Will the 76ers Trade Markelle Fultz?

by Taylor Smith
on November 14, 2018
12

Minute Read

The Philadelphia 76ers raised some eyebrows when they decided to trade a couple of first-round picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. The move was a bold one for Philly, who ultimately took former Washington guard Markelle Fultz with that top selection. The team’s brass envisioned Fultz becoming the third piece of a new “Big 3” that also featured Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

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Embiid and Simmons have certainly held up their ends of the bargain to this point, but Fultz has looked like a bust thus far. He missed the vast majority of his rookie campaign as he dealt with a mysterious shoulder injury. Fultz was limited to just 14 regular season games last year, and he averaged 7 points, 3.8 assists and about 3 rebounds while shooting just over 40 percent from the field.

Fultz has gotten off to a rather ragged start in his second campaign, as the experiment to start him in the backcourt alongside Ben Simmons has proven rather ineffective. Over the weekend, however, the Sixers decided to shake things up when they shockingly traded Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a future pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for embattled swingman Jimmy Butler.

Butler will now assume Fultz’ would-be role as the third member of the “Big 3” Philadelphia had been seeking. The move will essentially force Brett Brown to punt on starting Fultz in order to surround Embiid, Simmons and Butler with more shooting. J.J. Redick will now be promoted into the starting lineup, while Wilson Chandler will assume the power forward slot vacated by Saric. Fultz will be given the chance to lead the second unit, which is what he probably should have been doing all along.

While Fultz will be given a chance, it does feel as though the Butler trade may eventually force the Sixers to make a decision on trading Fultz. Will Philly trade the former top overall pick less than 2 years into his career? Or will they keep trying to develop him while also competing for a championship? There are betting odds for this scenario, so let’s dive in. Keep in mind that NBA betting odds tend to be fairly fluid given how frequently trade rumors surface.

Markelle Fultz to Be Traded This Season

  • Yes -100
  • No +125

The Butler trade was a signal that the Sixers are serious about trying to win immediately. This franchise has spent the better part of the last decade mired in an ugly rebuilding process that drew the ire of both fans and pundits. The 76ers shamelessly lost games on purpose in order to try and secure the best possible draft picks. Former general manager Sam Hinkie orchestrated the operation that ultimately led to Philly winding up with franchise cornerstones Embiid and Simmons. While it was an ugly way to go about things, there’s no doubting the notion that Hinkie’s plan worked.

Of course, Hinkie is no longer around to see the fruits of his labor. He was fired a couple of years ago as the team’s ownership grew weary of all of the losing. The team’s new general manager, Elton Brand, wasted little time in deciding to make a splashy move in order to try and put the team on the fast track to title contention. The Sixers made it to the second round of the playoffs last season, but anything short of a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals this year will be a disappointment.

We know Butler wants to win. He essentially forced his way out of Minnesota because he apparently did not believe the team had serious aspirations about winning this year. Rather than committing his future to the Timberwolves, Butler told the team’s brass that he wanted to be dealt. So, the Wolves sent him to a team on the verge.

Another thing we know about Butler is that he doesn’t have much patience. He soured on the Bulls’ young core during his last couple of years in Chicago, and the same seems to have happened with guys like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota. Butler isn’t calling the shots for the 76ers, but if the Fultz experiment continues to look doomed, we know he isn’t afraid to make his voice heard.

The trade market for Fultz is questionable at this point. He was the undisputed No. 1 overall pick less than 2 years ago, and now he looks like a guy that completely forgot how to shoot the basketball. There’s no telling what’s gone on with him behind the scenes, but I would imagine there are plenty of teams out there that would be willing to take a shot on him. Fultz is still only 20, so there’s little reason to believe he can’t eventually turn into a quality player.

Whether that happens with the 76ers remains to be seen. If he’s going to ultimately prove to be a liability for this team, he’s going to find himself nailed to the bench more often than not. Butler, Embiid and Simmons eat up a ton of shots in this offense, so there isn’t much left for a guy like Fultz off the bench. If he’s going to ultimately reach his ceiling as a player, I think he’s going to have to leave the Sixers.

I think there is a very real chance we see Philadelphia move on from him before it’s too late. They can still recoup something useful if they dangle Fultz in a trade, so I do think the Sixers will deal him before the deadline in February. I’d bet “yes” at -120 here before the price gets less favorable. Jump all over that while you still can.

Where Will Fultz Land?

  • Phoenix Suns +200
  • Cleveland Cavaliers +500
  • Brooklyn Nets +500
  • Orlando Magic +600
  • Washington Wizards +850
  • San Antonio Spurs +1000

If the Sixers are serious about potentially trading Fultz, one would imagine they will be looking for shooting in return. The core of Embiid, Butler and Simmons is a great one, but it certainly won’t be mistaken for the Warriors’ sharpshooting trio of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson anytime soon. If this thing is going to work, Brand is going to have to surround them with plenty of long distance threats.

Obviously, Fultz isn’t that. He might become a shooter someday, but he’s shot about 28 percent from long range in his limited duty as a pro to this point. He hasn’t even made a 3-pointer yet this season, either. Fultz figures to be appealing for teams in need of high-upside youngsters they can try to develop and build around. Teams that have capable shooters to trade back to the Sixers in exchange for him make for logical potential destinations.

