As the Markelle Futlz situation in Philadelphia continues to get darker and darker, many theories has arisen about what the 76ers should do with their former No. 1 pick. With each passing day that Fultz doesn't play, it seems less likely that his future lies in Philly, so where could the Sixers send him? One emailer of the Open Floor podcast has an idea.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: Our next question, which is from Nick, who says, the Sixers should trade Markelle Fultz to the Suns for Trevor Ariza. The Sixers get shooting, defense, an expiring contract and a proven vet. The Suns get a young point guard and Fultz is allowed to regroup in a low-pressure environment. Do you have any thoughts there? Because my initial thought is that sounds like a great deal for the Sixers and I'm really not sure why the Suns would do it.
Ben Golliver: Boy, that is really really sad. Think about how fast ... like what if I told you on draft night that you could get Trevor Ariza for the No .1 pick. Like come on.
Sharp: (Laughs) He's had some good years in Houston at least.
Golliver: I don't really know what to make of the latest turns of the Fultz saga, I mean to me he's kinda taking his ball and going home, right? Like he lost his role, Jimmy basically usurped him. He understands that the writings on the wall and he doesn't even have the role he thought he would have two months ago. He hasn't figured out the yips stuff at all. He's having all these issues when he's shooting, especially at the free throw line. He's gotta be lost and searching.
I do NOT think the answer for a player in that situation is to play for the Phoenix Suns. I mean this team has done a pretty pitiful job at developing project-type players over the past five years, six years. I don't think structurally the organization is where it needs to be to sort of take on that sort of a heavy lift. And so from that standpoint, if I was Phoenix, you really wanna go for that talent. You wanna just like picture the mirage of Fultz and Booker, like this dream backcourt of the future. Oh, you've got a Big 3 with Deandre Ayton as well.
I would be tempted to do it, if for no other reason than you've already paid Ariza and like what's his long-term future there? Isn't he going to start angling for a buyout in the next two months? So from that standpoint, I guess there's two separate questions. One, how serious is this deal? I don't think it's that serious. Two, if you're Phoenix, would you take a flyer on him and I would say yes they should but I don't think it would work because of who they've been the last five or ten years.
Sharp: Yeah, I'm with you. The Suns, I just don't know how you buy into Markelle Fultz at this point in his career. And that sucks to say out loud but it's a calculus that every NBA team is going to be doing over the next two months because it does seem like the Sixers are going to try and move him. And they should, by the way. Do you know how much Markelle Fultz is making next year?
Golliver: I don't off hand. What, like seven or eight or nine (million)?
Sharp: Yeah, it's $9 million, which is like the equivalent of what you would pay a pretty good role player.
Golliver: Well, No. 1 picks are supposed to be really good, Andrew, that's the thing.
Sharp: (Laughs) I know. I've been thinking of him on this rookie deal and over Thanksgiving I saw a note that said like he's making $9 million next year and if a team picks up his option, he's due $12 million. That's real money. That's not just some throwaway rookie deal. And that's real money that the Sixers are going to need to clear if they're going to have room to really build this team over the summer.
Golliver: I've got a couple questions for you. Is he really a point guard like the emailer's suggesting—because I don't think he is. And then, if he's not, what about a team like Brooklyn that already had some success going after a D'Angelo Russell and playing the fallen stars, low expectations, let's try to build these guys back up kinda formula. I mean, could you see a situation where Russell and Fultz, two years from now, as a pretty good backcourt? I mean I could, why not?
Sharp: Maybe. First of all, D'Angelo, my guy, having a good couple of weeks here. I don't want to get too excited but some signs of life on D'Angelo Russell Island. The Fultz side of it, here's the thing, I think things have gotten dark enough now that if Fultz was to ever come back and play at an All-Star level, it would be one of the craziest stories in the last 40 years of NBA history. And it would be really cool—we should all root for it—but I mean it's not particularly realistic.
I do think, if we're picking out teams across the league where Fultz would have the best shot, Brooklyn is near the top of the list. And they also, they're probably going to be spinning their wheels in free agency this summer and don't seem likely to land anyone that's really going to make a difference so they've got money to sorta roll the dice with a year or two of Fultz.
Golliver: What about Atlanta? Him and Trae? I'm just trying to think of these situations where there's literally zero pressure, they already have a point guard in place and he can be part of a dynamic backcourt duo and he can just have no one watching him while he re-learns how to play basketball. I think those are sorta the key factors and I think Brooklyn and Atlanta check those boxes.
Sharp: Yeah, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Phoenix, I don't know. We're just searching out the teams that have no real hope of relevance and that's tough. The Ariza example, trading Ariza for the No. 1 pick and me, my take on that is that it's lopsided for the Sixers. This is dark, man. Hopefully something changes soon.