To say that Markelle Fultz had a rocky year as last year’s first overall draft pick is an understatement. As a rookie for the Philadelphia 76ers, the former University of Washington star freshman played only 14 games due to a nagging shoulder injury that seriously compromised his shooting form. While the Sixers have maintained that Fultz will remain a key part of team’s young nucleus alongside the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, new rumors suggest that the team might have been willing to trade him during Thursday’s NBA Draft in an attempt to secure a top-five pick.
Writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, Keith Pompey looked back on Markelle Fultz’s rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers, where his injuries turned him into a “sharp-shooting guard who’s forgotten how to shoot.” He noted that Fultz’s stock had dropped due to his unremarkable, injury-riddled rookie season, thereby reducing his value as trade bait. But even with team officials insisting that they have no plans to ship the 20-year-old guard elsewhere, Pompey cited a report that claimed the Sixers had some “internal discussions” about packaging Fultz along with the No. 10 and 26 selections in the 2018 NBA Draft so that Philadelphia could move into the top five.
Instead of trading Fultz to secure a top-five pick, the Philadelphia 76ers instead drafted Villanova forward Mikal Bridges at No. 10, then sent him to the Phoenix Suns in a draft day deal that landed them Texas Tech shooting guard Zhaire Smith, who was picked 16th overall. The Sixers then drafted another guard, Wichita State’s Landry Shamet, at No. 26.
Commenting on the Markelle Fultz trade rumor, CBS Sports wrote that the report came as a surprise, though it was one that made a bit of sense, considering how he didn’t live up to expectations as a rookie. The publication also speculated that Philadelphia might have had an “extremely high” asking price in exchange for Fultz, given his status as a recent first overall draft selection.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Pompey also noted that Fultz is currently in Los Angeles, where he is working with shooting coach Drew Hanlen in hopes of regaining his old shooting form. The young guard is reportedly limited to “foundational-type” shooting drills at the moment, though as far as the reason for his rookie struggles is concerned, Hanlen told the Inquirer that Fultz did indeed appear to have the “yips,” or a case of nerves, during his rookie year, with other sources likewise insisting that his problems were more of a mental nature, as opposed to being injury-related.