A new report could mark the beginning of the end for Markelle Fultz and the Philadelphia 76ers.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is no longer in the Philadelphia 76ers‘ long-term plans. The news comes after the guard removed himself from the rotation, planning to visit a shoulder specialist in New York on Monday.
While nobody has a firm read on the Fultz saga, a recent report from The Athletic seems to detail chronic shoulder and wrist issues circling back to the scapular muscle imbalance that limited Fultz to just 14 regular season games as a rookie.
As Pompey points out, though, the Sixers are no longer using the shoulder as an excuse for Fultz’s underwhelming performances. In recent media appearances, Elton Brand and Brett Brown both said there was no indication Fultz was dealing with a lingering shoulder ailment.
Regardless of how valid the shoulder concerns are, it’s clear Fultz damaged his reputation by stepping away from the team. The Sixers are also trying to win the Eastern Conference, a goal Fultz doesn’t currently help them reach.
At this point, Fultz’s trade value is at rock bottom. There’s little reason to believe he can function as the cornerstone in a Bradley Beal or Otto Porter Jr. trade, which might keep the Sixers from trading for another high-level talent.
Even with the drastic drop in value, though, some teams will have interest in Fultz. He’s a former top pick who, just a couple years ago, was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the country. Teams like Orlando and Phoenix, who need point guards, should pick up the phone.
Given the Sixers’ win-now motives, there’s a reason to believe some value could be retrieved in a potential Fultz deal. Whether it’s another backup point guard, more wing depth or an Amir Johnson replacement, the Sixers can address current needs.
As long as he’s here, the Sixers need to continue being patient with Fultz’s development. It’s unclear whether or not he will return to the everyday rotation after Monday, but extended time off could benefit both parties. Fultz and his camp might not agree to G-League time, but it’s a thought.
One would be hard-pressed to conjure up a more twisted, unexpected and disheartening NBA storyline. All indications point to Fultz being an excellent person and teammate who worked hard all summer. He’s dealing with an unprecedented injury with a clear impact on his confidence.
In the right situation, Fultz has the potential to become a reliable rotation piece and contributor. He doesn’t turn it over a ton, has some upside on defense, and scores well around the rim when he’s aggressive. The talent, while deeply buried, is still there.
The Sixers aren’t in the best position for patience given the Jimmy Butler trade, which clearly signals a desire to compete. That only puts more pressure on the front office to find a solution, which makes the trade report less surprising.
It’s sad, and dashes some great memories from Fultz’s brief career — one that, up until last week, was filled with unmitigated optimism and support from the fanbase. If he moves elsewhere, it’s only right to wish him well given the difficult circumstances he’s currently traversing.