Philadelphia 76ers: Trading Markelle Fultz for Tyrese Maxey is insane value

The Philadelphia 76ers just turned one ‘missing piece’ guard into another.

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic for a top-20 protected first-round pick originally belonging to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was an incredibly underwhelming end to one of the more bizarre starts to an NBA career in recent memory.

From Bryan Colangelo getting fleeced by Danny Ainge in a trade-up that netted the Celtics Jayson Tatum, to the bizarre shoulder injury that cost him 100-plus games, and a reported trade request from none other than his mother, many a Sixers fan felt a genuine sense of relief when news broke that Fultz was heading to Orlando on a one-way ticket out of town.

… only, in a weird twist of fate, that wasn’t the end of it.

As it turns out, that heavily protected first-rounder did convey – thanks in no small part to an incredibly costly buzzer-beater by Mike Muscala – and the Sixers were able to land arguably the biggest steal in the entire 2020 class in Kentucky combo guard Tyrese Maxey.

Sidebar: Don’t feel too bad for the Thunder; they still had a first-round selection via the Lakers and have about 100 on deck over the next few years. They’ll be okay.

Yup, in a weird, roundabout sort of way, the Sixers landed Maxey for Fultz, and frankly, that’s borderline insane value for a deeply flawed player potentially on a short leash in Orlando.

Now to be completely fair, Fultz is not this horrible player on his way to an early NBA out before his 25th birthday. Even without a consistent outside shot, Fultz is a fast, ultra-athletic guard who has more triple-doubles to his name than the Sixers had playoff wins in 2020.

While few expect the Magic to build their entire future around Fultz moving forward, as they drafted Cole Anthony 15th overall for a reason, he will in all likelihood remain a rotational piece moving forward either in Orlando or elsewhere for a long time.

With that being said, Maxey, he is not.

At 20-years-old, Maxey is already an NBA-level rotational guard who can get his own shot, distribute to others, knock down an open 3 on the wings, and then play physical defense on the other end of the court.

Like Fultz, Maxey can play either backcourt position, cover either backcourt position, and is a natural fit next to Ben Simmons regardless of what position either player is technically assigned. The duo can operate together in a pick-and-roll, make moves off the ball to open up space, and even form a formidable full-court assault with either player capable of setting the other up for a monster slam dunk.

Yup, even at 6-foot-3, Maxey can still throw down the rock for a legit jam.

Though some will also compare Maxey to Fultz for his sub-30 3 point shooting percentage, that’s not really fair. Yes, Maxey wasn’t a statistically efficient shooter from deep in 2019-20, but his shot is pure, and with a few more good games, his average may have hovered right around the NBA’s average. Fultz, by contrast, is a flawed player with a wonky form that would take some serious offseason effort to get right. Not that it can’t happen, mind you, there have been players who fixed their shots and get decent at shooting with some work- see James, LeBron – but it’s anyone’s guess if Fultz will ever put that effort in.

Maxey, by contrast, spent his entire summer working on his game with Simmons, James, and Rajon Rondo in LA, so it’s pretty safe to say the Clutch Sports client isn’t an entitled guard simply coasting on his athleticism to get by.

You don’t get compared to Kyle Lowry, one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, without being an absolute dog on the defensive end of the court.

So yeah, in a weirdly serendipitous turn of events, the Philadelphia 76ers traded away one player who was supposed to be the missing piece in a homegrown Big 3 for another on a four-year rookie contract. If it works out and Tyrese Maxey does become the Sixers’ third All-Star, secondary ball-handler, and end of game closer, then that otherwise reactionary contract dumb may go down as one of the best trades in franchise history. But if it doesn’t, at least Daryl Morey tried to turn “garbage into gold”, as the great Marc Zumoff would say.