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A potential Markelle Fultz trade

The Detroit Pistons are reportedly interested in Markelle Fultz. What might the Philadelphia 76ers get in return?

Starting today, free agents signed over the summer are eligible to be traded. That will open the proverbial flood gates, as we saw with last night’s close-but-not-quite trade between Washington, Phoenix and Memphis.

The Philadelphia 76ers should search the market for depth, but the primary trade chip currently on the roster is Markelle Fultz. As the former No. 1 pick rehabs in L.A., there is reported interest from the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic.

If the Pistons were to pick up the phone, the Sixers should have some leverage. Fultz’s situation continues to hit new lows, but there some flexibility remains with his contract. The Sixers aren’t full-blown title contenders yet, so trading Fultz shouldn’t be a priority.

Once the summer hits, the Sixers can still trade or stretch Fultz to open up cap space. At worst, he’s a $3.3 million cap hit over the next few seasons, which would still allow the Sixers to clear around $25 million for incoming free agents.

That means Detroit would have to give up real value — ideally needle-moving value — to get the Sixers to bite. A first-round pick should peak the Sixers’ interest, but that’s unlikely. Detroit would probably need to part with a legitimate role player.

Reggie Bullock comes to mind as the obvious fit. He’s an excellent shooter who mimics J.J. Redick in several ways off the ball. He’d give the Sixers another offensive spark on the bench while also providing a defensive upgrade over Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet.

With that said, Bullock remains a valuable part of the Pistons’ rotation. Detroit is also competing for a playoff spot, so giving up a valued contributor for an enigma might not match the front office’s desires. That’s why the Pistons’ reported interest is somewhat surprising.

Bullock probably moves the needle more than any other attainable trade chip on the Pistons roster. Stanley Johnson is an intriguing reclamation project, but the Sixers should ride with Fultz in that scenario. There’s no reason to swap potential draft busts.

As weird as the Fultz situation is — and it’s getting weirder every day — the Sixers, again, should maintain patience. There’s more value in his upside than there is in most one-year rentals.

If the two sides were to come to terms on a deal, though, here’s what the framework might look like.

Sixers Get

Reggie Bullock, Ish Smith, Zaza Pachulia, 2019 second-round pick

Pistons Get

Markelle Fultz, Amir Johnson, 2019 second-round pick (Kings/Bucks), 2020 second-round pick

Until there’s more reporting on the current market for Fultz, it’s difficult to construct a comfortable proposal for Detroit. The Pistons are still paying Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond long term — does stripping away legitimate contributors from a thin supporting cast make sense?

As for the Sixers, both Smith and Bullock would get minutes right away. Upgrades over T.J. McConnell and Shamet, respectively, it’s easy to see Brett Brown utilizing both. He’s already knows Smith and Bullock fits the Redick/Marco Belinelli role.

Zaza gives the Sixers a slight upgrade over Amir Johnson, whose defense continues to slip. The Pistons need center depth, but Johnson splitting time with Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson might be enough.

Smith, Bullock and Zaza are all expiring contracts, allowing the Sixers to maintain cap space for the ever-important summer of 2019. If the Pistons are planning to move on from Smith and Bullock in free agency, that might provide motivation for a move like this.

Next: Exploring new go-to play possibilities

There are still several unanswered questions with Fultz, ranging from how he got here to whether or not it’s fixable. If the current diagnosis is legit, though, there’s still hope. The Sixers should only trade Fultz if there’s real value coming the other direction.

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