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Sheridan: Suns and Magic top trade destinations for Markelle Fultz — If He Plays Again

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, NY. — Nobody wants to trade for Markelle Fultz right now. Not a single NBA team.

But if the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft returns to the court anytime soon, the top contenders to acquire him are the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic, according to a player close to Fultz who spoke to Get More Sports on condition of anonymity Sunday night.

Fultz was the first Sixers player to exit the arena, roughly three minutes after Jimmy Butler finished off an unlikely comeback by nailing a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left. Fultz is not traveling with the team indefinitely, and sources indicate that an overly-protective family bubble is quickly deteriorating this player-team relationship.

Markelle Fultz in street clothes shortly after the 76ers defeated the Nets on Sunday night.

Several media outlets have already reported that Fultz would like to be dealt, and it is no secret around the NBA that the Sixers have been listening to offers.

Prior to being benched in the second half of a comeback win over the Phoenix Suns last Monday, sources tell us that the two teams showing the most interest were Orlando, which has been starting D.J. Augustin at the point, and Phoenix, which has been going with Isaiah Canaan.

But both of those teams have disengaged in the six days since the latest Fultz developments, and there is widespread, warranted skepticism around the league that Fultz is truly dealing with a bum shoulder or a bum wrist — the “injuries” that the Sixers have cited in explaining Fultz’s absence from the lineup.

In other words, Fultz won’t be dealt until he can get back on the court and prove he is not injured, and that he is in a secure place mentally.

So after beginning the season as the starter alongside Ben Simmons, the former star at the University of Washington is in a state of limbo.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

If and when he returns, the Sixers will begin fielding offers again, but there is little in terms of expendable players on the rosters of the Suns or the Magic that would fill Philadelphia’s needs.

One team executive familiar with the Sixers’ wishes said they would likely settle for a first-round draft pick and a serviceable player whose salary would be close enough to Fultz’s $8.33 million to make the trade work under NBA salary cap rules.

On Phoenix, one player that might interest the Sixers is Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s all-time leader in 4-point plays. He would theoretically fill the void left by the departure of Marco Belinelli, but is ineligible to be traded until Jan. 15. Because Crawford makes only $1.5 million, a second player would have to be added to make the salaries come close to matching.

For Orlando, the only asset that would seem to interest the Sixers is a first-round draft pick in 2020 originally belonging to Oklahoma City, although it is top 20 protected and turns into a pair of second-round picks if the Thunder do not finish with one of the worst 10 records next season.

If the Suns dealt Jonathan Simmons or a combination of Jarell Martin and Jerian Grant, the deal would work salary-cap wise. But if the Sixers had no interest in those players, a third team — likely Sacramento — could be brought in to broker a deal.

The likelihood of a Fultz deal is one of the factors — along with potential locker room chemistry issues — that has led them to table to idea of acquiring Carmelo Anthony, a team source said.

As for Fultz, nothing will happen until he plays again.

When might that happen? Nobody knows.

Sort of like the mystery surrounding this foul shot … it is rather inexplicable.

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Written by Chris Sheridan

Chris Sheridan is a veteran sports journalist who previously covered the NBA for ESPN. He worked for the Associated Press for 18 years, and also served as the 76ers beat writer for Sheridan is the host of Sports Betting Tips, a podcast covering all things gambling.


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