It’s apparent that the Sixers are all in for this season after acquiring forward Tobias Harris in a blockbuster trade with the Clippers.
Markelle Fultz has been out since Nov. 19 with thoracic outlet syndrome, but was struggling to find his game even when he was on the floor.
A team with title aspirations and a 20-year-old player trying to find himself don't seem like an optimal mix.
So what now for Fultz and the Sixers?
It seems like a trade could benefit all parties involved.
While the Sixers have used two trades to double their star power, those deals have severely weakened the team’s bench. As of now, the Sixers’ reserves are holdovers T.J. McConnell, Jonah Bolden, Furkan Korkmaz, Amir Johnson and two-way player Haywood Highsmith, along with newcomers Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott and Malachi Richardson. The Sixers also have Justin Patton and Zhaire Smith both rehabbing from injury in Delaware.
In all likelihood, that collection of players won’t get the job done — even with the second-best starting lineup in the NBA. Targeting someone like Wesley Matthews or Wayne Ellington (hey, did you know he’s from Philly?) in the buyout market would certainly help, but they wouldn’t have to wait to get something for Fultz.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, both the Hawks and Magic have expressed interest in Fultz. Wojnarowski went on to say that "there's a real possibility [Fultz] played his last game with the Sixers." Knowing how plugged in Wojnarowski is, that seems pretty damning.
Atlanta seems like a little bit of an odd trade partner with Trae Young already in the mix and Fultz looking like he’s more of a point guard than a combo guard in his young career. Perhaps Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, who spent time with Fultz as a Sixers assistant, believes he could get something out of the young guard duo.
The one guy on Atlanta’s roster that’s intriguing is Taurean Prince. Prince is young, he’s cheap, he’s an above-average three-point shooter (37 percent) and he was touted as a defensive wing prospect coming out of Baylor. There have been questions about his effort on the defensive end, but playing for a title contending team could put a jolt in him.
With Orlando, there’s only one trade target for the Sixers and that’s Terrence Ross. Ross is having a career year, averaging 14.4 points per game on a bad Magic team. He’s a career 37 percent shooter from three, he can shoot off the bounce and is an OK defender. Ross isn’t the athlete he was when he won the dunk contest in 2013, but he’s certainly above average in that department.
Between the two options, Prince would be the better long-term get, but Ross’ experience (31 career playoff games) could come in handy down the road.
For Fultz, either team gives him a fresh start in a low-pressure situation, though the Magic seem to have the bigger need for a young guard. In either case, he’d be playing on a clear rebuilding team in a market not nearly as demanding as Philadelphia.
It would be a shame for Fultz to realize the potential that he showed at Washington somewhere else.
But if the deal helps the Sixers win now, Elton Brand may have to pull the trigger.
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