Philadelphia 76ers: Bill Simmons predicted the perfect Markelle Fultz trade

(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) /

Back in November, Bill Simmons suggested that the Philadelphia 76ers should trade Markelle Fultz for Antonio Blakeney and a pick. It turns out he was right.

At this point, Markelle Fultz is a sunk cost.

Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers traded a pair of first-round picks to procure the Upper Marlboro native by way of the Washington combo guard first overall above Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and De’Aaron Fox, but they aren’t getting those picks back no matter what.

At this point, Philly needs bodies who are either going to be off the books next year or on cost-controlled deals moving forward, as this team is about to get expensive.

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According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers are ‘budgeting to re-sign‘ both Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler to extensions this summer to cement their Big-4 (plus J.J. Redick) long-term, and that’s an expensive proposition. While the front office can’t go all in and offer the duo full-on max contracts, as a team can’t sign four players to such a deal, they will in all likelihood try to secure the duo for $20-plus million (each) a year moving forward.

That kind of bill will all but guarantee a cheap bench filled with draft picks and veteran minimum deals for the foreseeable future.

However, there’s one big issue that could halt the team’s plans: a $9.75 million issue to be exact.

As fans in the 215 already know, Fultz hasn’t played a game of consequence since mid-November, but currently has the fifth highest price tag on the team; higher than the likes of Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, and even Ben Simmons.

That is not good.

To keep their options open, the 76ers need to cash in on Fultz’s value now, whatever that may be, to both bolster their playoff chances and set the team up for a pivotal free agency period if for nothing else than to get his money off the books.

But who should the 76ers trade Fultz for? There doesn’t seem to be a huge market for the young guard, but a few teams have emerged and have engaged with Elton Brand on a buy-low deal.

Would the team be willing to flip Fultz for 30 games of Terrence Ross? What about a guard like Jeremy Lin from Atlanta?

Well, it turns out Bill Simmons perfectly answered this question back in November, way before any of these new developments, well, developed.

On the fateful episode of his namesake podcast ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’, Simmons (jokingly) suggested that the Sixers should trade Fultz to the Chicago Bulls for Antonio Blakeney and a second round pick, and honestly, he was right.

That is the trade.

I know, crazy right? The Sixers would never flip a former first overall pick for a guy who wasn’t even selected in the very same NBA Draft, right?

Well, think about it for a second.

The 76ers need young shooters, especially after saying goodbye to Landry Shamet in the Harris-trade. As things presently stand, Blakeney has the best 3-point shooting percentage in the entire league by a player under the age of 22, and the 12th best mark in the league overall. Sure, he’s only taken 70 3s in 40 games this season, 175 less than Shamet, but he’s made 30 of them, 67 less than Shamet (in 14 more games).

Those numbers, when spread out over 36 minutes look pretty good at 19.3 points on 4.4 3 point attempts a game.

Blakeney is shooting very well this season, and he’s doing so while paired with some less than desirable point guards in the Bulls’ backcourt like Kris Dunn, and Ryan Arcidiacono, neither of whom are averaging more than 6.5 assists a game. If you pair Blakney with a certified magician like Ben Simmons, who knows, it could be magical (I’m sorry).

Oh yeah, and speaking of Blakney, he just so happens to have history with Simmons.

Blakney and Simmons were teammates back at LSU during the 2016-17 NCAA season. Was the team great? No, they didn’t even make March Madness, but the duo spent 33 games together, and that means something in the modern NBA.

Because of the current one-and-done culture, players seldom have an opportunity to team up with their college teammates in the League. Though Simmons and Blakney don’t appear to be best friend or anything, they do understand what the other wants on the court, and could help to smooth out a mid-season move that may otherwise be jarring for a 22-year-old guard.

Simmons presence could help to make Blakney an instant replacement for Shamet as a backup two guard, where he could learn from Redick for the better part of two seasons.

Keyword: Two.

That’s right, maybe the single most tantalizing reason why trading Fultz for Blakney makes oh so much sense isn’t his shooting percentages, or his chemistry with Simmons, but his contract.

After working his way up from undrafted free agent, to a two-way player, to the G-League’s 2018 Rookie of the Year, the Bulls rewarded Blakeney with a two-year contract worth $2.9 million just before the team’s opening night game against the 76ers.

Yes, you read that right. Blakney will earn $1.4 million this season and is slated to receive a slight pay bump to $1.5 million for next season, making the former LSU Tiger one of the best values in the entire league (literally). With Philly all but guaranteed to be on the hook for upwards of $75 million just to pay their Big-4 next fall, getting quality reserve minutes out of a guy like Blakney for less than $2 million is an absolute boon.

Worst case scenario he doesn’t pan out, and Philly is on the hook for about $2 million, a quarter of what Fultz will make this year alone. However, if Blakney does develop into a Shamet-esque reserve, not only will Philly have secured an absolute financial steal for 100-plus games, but they will have done so while securing the rights to negotiate his next deal in restricted free agency.

That is valuable.

Now granted, the 76ers can’t just swap Fultz for Blakney (and a second) straight up, as the money doesn’t work, but the team could make a deal work by flipping Markelle and another player (Furkan Korkmaz, Justin Patton, or Amir Johnson) to the Bulls for Blakney and Robin Lopez(‘s contract). While Lopez is far from a necessity after adding Marjanovic via the Clippers trade, his contract expires at the season’s end, and he could even be re-routed to another team if such an opportunity would present itself later in the day (that’s a bit too complicated for this article).

Next. 3 potential deadline trades to fix the Sixers' bench. dark

But really, this deal would live or die based on what Blakney brings to the table; He’s a shooter, with experience playing alongside one of the team’s proven stars, on a crazy cheap deal. Does he have Fultz’s potential? No, but his floor is already light-years higher than the former first overall pick, and that means a lot to a team firmly in win-now mode. Bill Simmons, you were right.