Markelle Fultz Trade Rumors: Owners Split on PG; Team Wants Quality Draft Pick

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2018

Philadelphia 76ers' Markelle Fultz (20) is seen in action during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Philadelphia. The 76ers beat the Suns 119-114. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Michael Perez/Associated Press

Markelle Fultz's future in Philadelphia remains in question.

According to Keith Pompey of Philly.com, the Sixers are "in no rush to trade" the second-year point guard, perhaps in large part because the team's "ownership group also isn’t in total agreement with what do with Fultz, according to league sources."

According to that report, the Sixers don't want to move Fultz without a quality first-round pick being packaged in the deal. 

The dilemma for the Sixers, as Pompey noted, is that the team doesn't want to trade Fultz for pennies on the dollar. The team traded two first-round picks to move up in the 2017 draft and select Fultz No. 1 overall, and Fultz's trade value at present could not be any lower given his shoulder issues and shooting woes.

The 20-year-old Fultz has played in just 33 games over his first two seasons, averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field, 26.7 percent from three and 53.4 percent from the charity stripe. 

But Fultz's upside remains tantalizing as well, which is why "some in the ownership group, which doesn’t like to look bad, are now pondering if it’s too early to give up on a guy that had so much promise at the University of Washington."

If Fultz becomes a star elsewhere, the Sixers will have pie on their faces for giving up on him too soon, as Pompey wrote:

"They view his becoming a star for another team worse than him remaining a Sixer and continuing to struggle. Former general manager Bryan Colangelo, who drafted Fultz, would get the blame in the latter scenario. However, the front-office holdovers and ownership group would have to look at themselves in the mirror if they trade Fultz for next to nothing and he goes on to become the star they thought he was going to be when they drafted him."

But the other side of the coin is that the Sixers are built to compete in the present, with a talented big three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. The rest of the roster is more suspect, however, as the Sixers lack a quality backup at center or any two-way guards behind Butler and Simmons. 

The team's starting lineup of Embiid, Wilson Chandler, Butler, JJ Redick and Simmons has an impressive net rating of 17.4. But once the bench players begin to filter through the rotation, the Sixers begin to suffer. Most notably, without Embiid, the team's net rating drops to a woeful -8.7. 

Part of that speaks to Embiid's massive importance on both offense and defense. But it also speaks to the team's lack of depth. And beyond Fultz, draft picks and perhaps backup point guard TJ McConnell, the Sixers don't have many assets to move in trades to address their depth issues. 

Yes, the Sixers could wait to see which players become available in the buyout market. But for a team with a superstar trio built to compete for a title in the present, risking those aspirations on the hope that the buyout market will solve depth issues is a risky proposition. 

If the Sixers aren't willing to give up on Fultz, they likely would be best served to commit to him as the backup point guard and move on from a player like McConnell. If not, Fultz is one of the team's only trade chips, and the Sixers will have to at least considering trading him, massive potential or not.

Even if Fultz does live up to his potential, there are natural fit questions in Philadelphia given the presence of Simmons at the point. Fultz has shown he's at his best with the ball in his hands. Ditto for Simmons.

Take the ball out of Fultz's hands, and he needs to be able to provide some sort of perimeter shooting threat, which he's yet to show. Take the ball out of Simmons' hands, and he prefers to work out of the post—the natural habitat of Embiid—since Simmons has shooting issues of his own. 

Questions of fit abound, and it's unlikely the Sixers drafted Fultz with the idea of him being a long-term sixth man. But in Philadelphia, that might be his ultimate role, another consideration when the team contemplates trading him.

The Sixers don't need to rush the decision. As Pompey noted, "The thought is the Sixers will have more serious discussions once it becomes apparent certain teams will be eliminated from the postseason. Those teams will look to unload desirable players in the final year of their contracts in exchange to take a look at Fultz."

So for now, the Sixers are in a holding pattern. But a major decision looms. 

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