The Cleveland Cavaliers are arguably the NBA's worst team with a 4-15 record, and are going to be rebuilding for a number of years. That's usually what happens when you lose the best basketball player in the world, in LeBron James, via free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers.
That being said, the Cavs do have some nice young pieces, such as rookie guard Collin Sexton and wing Cedi Osman. Could the Philadelphia 76ers' Markelle Fultz be a young piece, too?
According to Sam Amico of Amico Hoops, the Sixers and Cavs are talking about a Fultz trade.
With Cleveland having veteran players such as Kyle Korver and George Hill to offer on the trade block before the February trade deadline, it makes sense that they would be interested in Fultz's potential. The 20-year-old has struggled mightily to begin his NBA career due to a reported rough shoulder injury dating back to last year.
Plus, a reported wrist injury has made Fultz's shooting form even more broken, per The Athletic's Jared Weiss, Derek Bodner, and Sam Amick. In that report, it was noted that Fultz would prefer a fresh start with a new team, and then that was then denied by his representation, Raymond Brothers.
With the 76ers recently trading for star Jimmy Butler, too, Fultz's spot on the 76ers is now likely going to be slim to none. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (h/t SB Nation's Kristian Winfield) recently reported that Fultz is “no longer in the franchise's long-term plans.”
With that report, here's five reasons why the Cavs should trade for Fultz.
5. Fultz is just 20 years old
The Cavaliers need to keep investing in younger players in the coming years. Cleveland has Sexton, Osman, and Larry Nance Jr. around for the foreseeable future. As far as core pieces aside from those three, potentially Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, and Kevin Love project as other key contributors. Thompson will be 28 next year, Hood will be 27, and Love will be 31; so adding Fultz's youth is huge for a player needing to play big minutes.
It's unclear as to whether or not the Cavs will keep Jordan Clarkson and David Nwaba around long-term, considering Clarkson is making over $13.4 million next season (per Spotrac) and is expiring after that, and Nwaba, who is not much of a shooter, is expiring after this season. Clarkson would likely cut into Fultz's playing time considerably, but Nwaba could be a nice defensive piece for the near future, though as Fultz's backup, as he's already shown.
The Cavs need to find a way to move Korver, Hill, and J.R. Smith, who “will no longer be actively with the Cavs,” per The Athletic's Joe Vardon.
Those players all do not have fully-guaranteed contracts for the 2019-20 season, and given that, especially with a third team maybe involved, Cleveland could trade for Fultz. The Sixers need perimeter shooting, and both Korver and Smith are 43.1 percent and 37.3 percent three-point shooters for their career.
Fultz has a world of potential as a combo guard in the NBA, too, which could eventually be a perfect fit for the rebuilding Cavs' situation.
4. A huge playmaking ceiling
The Cavs are not a team that has a plethora of playmakers that can consistently make things happen for themselves and their teammates. Sexton is an obvious playmaking choice for the future, as he has 14.4 points on 52.8 percent true shooting and 2.5 assists per game. Osman (11.7 points on 48.8 percent true shooting and 2.5 assists per game), and Love also project as primary offensive options in the future.
On the year, only six NBA teams have a lower true shooting percentage than Cleveland, and only the New York Knicks are averaging less assists per game, per NBA.com. In one college season at the University of Washington, Fultz displayed why he was drafted first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, as he had 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Obviously, Fultz's broken jumper and free throw line disaster has to have NBA front office personnel beyond confused right now as to what his career outlook projects to be, but the Cavs should bet on what he could become. This healthy version of Fultz at Washington was pretty good and had NBA scouts frothing at the mouth.
Let's not dismiss his defensive potential, either.
3. Fultz's defensive potential
When engaged, Fultz can be a plus defender on the perimeter. He is very athletic, and is more than capable of playing defense at a high level against opposing point guards and shooting guards, and in spots, could hold his own against some small forwards. His 6-foot-9 wingspan should enable him to recover well on closeouts, and with more experience, his off-ball defense should drastically improve.
At Washington, Fultz averaged a respectable 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes, according to Sports Reference. His length, athleticism, and ability to score in transition at the rim when healthy could make for a nice defender on the wing alongside Osman and Nance and Thompson on the interior.
As Marcus Grey of FanSided's King James Gospel mentioned recently, playing in “a smaller market” in Cleveland could help Fultz, too.
2. No pressure in Cleveland
Playing as a former number one overall pick is never going to be an easy scenario, let alone in a major media market. Playing for the Sixers in Philly, Fultz will always be in the limelight. It's understandable for that to take its toll on a 20-year-old, and especially one that has had his unfortunate injury problems to begin his career.
The Cavs are not going to be a contender again for a number of years, and with that being the case, Fultz could focus on getting healthy and be able to progress slower. On the Sixers, the expectations were so high early on, and with how its transpired, the pressure won't be alleviated by any means.
Lastly, with Rodney Hood going to be warranting a potentially big contract next summer as an unrestricted free agent and going into his age-27 season next year, Fultz could provide a younger option as a possible starting shooting guard.
1. Potential Hood financial obligation and inconsistency
Hood has had some really good games for the Cavs and is averaging 13.5 points on a 55.2 percent true shooting clip. Although he is attempting a career-low 3.1 three-pointers per game, he is shooting what would be a career-best 42.4 percent, per NBA.com.
That being said, Hood still has games where he seems to take a back seat, and with the Cavs rebuilding anyhow these next few years, Fultz could provide a much younger player that has a much higher ceiling than Hood. Ideally, Hood would stick around and accept a bench scoring role similar to Clarkson's now, with Fultz as an eventual starter.
That's probably beyond wishful thinking, though. A Fultz trade opportunity could mean Hood is an odd man out. Nwaba could theoretically backup Fultz in the future and provide better defense than Hood after Fultz gets healthier, and Nwaba does not need the ball in his hands much to have a positive impact.
Hood is not the same way.