The Process Disciples: Fultz Injury, Embiid’s Struggles, and Trade Rumors

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Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid lays on the ground during the 76ers' game vs. Memphis. (via Sixers)

Just like every other edition of the Process Disciples this year, we’ve got some news that has a drastic impact on the whole season — Markelle Fultz has an actual injury (allegedly)! Fultz was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and will be reevaluated probably a million times throughout the season instead of just telling us he’s out for the season, but at least it’s not mental! We discuss the idea of doctors giving Fultz and his agent what they want to hear, some trade rumors, Joel Embiid’s rough stretch, and some shooting guard storylines in this week’s roundtable.

Joining us for today’s edition of Process Disciples are:

1. There have been rumors that the doctors gave Fultz and his camp what they want to hear with the diagnosis of TOS and a lot of people aren’t buying it. Do you think this could be true?

Rose: It’s tough because there have been instances in the past where players had this condition and it really does take this long to diagnose, but I wouldn’t put it past Fultz’s camp to do anything it takes to save face with such a bizarre situation. Ultimately I believe that Fultz does actually have TOS, especially after former NBA player Ben Uzoh, who went through this same injury, said he believed this was the case dating back to last summer league. Landry Fields, another former NBA player who dealt with this injury, described his experiences and it lines up almost exactly with what Fultz has been going through. It’s great to finally have a real diagnosis that seems to match up with what we’ve seen, but until we see the outcome, it’s really tough to be confident.

Anderson: Yes. The doctors never want to force a player out there that is uncomfortable with his own health. It’s taking entirely too long for this shoulder to come together and get almost back to normal, but it seems like it’s just going downhill from here. Fultz wants to get back on the court, but his free throws and jump shot HAVE to be somewhat accurate to where he’s comfortable enough to play like he did at the University of Washington. We know Fultz is going through PT and has to recover now, but sooner or later that time is going to run out and it may be time to ship him off somewhere else.

Mangigian: While I cannot put anything past Markelle Fultz’s camp, the diagnosis fits the symptoms like a glove. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is famous for how hard it is to diagnose. Do not listen to emotionally driven narratives, as all they have done is led us astray in the past with Fultz. We have identified his ailment, and now all we can do is pay attention to the rehabilitation process. Fultz clearly needs some better people around him, and possibly a new agent and lawyer (because somehow is agent is also his lawyer). The outlook for Fultz from a medical standpoint is starting to become clear, but his future as an NBA player is very much still in question. Time will tell.

2. Our own Brandon Robinson reported the possibility of a three-team trade with the Suns and Lakers in which the Sixers give up Markelle Fultz and Shake Milton and acquire Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a future first rounder. Thoughts?

Rose: This trade would be heartbreaking to me. If all you end up getting for the number one overall pick is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a first-round pick on a team with LeBron James on it, which will likely be in the 20s, I don’t see any reason to make the move. Also, I’m not ready to give up on Shake just yet. He hasn’t gotten a lot of run in the NBA, but he has killed it in his time in Delaware and would like to see him get more involved with the Sixers. It would be nice to get actual value for Fultz if they do decide to trade him even though it seems almost impossible at this point, and this rumor feels kind of insulting. I would LOVE the Sixers to be involved in a Trevor Ariza deal, but not one in which we give up on a player with a lot of potential and extremely low value for anyone besides him. Especially not one that helps the Lakers. No, thank you.

Anderson: I think the trade would benefit the Sixers more than anyone. The Fultz shoulder injury is becoming nothing but a distraction at this point with the Sixers being so patient with him, but maybe a fresh start somewhere else wouldn’t be so bad. Shake Milton has only played three games this season, too. The key to this deal is the future first rounder because with a nice draft class coming up, the Sixers could always use another first rounder. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is averaging only 8.6 points per game (the lowest average of his career), but another shooter on the outside can always benefit an organization like the Sixers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shoots the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mangigian: If it was my decision, I would not trade Fultz this season. His value now is at its lowest, and I might not be a business guru, but buying high in the draft, and selling low, sounds like a bad idea to me. If the situation with Fultz deteriorates any further, and the 76ers lose their chance to deal him at all, I would not lose sleep over missing out on KCP. Fultz has a chance to heal fully, and possibly come back to his old self, watching him do that somewhere else would make me sick. If Fultz can prove his shoulder ailment is gone and can begin to make progress in the right direction, then the possibility of trading him comes into the situation. As of right now, Fultz is damaged goods, and the 76ers should see this out. It really cannot get any worse, as many believe Fultz is already the biggest bust in NBA history. Trading someone at their lowest value is rarely a smart business decision.

3. Besides this past game against the Nets, Joel Embiid has been struggling a lot recently. Rest issue or Jimmy Butler fit issue? Neither?

