger. Neither Ross nor Simmons profiles as a big-picture contributor, and the roster needs a point guard not named D.J. Augustin (who's playing well!) or Jerian Grant.
Forfeiting cap space doesn't mean as much in a market not known for enticing free agents. Nabbing a flier on Fultz, a superstar in training once upon a time, would be more important. Even if the Sixers want to expand this deal to include Augustin or Jonathan Isaac, the Magic should listen.
Philly and Boston
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, 2020 second-round pick
Boston Celtics Receive: Markelle Fultz
Sensible trolling is fun.
The Boston Celtics aren't going to be super high on Fultz. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge traded the right to draft him months before landing Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also said the Celtics planned on taking Jayson Tatum at No. 1 if they couldn't find a way to move down.
If that were their position then, Fultz's availability amid top-down struggles may not pique their interest now. Marcus Morris is playing ridiculous basketball, and parlaying Rozier into a more expensive point guard with Irving up for a new contract (player option) and Marcus Smart one season into a four-year deal would create all sorts of redundancies.
Impending free agencies for Morris and Rozier (restricted) might be enough to change the Celtics' tune. The latter could outearn Fultz in 2019-20 on his own if the right team delivers him an offer sheet (think: Orlando or the Phoenix Suns). Ditto for Morris if he keeps drilling 43-plus percent of his treys.
Consolidating both into Fultz would be cheaper in the long run. He's certainly the higher-end swing. He'd be a nice co-anchor for Boston's inevitable Anthony Davis trade packages if he recoups some of his predraft value. Lineups featuring him, Irving and Al Horford with two of Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward could be keepers.
Losing Morris would sting. He has often looked like the Celtics' best wing. But surrendering him would be doable if they retain faith in Brown and Hayward and consider the luxury-tax implications of his next contract.
Cap space would once again be motivating the Sixers. Turning Fultz's money into two expiring pacts would position them to go near max- or max-player shopping over the summer.
At the same time, both Morris and Rozier could stick. Philly's backup point guard situation will be fuzzy with McConnell hitting the open market, and the wing rotation will get weirder if Chandler and/or JJ Redick leave in free agency. Price will be everything, but Rozier and Morris would address areas of need.
The Sixers could try extracting the Los Angeles Clippers' lottery-protected selection from the Celtics. Rozier hasn't yet recaptured last year's groove, which would marginalize the acquisition of his Bird rights. Boston would probably balk, but with the Clippers thriving in the Western Conference, the pick's inclusion shouldn't be a deal-breaker for either side.
A 4-Team Extravaganza with New York, Phoenix and Utah (After Jan. 11)
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Trevor Ariza, Grayson Allen, Damyean Dotson, Emmanuel Mudiay
New York Knicks Receive: Troy Daniels, Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Mike Muscala, 2019 second-round pick (via Utah)
Phoenix Suns Receive: Ricky Rubio
Utah Jazz Receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Patton
Trevor Ariza is someone the Sixers could target on the buyout market, because let's face it, he's not finishing the season in Phoenix. But they're not guaranteed to get him in that scenario, and having his non-Bird rights would mean a helluva lot more when he's working off a $15 million salary.
Emmanuel Mudiay is starting to do things for the Knicks. His three-point clip still dwells below the league average, but he's steadier around the rim and converting an absurd 57.1 percent of his looks from floater range. Damyean Dotson has provided intermittent scoring and defensive punches, and his $1.6 million salary for next season is non-guaranteed.
Grayson Allen would function as the first-round pick the Sixers aren't supposed to get—and as an attractive pump-and-dump spotter on the wing if his triples start finding nylon. Philly yet again would preserve access to near max money in free agency but also get a few months to monitor the fits of Ariza, Dotson and Mudiay (restricted) prior to July.
New York would take the biggest risk of any team. Fultz's redemption story isn't a given. If he doesn't pan out, the Knicks would have dealt Dotson, Mudiay and Tim Hardaway Jr. at their market peaks for extra cap space. And, hey: That's fine.
Replacing Hardaway with Fultz would set up New York for more than $40 million in room after it renounced all incumbent free agents and waived Lance Thomas ($1 million guaranteed). That number would balloon past $50 million if Courtney Lee plays his way into trade rumors upon his return from a neck injury.
Striking out in free agency while Fultz goes belly up wouldn't invalidate the Knicks' leap of faith. Reinvesting in Mudiay after a career year would be more dangerous. They would get over Hardaway's departure no matter what. He'll be a free agent again before they contend if they don't land a superstar anyway.
