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Did the Sixers give up on Markelle Fultz too early?

Markelle Fultz

Back in 2017, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the No. 1 overall pick in a trade with the Boston Celtics, sending the third overall selection and a future draft pick to the Celtics in return.

At that time, the general consensus was that Markelle Fultz was the best player in what was considered a pretty loaded draft that included high-profile names like Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson.

But Fultz was a step ahead of the rest. Or so many thought.

The 76ers ultimately took Fultz with the top pick that year, adding him to a growing stable of young talent that featured Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Fultz was supposed to comprise sort of a “Big Three” with Embiid and Simmons, as he was a dynamic collegiate scorer who seemed to possess good versatility on both ends of the floor.

Of course, a mysterious shoulder injury limited Fultz to just 14 games during his rookie campaign, and last year, he appeared in just 19 contests before Philadelphia basically dumped him on the Orlando Magic last February.

Now, Fultz will get the chance to exact some revenge on the franchise that gave up on him after just a year-and-a-half, as the Magic will take on the Sixers on Wednesday night.

The question is, did the 76ers give up on Fultz too early?

It’s hard to say.

In 10 games with Orlando this season, Fultz is averaging 9.7 points, 3.1 assists, two rebounds and 1.3 steals over 23.5 minutes per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, 18.2 percent from three-point range and 78.6 percent from the free-throw line.

Obviously, Fultz is still having some difficulty shooting the basketball, which was one of the primary reasons Philly decided to end the Fultz project. But, at the very least, he doesn’t look completely inept from the charity stripe, and he is making some plays defensively.

Albeit, it is a very small sample size, and I think just about every one of us can agree that Fultz will never live up to his initial hype when he was drafted first overall, but he is just 21 years old, so perhaps he can develop into a decent role player?

One thing of note is that Fultz is making 56.3 percent of his two-point shots thus far in 2019-20. In limited action in two seasons with the 76ers, the University of Washington product shot 40.9 percent and 43.3 percent inside the arc, respectively.

So, early on, he has shown noticeable improvement, and his plus-10.2 net rating indicates that he is absolutely having a positive effect on the Magic when is on the floor.

Again, small sample size and everything, but Fultz never had this type of impact at any point during his brief time with Philadelphia.

We are still largely in wait-and-see mode to determine just how good the Sixers’ front office really is, so it hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt yet, nor has it given us reason to lambaste it.

But for a team that clearly lacks depth and didn’t really do anything to replace what Fultz was expected to give it, you do have to wonder if the 76ers set sail on Fultz too abruptly.