Rose: The Internet is pretty impressive in its ability to remove context from any quote and add their own, and that’s exactly what they did by claiming Embiid’s comments about not liking how he’s been used were about Jimmy Butler. Like I said in my article about Joel Embiid’s rest being the team’s number one priority, Embiid is near the top of the league in minutes and minutes per game and this past week or so has displayed that to everyone. Unfortunately, the Sixers have shot themselves in the foot so many times this season in games like the Nets and Cavs losses that now, every win really matters and resting Embiid undoubtedly hurts the win column. I still think the team needs to suck it up and give him more rest even at the cost of a few losses because, with the way he’s playing now, he’s not really helping when he is out there. 7’2, 260 with an injury history isn’t exactly a good formula to play him ’til he dies. Hopefully, he gets some more rest and comes back with the explosiveness we saw early in the season.

76ers
Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler talk it out on the court. (via Getty Images)

Anderson: I believe it would have a little bit of a rest issue. Everyone hits a slump sometime during the season and the numbers show. Embiid is averaging 20 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the field, both lower than his averages in the month of October and November (27 points per game, 47 percent). Jimmy Butler came in and immediately impacted the team’s success, so it’ll still take time for the chemistry to get there. There should be no worries.

Mangigian: Joel Embiid is an enigma. Everyone gets drained from time to time, and that is what it looks like to me. Embiid and Butler, in my understanding, have no issues, and I do not think there is much to this. The 76ers have had a very busy start to the season and Embiid has had no minutes restriction, so he has earned the rest. As for his performance, everyone goes through a slump from time to time and Embiid is just reminding he is human. I would bet Embiid is back to MVP form very soon.

4. Did the Sixers make a mistake not picking up Furkan Korkmaz’s team option?

Rose: It was ridiculous to me how this organization declined his team option without even giving him an opportunity to play. We saw so many flashes of brilliance from him, like the Summer League 40-bomb he dropped on the Celtics, and he was a former first-round pick for a reason, yet the team didn’t even let him try to show his worth. Now, I’m not saying Furkan’s a world-beater or even projects to be a starter one day, and he still has his bad games more than his good games, but you can see something in his play that shows a worthwhile bench role and looks like a guy worth some effort in trying to develop. It won’t be the end of the world if we can’t retain him but I think he would be nice to have around for the foreseeable future.

Anderson: Yes. Furkan Korkmaz has proved he can be a quietly good player on this team. He can knock it down from the outside and had his highest game performance for this season against the Detroit Pistons with 18 points and 7 rebounds. The Sixers are good at building players as they grow over the years as we’ve seen with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Korkmaz is due to make a little over $1,700,000 this year and has given the Sixers probably more than they expected him to. They should keep him after this season.

Furkan Korkmaz rings the bell after the Sixers’ win against the Pistons. (via Sixers)

Mangigian: I see some serious potential in Korkmaz. I believe he could be a solid bench piece for the 76ers while he continues to develop as a pro. Furkan has shown flashes of what he is capable of at this level, and it has been another positive from the trade for Butler. Korkmaz has been making the most of his increased role since the departure of Covington and Saric, and I believe he will continue to earn more chances with the 76ers. The real test will be this postseason when Korkmaz will be asked to contribute in meaningful games against top teams. Philadelphia should retain Korkmaz for the foreseeable future.

5. Joel Embiid said that the Sixers “make every guard look like a freaking Hall of Famer.” How do they stop it?

Rose: None of the guards can play defense and it is absolutely killing the Sixers. Redick is burnt toast, Korkmaz definitely isn’t there yet, Shamet has shown promise but ultimately is a negative on that end, and TJ plays harder than anyone but his size and ability don’t pick up the slack. Fultz was supposed to be the long-armed guard with loads of tools to develop into a great defender, but he’s got other things to worry about. Simmons has shown that he can guard almost anyone at any position but he just can’t make up for how bad the wings are on that end. I really don’t know how they can stop it other than Zhaire Smith coming back and miraculously being ready to guard all opposing scorers, but Brett’s gotta pull something out of his hat and find a way to shut down the Spencer Dinwiddie’s of the world.


Anderson: The defense can get lazy out there. Other guards are making backdoor cuts and using screens right off shoulders which then makes the Sixers’ defense lazy with recovering. Instead of running right into the ball-screens, they must know personnel and either go over or under it and recover. Jimmy Butler is a versatile player on both sides of the floor and Joel Embiid is a decent rim protector, but more guards have to strap up their man and stay in front of them. If that can happen, their defensive struggles will decline.

Mangigian: I have always said that defense is almost entirely effort based in the NBA. If you have the conditioning to keep up with these guys, and the will to want to lock them down, then you will improve as a defender. In my eyes, the 76ers do not look motivated enough on defense. I believe this causes a lot of their large leads to disappear, as we have seen this season. Many players, like Dinwiddie, get going offensively when they get in a rhythm. The 76ers do not do enough to keep guys uncomfortable on defense. Brett Brown and the coaching staff have to do a better job motivating these guys on defense because these issues go deeper than scheme-related problems.

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