Markelle Fultz reportedly no longer in Sixers' long-term plans

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Markelle Fultz reportedly no longer in Sixers' long-term plans

The Sixers are engaged in one of the most public soap operas in professional sports.

After Markelle Fultz’s agent came out and said his client would be seeing a shoulder specialist and not participate in games and practices, a report surfaced that Fultz “could prefer a change in scenery.”

The feeling may be mutual, according to the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. Fultz “is no longer in the Sixers' long-term plans,” per Pompey. 

There is a lot to untangle here. The bottom line appears to be, if you believe the reports, that this is a marriage that is headed for divorce. 

So if Fultz wants out and the Sixers are ready to move on, what kind of trade could be worked out?

It’s difficult to say considering Fultz’s value has never been lower and the Sixers don’t appear to have much leverage. Perhaps a team with a struggling young player with a need at guard could look to make an even swap. The Sixers could also look to get a draft pick, but I’m not sure many teams would be willing to part with one given Fultz’s circumstances.

The scenario that seems likely is the Sixers looking for a veteran on an expiring contract that could help them now. With Fultz being a No. 1 overall pick and carrying a decent-sized cap hit, it could work. 

If the Knicks are looking to move Courtney Lee, a straight-up swap would work. Lee would provide the Sixers a solid wing off the bench and the Knicks would acquire a lottery ticket in Fultz. The Knicks have a couple of young guards but nobody they’re married to long term.

There are other solutions such as the Suns’ Trevor Ariza, but since he just signed with Phoenix this offseason, he can’t be moved until Dec. 15. Ariza’s $15-million cap hit could also require the Sixers getting another team involved to dump salary.

Perhaps former Sixer Kyle Korver could be on the team’s radar. The concern would be Fultz’s fit with the Cavs, who just drafted point guard Collin Sexton. The rookie played very well against the Sixers Friday night. The same issue would arise in a possible swap for another former Sixer in Dewayne Dedmon. With Trae Young in the fold, it’s difficult to see Fultz’s fit.

Fultz’s health could be the biggest issue here. If it’s determined that he has an issue after seeing a specialist Monday, it could make all this trade talk moot.

Whatever happens, the situation appears to be coming to a head.

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There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

There are positive signs, but still glaring issues with Sixers

After dropping their second straight game in overtime Friday night in Oklahoma City (see observations), the Sixers at times sounded like a team looking for answers.

More of that is likely struggling to answer questions coming off another brutal loss. They have an idea why they’ve lost five of their last seven after starting their season 5-0. A large part of it is a group with a bunch of new faces that are still figuring each other out. On Friday, fouls were an issue as they allowed the Thunder to attempt 41 free throws.

For a team that has championship aspirations and got off to such a hot start, this isn’t where they expected to be 12 games into the season.

“Obviously we're frustrated,” Tobias Harris said to reporters postgame. “7-5 is not where we want to be. It's early in the season and right now we're going to progress and get better and figure out ways that we can help each other and help our team and go from there. This game is over. Tomorrow, we'll watch film on it, we'll find out which ways that we can better ourselves and be ready for the next game. [We’re] 7-5 right now but ... we'll just go into the next game and be ready to get that win and go from there.”

There are reasons for optimism — with Harris being arguably the biggest.

After missing 23 straight threes and looking lost recently, Harris splashed his first trey of the game and looked like a totally different player. He finished with 21 points on 8 of 16 from the field and 3 of 4 from three. He was much more aggressive and decisive than he’d been in the previous two games.

Josh Richardson, returning to his native Oklahoma, has continued to show signs of improvement. He poured in 28 points, his highest total as a Sixer. More importantly, he’s looked much more comfortable in the offense as he figures out his role.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both had their moments. Embiid had a game-high 31 points and Simmons broke out after a quiet first half to play the entire second half.

One of the team’s biggest issues is figuring out the pairing of Embiid and Al Horford. The reality is Horford has never played with a center like Embiid who demands the ball and attention offensively. It’s been an obvious adjustment for Horford, who shot just 5 of 12 Friday and has done most of his damage with Embiid off the floor.

The uncomfortable offensive fit for the entire starting five has been a big reason the Sixers have been involved in so many close games. A familiar theme emerged Friday, as the Sixers held a nine-point advantage with 7:20 to go in the game. Instead of hitting the gas and putting the Thunder away, they gave up a 12-2 run and saw their lead evaporate.

These are talented players that have won in different places. They’re still learning how to win together.

“I was just telling Al about that,” Harris said, “and really it's just I think a matter of right now we are yet to be up like eight points and push that to 15 and really push what we're doing and move forward with that, and really imposing our will and dominating. And that's something that we have to get to and that's something I think we're still learning — how we can do that and how we can make those type of runs. That's something we definitely got to get better at.”

The good news is you see the talent and recognize some of the issues.

And Brett Brown has 70 games to figure it out.

“If you're sick and you don't know why, that's a problem,” Brown said. “We are in a tough spot right now, but it's a long year. I think that it doesn't take much for me to understand where we have to get better. And it's really that simple. If you're scratching your head, sort of confused, then I think we got some problems and that's not what I'm doing. I think the guys understand the areas that matter most that can best impact changing the way things are going and get back on the winning side.”

They know the problems, now they just have to answer the questions.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What went wrong in OKC?

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Sixers Talk podcast: What went wrong in OKC?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Brett Brown's decision to have Furkan Korkmaz play key minutes in overtime, using more pick-and-rolls with Joel Embiid, and the loss to the Thunder.

• Should Brown have gone to Korkmaz when Tobias Harris fouled out in overtime?

• Do the Sixers need to rework their offense?

• The starting lineup looked good at times, but what went wrong in OKC?

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More on the Sixers