Phoenix doesn't have anything to second-guess. Jettisoning Ariza and Troy Daniels would save $3.2 million—more than the former would give back in a prospective buyout. At 28, Ricky Rubio isn't the ideal point guard for a rebuilding outfit, but the Suns flat-out need a floor general. Gauging his fit next to Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton would be a worthwhile venture when they're not obligated to keep him beyond this year.
Any Utah Jazz fans uncomfortable with turning Allen, Rubio and a second-rounder into the final two years and $37.1 million on Hardaway's deal should direct their concerns toward Bleacher Report's Andrew Bailey. He both bleeds purple and green and approved this structure.
Utah needs another from-scratch scorer to pair with Donovan Mitchell, and Hardaway is shooting 41.5 percent on a steady diet of pull-up three-pointers. Yes, he would derail their proximity to max cap space. But no star free agent is signing in Utah with the Jazz dancing around the lottery. To get Hardaway without giving up Alec Burks, one of their few above-average shooters, would be a pretty big win.
Breaking Bread with Charlotte
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Kemba Walker
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith or 2019 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick (from Chicago, via Philadelphia), 2021 first-round pick (from Miami, via Philadelphia)
Big fat disclaimer: The Hornets are not trying to move Kemba Walker, per Stadium's and The Athletic's Shams Charania ...even though they should be.
Charlotte has pieced together a handful of impressive victories and would be well over .500 if not for its 3-8 record in games that enter crunch time. That shouldn't matter. The Hornets are assured of nothing.
They're on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff picture once more, Walker will command near max or max money in free agency, and they don't project to have cap space before 2020. Dealing stars on expiring contracts is always hard, but Walker is playing out of this world. Charlotte should get everything possible for him now rather than consign itself to the middle by bankrolling his next contract. And that's assuming he doesn't get an itch to leave.
Coaxing this much out of the Sixers could be hard. Offloading Markelle Fultz into cap space this summer would give them the juice to make a run at Walker without forking over picks or Zhaire Smith. But free agency is a fickle beast. Plenty of other teams will be vying for Walker's services. Attempting to re-sign him would be easier than trying to poach him.
Plus, the Sixers are no longer in the business of waiting. The Jimmy Butler trade proved as much. Fultz's reported availability reinforced it.
Walker would give Philly a Big Four with Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Star-power overload is a real thing, but the fit would be fairly clean. Walker plays like a lifeline in Charlotte because he has no choice. He has spent more time off the ball in years past and is knocking down 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season.
Failing to shed salary as part of this blockbuster would hurt the Hornets. They could try brokering a Marvin Williams-for-Wilson Chandler swap, but the Sixers' lack of depth on the wing would make that tough. Subbing in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would work, but at 25, he's closer to an asset than a net negative.
In the end, Charlotte should find a happy medium within these parameters. Walker is on an expiring deal. Securing Fultz, even at rock bottom, along with some combination of picks and/or another prospect would be more than acceptable compensation.
Shooting for a Star with Phoenix and Washington
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre Jr.
Phoenix Suns Receive: Markelle Fultz, Thomas Bryant
Washington Wizards Receive: Wilson Chandler, Josh Jackson, Elie Okobo, Zhaire Smith, 2019 first-round pick (via Philadelphia), 2019 second-round pick (from Chicago, via Philadelphia)
This deal rests on the Washington Wizards' remaining open to demolition. ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported they "started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster—including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal—is available to discuss in trade scenarios."
Washington's performance in the face of potential implosion throws a wrench in fire-sale forecasts. Wins over the Clippers, Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets are nothing if not cause for cautious optimism. And even if the Wizards burn it all down (as they should), Beal will be the most difficult player to pry away.
Something along these lines should at least keep Washington on the phone.
The Wizards won't trade Beal if they aren't prepared to start over. However, picking up Josh Jackson, Elie Okbo, Zhaire Smith and a few picks would restock their asset cupboard. They should not be scared away by Jackson's struggles or by the prospect of Smith's missing the entire season. They wouldn't be playing for this season, even if they don't move Wall. This haul would get them within $500,000 of ducking the tax and adequately arm them for the coming years.
Other permutations of this deal should be in play. Maybe the Sixers would be willing to sub their first-rounder or Zhaire Smith with the Miami Heat's 2021 pick. Perhaps they're high enough on Beal's fit and contract length to include the full boat. They have other stuff to send, including Landry Shamet.
The Suns' reaction to acquiring Markelle Fultz would rest entirely on their view of Jackson. His playing time is all over the place under head coach Igor Kokoskov, and minutes won't get any easier to come by with Mikal Bridges, Devin Booker and TJ Warren in the fold.
If Phoenix is down on Jackson, using him and Okobo to try to reboot Fultz doesn't feel like an overpay.