It was reported earlier this week that Markelle Fultz is no longer in the Sixers’ long-term plans. The former number one overall pick somehow losing his shot between the NBA Draft podium and suiting up for the Sixers, with shoulder issues part of the problem. As Philly tires of the drama that surrounds him and prepares to compete in the East, they are apparently ready to move on.
Which brings us to the Knicks. Always looking to capitalize on buy-low situations, should they consider making a move for the once promising guard?
Let’s start from a cap perspective. Does a trade for Fultz make sense given the Knicks plans to pursue a max free agent in 2019?
While Fultz is still on a rookie scale contract, don’t let that fool you into thinking he isn’t making a decent amount of money. As a former number one overall pick, his rookie scale is the highest amount from his draft class. He is due to make $8.3 million this season and $9.7 million next season, before a team option kicks in.
With the Sixers looking to have as much cap space as possible to re-sign Jimmy Butler and keep their young core in place, it would seem that both moving on from Fultz and clearing future cap space would be their main goals in trading the young guard. Because of this and the uncertainty surrounding his potential, Fultz’s trade value is probably not very high, as Keith Pompey from the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
If the 76ers have tired of this saga and are considering trading Fultz, and multiple sources said they are, his trade value must have declined a great deal since the start of the season.
Since the Knicks are a non-taxpaying team, they are able to accept an incoming salary that is as much as $5 million more than what they send out. This means the Knicks could trade as little as $3.3 million in a deal for Fultz, which gives them the flexibility to move a low cost piece if Philadelphia isn’t interested in taking back a salary like Courtney Lee’s. Of course, this would add salary to the Knicks books in 2019, so it would have to be the right deal for the Knicks to consider that.
Looking at it from the other side of the coin, the Sixers are also a non-taxpaying team so they can also accept as much as $5 million in additional salary in a trade, so the Knicks could send Courtney Lee’s $12.2 million to Philly for Fultz. New York, who is about $6.5 million short of max space for Kevin Durant next summer (see my assumptions for this projection), would then gain roughly $3 million in cap space in 2019.
The Knicks should absolutely consider trading for Fultz. He is 16 months removed from being a prospect who would have easily gone in the top 5 of any NBA draft over the last 5 years. Coach Fiz has shown an ability to get struggling players like Emmanuel Mudiay to play the best ball of their careers. It’s a lot of upside to try to unlock.
Like New York, Philly would probably want expiring contracts to increase their spend this summer; that’s why they shot down any reported interest in Lee months ago, per Keith Pompey. But they just might settle for a package that costs them space if they felt it moved the needle in their quest to win the east.
In that second scenario, discovering if Elton Brand believes that Tim Hardaway Jr. could be that piece is worth a shot. A deal centered around Hardaway Jr. for Fultz and Mike Muscala’s expiring contract would allow the Knicks to create more than enough space to take on Fultz while simultaneously creating room to sign KD. A dream scenario.
There is a very low chance that Philly believes Hardaway increases their title odds enough to justify the resulting loss of cap space. (If they simply traded Fultz for an expiring contract and late pick they could resign Jimmy Butler and also create up to ~$33m in additional room and compete with New York as buyers this July). It’s hard to imagine them loving Hardaway that much and it may require a bit more. But either way this dream scenario is worth a call from the Knicks.
I think the Knicks should steer clear of Fultz. This team has got a great thing going with the culture they are cultivating under David Fizdale and the duo of Scott Perry and Steve Mills. While Fultz is undoubtedly an intriguing project, he has also looked completely lost out there most of the time, both literally and figuratively. He is surrounded by drama and negative media aura. Personally, I don’t see taking him on worth the circus he would attract, in addition to the playing time he’d take from the other young guards the Knicks are doing a nice job developing.
Should the Knicks consider trading for Fultz?
Of course they should. I’ll take it a step further and say they should actively pursue him.
The stipulations: No Frank, No Mitch, No Kev, No ‘19 pick.
As long as the Knicks avoid taking on an added contract in the deal, I don’t see a downside. What I do see, though, is potential for the sort of opportunistic move that accelerates rebuilds. If Fizdale can work his wonders with Mudiay and Burke, imagine what he could do with a 20-year-old consensus #1 pick whose under team control for another three years?
