The Philadelphia 76ers need to start Markelle Fultz… wait, what?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

If the Philadelphia 76ers really want to add a ‘perimeter defender’ to their rotation, why not merely reincorporate Markelle Fultz back onto the court?

There has been a lot of discussion as to how much value Markelle Fultz can bring to the Philadelphia 76ers, with opinions varying all over the spectrum.

Some talent evaluators, like NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, believe that Kelle is an outright bust who couldn’t even garner his team a second round pick, while others, like The RingersKevin O’Connor, still think Fultz would be a top-10 selection if a re-draft were to be held today, as he still possesses the size, speed, and switchability that made him a scout’s darling back at Washington.

Both of these opinions have merit, but both are inherently biased. Why? Because Markelle Fultz’s value is subjective.

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Is there a team willing to take a flyer on Fultz in the hopes of turning the second-year guard’s career around? Sure, apparently the Detroit Pistons would love to do just that, but in their eyes, Fultz is not worth the 76ers reported asking price, a quality first-round pick according to the Philly Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey.

No, unfortunately for fans in Philly, the Sixers can’t call backsies and demand Jayson Tatum and the Sacramento Kings first round pick back from the Boston Celtics; Fultz’s value will almost certainly never be that high again. However, Fultz does inherently still have some value as a player when he’s actually on the court, even if Bryan Colangelo was sold a false bill of goods when he thought he’d stolen the next James Harden from a division rival.

Right now, Brett Brown‘s squad is in desperate need of a versatile wing defender. I know it, you know it, the other 29 teams in the NBA know it, and even Brown himself has admitted to this fact when asked how he’d like to fill the team’s 15th roster spot moving forward.

It’s the worst kept secret in the NBA.

Why can’t Fultz be that guy? Going into the season, the team gleefully boasted that Fultz might find his way onto an NBA All-Defense team based on the strides he’d made at that end of the court over the summer. While a shoulder injury can undoubtedly break down a shot, it shouldn’t affect a player’s ability to mirror opposing guards in coverage and contest shot attempts.

If the 76ers’ track record against the association’s elite guards over the past few months is of any indication, most notably Kyrie Irving‘s 40-point performance on Christmas day, I’d say Fultz’s defensive ingenuity could be worth a whole lot more to the team right now than a future protected first round pick; one that could very well transform into a pair of seconds if its conditions are not met.

Furthermore, by re-incorporating Fultz into Coach Brown’s defensive rotation, as a minutes-capped defensive stopper, it could help to ease his transition back into the game, and help to shore up his confidence down the stretch. After being the subject to hundreds of angry tweets, posts, and articles, Fultz should understandably be handled with care, and by easing him back into action as a role player, as opposed to a should-be star, it could make little victories feel all the more empowering.

With Landry Shamet, Furkan Korkmaz, and Shake Milton all essentially filling the same ‘Lil J.J. Redick‘ role coming off the bench for the Sixers, it would be refreshing to add a defensive stopper like Fultz, and eventually, Zhaire Smith to shut down opposing guards, and alleviate the defensive assignments of Jimmy Butler and the aforementioned Redick.

But that’s not all Fultz could bring to the table. By bringing him back into the fold, and maybe even inserting him into the starting five as a true facilitating point guard, albeit one on a minutes restriction, it would help to add parody to the Sixers’ entire roster.

Though it certainly wouldn’t happen every game, if the 76ers were to start Fultz at the one, and by extension Simmons at the four, it would allow Wilson Chandler to revert to a more appropriate role as a small forward off the bench, as opposed to his current position as an undersized four capable of getting his hands dirty, optimizing his style of play. This may should crazy, but Fultz is actually averaging more points a game this season (8.2) than Chandler’s 6.5, so his addition could serve as a pretty marked improvement for both units.

Fultz’s addition could also free up the team’s 15th roster spot to be used on an auxiliary sharpshooter capable of knocking down 3-point outlet passes from Simmons on a drive. While these 3-and-D wings are becoming more and more valuable, and by extension expensive, Fultz’s defensive acumen could allow the team to take a chance on a less dynamic scorer like, say, J.R. Smith, Troy Daniels, or even Carmelo Anthony (more on why that’s not a crazy idea here) and hold onto pivotal draft capital that would be required to facilitate a deal for a more ‘complete’ player.

Who knows, maybe the team could even use the spot on a big man like Dewayne Dedmon, or Robin Lopez, and give Embiid some help in the low post?

While the options really are endless, one thing is clear: Markelle Fultz’s value is greatest in a red, white and blue jersey.

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If Markelle Fultz can finally rejoin the team, now almost four weeks removed from his thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosis and give Brett Brown a plus-backcourt defender capable of complementing J.J. Redick in the starting five, it, maybe more so than any other move presently on the table, could help to transform the Philadelphia 76ers into a better all-around team; one that can score more points each night, while giving up fewer to opposing guards. That is how teams win basketball games, right?