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Why Sixers' trade of Markelle Fultz to Magic was a smart move

Why Sixers' trade of Markelle Fultz to Magic was a smart move

Fifteen or so minutes before the NBA trade deadline, just when you started to think the Sixers might have decided to keep Markelle Fultz and trust that the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft would one day be back on a basketball court and resemble the dynamic, smooth-shooting player he was at the University of Washington, the news broke.

The Sixers were trading Fultz to the Orlando Magic, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. In return, they’re receiving Jonathon Simmons, a 2020 protected first-round pick from Oklahoma City, and a 2019 second-round selection, the most favorable from Cleveland, Houston or Orlando, a team source confirmed (see story). 

Once you get past the pervasive weirdness of Fultz’s tenure in Philadelphia, the diagnoses of what was wrong with him, and the shaky cell phone videos of his shaky jumper, it’s apparent that general manager Elton Brand made a smart deal in trading Fultz to Orlando.

With his trade Wednesday for Tobias Harris, Brand clarified the Sixers’ window. He’s building the Sixers to win now, while he knows that his Big 4 of Harris, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will be around. The future beyond this season is uncertain for the Sixers.

Fittingly, no future is more murky than Fultz’s. His present isn’t especially clear either. Since he played his last game for the Sixers on Nov. 19, 2018, the only official, definitive update from the Sixers on Fultz was that he had been diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. Everything else has been speculative. He may very well forge a good NBA career for himself, but it made little sense for Brand to bargain that he’d do so in Philadelphia.

Simmons is a wing renowned for his defense, a quality the Sixers have been desperately searching for off the bench. James Ennis, whom the Sixers acquired Thursday in a deal with the Rockets (see story), is a decent all-around option who can knock down three-point shots (36.1 percent for his career). Both present much more immediate value than Fultz — his current value, sitting on the bench in street clothes, is zero. 

Before the Harris trade, the notion that the Sixers should remain patient with Fultz and hope he would eventually morph back into the player they drafted made some sense. You could reasonably envision a scenario in which Fultz's physical therapy did the trick, he rediscovered his shot, and the Sixers regretted letting him go in a win-now move.

That logic doesn’t apply to this situation, or to the trade Brand made. By securing the two draft picks, Brand didn’t abandon the Sixers’ future. And by adding Simmons, he made a team that now has legitimate championship aspirations better.

Regardless of how Fultz’s highly unusual NBA journey develops, Brand made a good deal. While it doesn’t appear likely, it’s still possible Fultz makes an incredible recovery and becomes an All-Star. That won’t matter to the Sixers if this trade helps them win a title. 

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2019 NBA draft profile: Louis King has a ton of upside for the Sixers in the second round

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USA Today Images

2019 NBA draft profile: Louis King has a ton of upside for the Sixers in the second round

Position: Forward

Height: 6-8    

Weight: 195

School: Oregon

King, a forward out of Jersey City, New Jersey, bounced around three different high schools. That didn’t prevent him from being a five-star recruit and a McDonald’s All-American. King chose to attend Oregon over Kansas, among others.

King spent just one season at Eugene but made a strong impact. He helped the Ducks win the Pac-12 Tournament and a pair of NCAA Tournament games before losing to national champion Virginia. King made the conference’s All-Freshman team and was also named to the All-Pac-12 Tournament team after posting 16.5 points and shooting 40 percent from three in four tourney games.

Strengths

You can see why King was considered one of the top 25 recruits in the country coming out of high school. He has tremendous size and length but is also super skilled. He can really shoot the basketball, hitting 38.6 percent of his threes and 78.5 percent of his free throws in his lone season at Oregon. He’s not just a spot-up guy either. He showed the ability to shoot off the dribble and looked pretty natural doing it. He has the size of a power forward but has a perimeter skill set. His length and athleticism project extremely well on the defensive end at the next level. He has a chance to be the switchable defender most teams are looking for in the increasingly positionless NBA.

Weaknesses

You can also see why King will likely land in the second round. He’s under 200 pounds and while his profile defensively projects well at the next level, it’s most definitely a projection. He’s timid and you could see him getting bullied at the next level by bigger, stronger players. He’s definitely a little raw as far his decision making and shot selection. His feel for the game in general could be better. He also suffered a torn meniscus during his senior year in high school that caused him to miss the beginning of last season.

Fit

There are plenty of tools to work with here, but King is likely going to be a redshirt-type player if a decent team drafts him. Offensively, his skill set is special at his size. If he can develop his feel for the game and put on some muscle, he could turn into something special. Should the team that takes a shot at King be the Sixers? At 24, definitely not. At 33 or 34? Perhaps. At 42? It’s a no-brainer. You can add King to your roster and have him stay fresh and develop in Delaware. He’ll be coached into your system while getting to spend time around your NBA team.

“He’s really skilled,” director of scouting Vince Rozman said after the team had King in for a workout last week. “He has great size. He can handle and kind of make plays off the dribble … His shot is obviously very, very attractive and projectable. He’s here for a reason. There’s no doubt.”

King might not be the sexiest pick, but as we’ve seen from this year’s NBA champions, sometimes it’s worth taking a flyer on a projectable player that can develop in the G League. He may not help the Sixers in the present but could develop into a big part of their future.

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Sixers Talk Podcast: Best and worst case NBA draft scenarios

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Talk Podcast: Best and worst case NBA draft scenarios

On this episode of Sixers Talk, Paul Hudrick and Amy Fadool react to the Raptors winning the NBA championship. Is it fair to criticize Stephen Curry's poor performance in Game 6?

A look at NBA free agency and how all the rumors impact the Sixers.

Also, what are the best and worst case scenarios for the Sixers on draft night?

1:00 - Raptors win the NBA title. Biggest takeaways.
7:00 - Fair to criticize Steph?
12:00 - A look at NBA free agency.
20:30 - Anthony Davis rumors.
25:00 - Best and worst case draft scenarios for Sixers.

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