Yes, I’d trade for Fultz. He’s in a no-win position in Philadelphia and New York will allow him to reset his young career. He’ll be able to ease some of the pressure mounted on him with being the #1 overall pick by being in an environment that emphasizes development and patience. Fultz has the tools already to be an above average defender. The only thing missing is confidence on offense. He did show glimpses of his potential last season. If Fizdale and the Knicks developmental group can fix Mudiay and revitalize Burke, they should be able to work with Fultz. Fultz has better tools than both of those players and can be a great complementary weapon to add alongside Frank Ntilikina, both on offense and defense.
So, should we trade for Fultz? Not right now. Maybe I’m caught up in the moment of the 3-game winning streak and the overall play of the boys since the beginning of the season, but there’s no way I’m trading for Fultz, period. The man can’t even shoot a free throw right now. Believe me, when he was coming out of Washington, I was one of Fultz’s biggest fans, but he just isn’t worth it right now.
Even if he’s two seasons removed from being “right”, would the wait be worth it? At what cost? Frank? Our best defender with all-defensive team talent? I honestly wouldn’t even involve Vonleh in a trade for him. His energy and all around game on the court is what I would rather watch on a nightly basis. Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas are possible trade chips, but it’s uncertain how high other teams value each player, plus their veteran presence on the team has been lauded and praised by teammates and Coach Fizdale.
There isn’t one scenario that would make me remotely interested in a trade for Fultz, If it’s a trade involving the Warriors and KD and we won’t have to wait until July, then we can talk. Kidding. I really do wish Fultz much success , but he’s still going through “The Process” and he can continue to do it on a team not named the Knicks.
On the surface, it seems like the perfect lottery ticket. I forget who said it, but on one of the 2017 pre-draft podcasts, a respectable analyst referred to Fultz as the guard version of Karl-Anthony Towns, just in terms of how safe a pick he was. Somewhere, beneath layers and layers of physical, mental and emotional scarring, that player is still in there.
For New York, if they get that guy, it’s a potentially franchise altering move. The issue is this: if the Sixers – a damn smart organization – are ready to sell him for relative pennies on the dollar, why in the world should anyone believe that that player is still in there? If it’s essentially a straight up swap for Courtney Lee? I guess you’d have to. That said, if Lee comes back and looks healthy for a few games, you could easily argue that his 2019-20 salary is easier to move than Fultz’ would be come July.
If the Knicks had to throw in one of the juicy 2nd’s they got from Charlotte in the Willy trade? It might be a deal breaker for me.
My main issue, though, is this: can you imagine the scrutiny Fultz would be under in New York? Even if they hid him in Westchester, the minute he scored 20 points, it would be “Is Fultz the Knicks new point guard of the future?” and “Fultz languishes while the Knicks wilt in the Garden.” If he was with the big club every day? Forget it. I’m sorry … I don’t need it. I just don’t. Right now, the good ship lollipop is happily sailing along. Forgive me for being the wet blanket, but I think I’d like to just keep going in the direction we’re headed and not pick up any stragglers along the way.
I’m 100% in on trading for Fultz, IF the Knicks are not giving up any real asset (meaning, no core player). Hell, I’d put anyone on the table outside of Frank, KP, Trier, Knox, and Dot.
From a talent perspective, if Fultz gets his shot back, he’s a perfect fit next to Frank. People forget that he was a legit 3-level scorer on and off the ball at Washington. 87th percentile overall (possessions + assists), 93rd as PnR scorer, 73rd as a PnR passer, 71st on all jumpers, 63rd around basket, 70 catch and shoot, 88th on off dribble jumpers, and was a 67+ percentile shooter on jumpers from everywhere on the court.
He was a hell of an offensive weapon and his biggest question mark was his defense, which has actually been good this year (with a few bizarre mistakes here and there) – credit to Coach Brown for making Simmons and Fultz, two mediocre at best college defenders, into legitimately good NBA ones. Basically, from a talent perspective, he’d be an awesome fit next to the core + whoever the Knicks pick this year.
***I will also add that someone who told me that Burke to NY would happen months before it happened also told me that KD to NY is really in the cards. I’m not going to go into detail why (there are many working pieces from KD’s perspective), or who my source was, but he was spot on in the past and I do trust him.***
If Fultz doesn’t get back his Washington form, the Knicks could cut bait with him after the 2019-20 season. The way I see it, there is a very minimal risk and a massive reward (even if there is a small chance of that reward being found).
Let us know what you think below!