In the recent offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers created enough salary cap space to sign two max free agents to pair with rising superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Unfortunately, they failed to acquire their top free agent targets: LeBron James and Paul George. James ended up joining the Los Angeles Lakers, while George re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 76ers may not have any luck in the 2018 NBA free agency, but they did obtain a legitimate NBA superstar, Jimmy Butler, in a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The “Big Three” of Butler, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid are expected to give the Sixers a strong chance to dominate the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference in the 2018-19 NBA season.
With the 76ers set to give Jimmy Butler max contract next summer, they no longer have the salary cap flexibility to chase another big name in the summer of 2019. However, according to Danny Leroux of The Athletic and reported by USA Today Sports’ Sixers Wire, the Sixers could create space for “max player” by trading Markelle Fultz.
“After acquiring Jimmy Butler in the regular season’s biggest blockbuster, Philadelphia does not actually have max space at the moment assuming Butler opts out and re-signs with the team. However, their $20 million in space could jump to about the necessary amount for a max player if they can find a taker for Markelle Fultz either before the trade deadline or next summer. Having that simple a path to a max slot makes the Sixers more appropriate in this group than the one for teams without the ability to sign a max player.”
— The Ringer (@ringer) December 28, 2018
Acquiring another superstar will legitimize the 76ers’ status as a title contender in the NBA. Adding the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker to the core of Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons will make the Sixers a huge headache to any powerhouse teams in the league, even to the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
As of now, Markelle Fultz remains on the sidelined and has already missed 16 games. However, there is growing optimism that he will join the 76ers’ lineup this season. Once he proves that he’s 100 percent healthy, rebuilding teams who are in dire need of a starting caliber point guard like the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns are expected to express interest in acquiring him from the Sixers. In the potential deal involving Fultz, the 76ers could demand an expiring contract and a future first-round pick.