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“I felt like we had given up on him too early” - Joel Embiid explains why he was disappointed when the 76ers traded Markelle Fultz

By Orel Dizon,


The Sixers had to do the trade to get rid of the drama surrounding the 2017 No. 1 pick and focus on a title run.
Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz

© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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The Markelle Fultz experiment might have ended too early for the Philadelphia 76ers, as the team opted to deal him away less than two years after drafting him with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The injury-prone point guard appeared in just 33 regular season games in a Sixers uniform.

After facing his former teammate on Monday, Joel Embiid said he was "disappointed" about the trade that sent Fultz to the Orlando Magic.

Why did the Sixers do it?

While some franchises would have practiced more patience with such a promising prospect, the 76ers likely didn't feel it had the luxury to wait for Fultz to overcome his health issues and develop into at least a serviceable role player.

In the 2018-19 season, the team, led by a Big 3 of Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler, was one of the top contenders for the title. As such, they prioritized wins over developing players. And because the University of Washington product couldn't get back on the court—when he finally did, he played poorly—the drama had become too much of a distraction for the organization.

As a result, the front office sent Fultz to the Orlando Magic for Jonathon Simmons and a couple of draft picks.

How has it turned out for the involved parties?

It's understandable that Embiid thought negatively of the trade then.

Fultz did show potential to become a great floor general thanks to his athleticism and in spite of his shooting issues. However, the move allowed Philadelphia to focus on the process of fighting for the championship. If it weren't for a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference second-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors, Embiid and the Sixers might be champions now.

Furthermore, the 6-foot-4 has yet to prove that he can remain healthy. After playing a surprising 72 games in the 2019-20 campaign, Fultz appeared in a combined 21 contests in the following two seasons. This season, however, he suited up for 30 consecutive games, averaging 12.1 points and 5.7 assists per game on a 49.0% shooting clip.

Maybe Embiid is fine with the decision now, more so with the benefit of hindsight. It should also be noted that one of the picks Philadelphia landed in the Fultz deal was eventually used on Tyrese Maxey, who is scoring 20.6 points per game in the 2022-23 season. So, all's well that ends well for the Sixers.

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