The Sixers still believe in Markelle Fultz.
They've never publicly wavered in their support of last year's No. 1 overall pick, even throughout the mysterious saga involving his right shoulder injury and broken jump shot. And with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting Sunday that Fultz, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are off limits in trade talks for Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, it sounds like they're keeping their faith in Fultz.
Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer reported Thursday that the Sixers were batting around a combination of Dario Saric, Robert Covington and the Heat's unprotected 2021 first-round pick (see story). Fultz was conspicuously absent from that trade package, and he's apparently still not someone the Sixers are willing to part with.
There are compelling arguments to be made for making Fultz off limits, and for including him in trade discussions. On one hand, if Fultz would be the piece that seals a deal for Leonard, it would be tempting to include him. His future, especially his jumper, is still a major question mark, and he could help the Sixers land a known star (when healthy) in Leonard.
On the other hand, Fultz was the No. 1 pick for a reason, and he could still end up turning into a star. He's just 20 years old and he did show flashes, albeit very brief ones, of his handles, athleticism and explosiveness last season. If his offseason work with trainer Drew Hanlen helps him rediscover his shot, he could make a lot of the people who have written him off look pretty foolish.
It's also worth noting that Fultz's value might not be the highest in trade discussions given that the Spurs would be banking on the potential of someone who has only played 14 regular-season games.
As for Embiid and Simmons, it's obvious why they would be excluded from any trade. Those two are the kind of special talents you just can't afford to give up easily.
Saric and Covington are both valuable players for the Sixers, but it makes plenty of sense to include them in trade packages. While Saric's "glue-guy" qualities and improved long-range jumper are integral to the Sixers, he's never going to be a star. He's the kind of guy you unfortunately need to part with if you want someone like Leonard. Covington, though much-maligned, is a first team All-Defensive player and capable three-point shooter. However, Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. The Sixers likely wouldn't have much of a problem replacing Covington.
Especially given ESPN's Ian Begley's report Sunday that "there are several people with Philadelphia who feel confident that Leonard would strongly consider re-signing there next summer if they traded for him," it makes sense for the Sixers to pursue Leonard aggressively.
It appears that they're trying to do just that while still prioritizing their trust in Fultz.