Earlier this season there were reports that the Phoenix . Considering they’ve been starting journeyman Isaiah Canaan at the position so far this season, I’d say there’s likely some validity to those reports. The Suns do have a couple of young cornerstones already in place in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but a point guard to come in and run the show is surely next on the team’s wish list. Fultz could be just what the doctor ordered.

The Suns do have some interesting pieces that could tempt the Sixers, as well. Chief among them is veteran Trevor Ariza, who inked a 1-year deal to join the Suns this summer after spending the last few years in Houston. Ariza alone likely wouldn’t be enough to get Philly to deal Fultz, so perhaps the Suns could dangle another youngster like Josh Jackson in order to get it done. Ariza would give the 76ers some much-needed shooting depth on the wing, while Jackson is a potential young piece to develop moving forward. Jackson is a bit redundant with Booker in Phoenix, anyway. There is definitely a path here, so I like the value that comes with betting on the Suns to land Fultz at +200. It makes sense for all parties involved.

Cleveland or Brooklyn?

The Suns are heavy betting favorites here, as the Cavs and Nets check in with the next-best odds at +500 apiece. The Cavs just drafted a point guard in Collin Sexton this past summer, so they may not be in the market for a player like Fultz at this point. D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are handling the point guard duties in Brooklyn, but it doesn’t seem as though the Nets are convinced that either player is locked in as the PG of the future there.

The Nets have been patiently rebuilding in the midst of their disastrous series of trades that left them largely bereft of high lottery picks. GM Sean Marks has done an admirable job of working with what he has, and the Nets are finally in position to start making big moves. Brooklyn has bought low on players like Allen Crabbe, Dinwiddie and Russell already, so who’s to say they would be averse to taking another gamble on a player like Fultz?

Of the two teams, Brooklyn would seem to be better-positioned to be in the market for Fultz. That said, the Cavs do have some veterans that could be appealing to Philadelphia. Chief among them is Kyle Korver, who doesn’t have much of a role this season. Korver is a proven shooter, but the Cavs would have to give up more than just Korver if they want Fultz. Perhaps throwing in a player like Cedi Osman could tempt the 76ers into pulling the trigger.

Allen Crabbe or Joe Harris could be potential targets for the Sixers if they were to do business with the Nets. Neither is as proven as Korver, but both are quite a bit younger, as well. I think the Nets are more likely to have interest in Fultz than the Cavaliers are, which makes me favor Brooklyn at +500 over Cleveland at the same price. Trying to predict trades makes NBA bets like these rather risky, but there is reason to believe Brooklyn could be a viable Fultz suitor.

Long Shots

The Magic (+600), Wizards (+850) and Spurs (+1000) round out the list of potential Fultz suitors. The Magic have been running on the treadmill of mediocrity for a decade now. The Wizards have a core of players that seemingly dislike one another. The Spurs just lost their own franchise centerpiece in Kawhi Leonard.

Of these 3 teams the Magic look like the team best positioned to make a run at Fultz. Orlando has been swinging and missing with their lottery picks for years. They have had the same core of talent for quite some time now, and they have not been able to take the next step. Aaron Gordon is likely the team’s building block for the future, but he’s far from a transcendent talent. Nikola Vucevic is in the final year of his deal, and it would be a surprise if he came back next season.

Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross stand out as players that may be on the Sixers’ radar. Both are quality shooters that could help space the floor around the Sixers’ Big 3. Neither of them comes cheap salary-wise, but Wilson Chandler is a trade chip Philadelphia could dangle in order to help make the money work. , so he would presumably be higher on Philly’s wish list than Ross.

I think Orlando is a sneaky betting option here at +600. The Magic essentially have nothing to lose considering they haven’t taken any steps forward. Getting rid of their fringe players while trying to build around a core of Fultz, Gordon and Mo Bamba isn’t a bad idea at all. The Magic have been sitting on their hands for too long. It’s time for them to change things up, and a Fultz trade could do just that. I’d be betting the Magic at +600 here, for sure.

Washington only makes sense as a Fultz destination if they decide to blow up their core. John Wall and Bradley Beal are excellent individual players, but the Wizards have never been able to take the next step with the two of them together. Beal would be a dream acquisition for the 76ers, but it would take a whole lot more than just Fultz for Washington to even consider shipping him to Philadelphia. A third team would likely have to get involved, as there isn’t much else on the Sixers’ current roster that could sway the Wizards into making that move. Wall wouldn’t make any sense for the Sixers. Because the path to a trade is so murky I don’t see the Wizards as a legitimate betting option here.

The Spurs have 3 young point guards in Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Derrick White. Murray is out for the season with an ACL tear, Walker is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus and White just returned from an injury of his own. The Spurs don’t have many young cornerstones, but they do seem to think Murray is the guy to lead them from the point guard spot moving forward. I’m sure Gregg Popovich would take a chance on a reclamation project like Fultz, but they will presumably just wait for Murray to return instead. So, write off the Spurs here at +1000 to acquire Fultz.

My favorite values for this NBA bet are below:

  1. Phoenix Suns +200
  2. Orlando Magic +600
  3. Brooklyn Nets +500
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers +500
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