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Will Orlando find something magical in Markelle Fultz?

Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

Think back to June 22, 2017.

The inevitable became official around 7:35 p.m. when the 76ers selected Markelle Fultz with the first pick of the NBA draft.

There was no suspense. The Sixers had their sights set on drafting him for some time. It became a foregone conclusion that they would draft the former University of Washington point guard after moving up two spots and giving up a future draft pick in a trade two days earlier.

But the lack of suspense didn't take away from the excitement of Fultz's becoming the Sixers' second No. 1 pick in as many seasons and fourth overall, joining Ben Simmons (2016), Allen Iverson (1996), and Doug Collins (1973).

His eyes were red from shedding tears of joy as he addressed the media.

"I get a chance to take care of my family, and I get to do something a lot of kids want to do," Fultz said. "So ... like I say, I'm blessed."

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The organization felt just as blessed to select the Upper Marlboro, Md. native, regarded as the most complete player in the draft. Fultz was also the best option to pair with Simmons and Joel Embiid.

"Markelle is a tremendous athlete," former team president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said at the time. "He's a tremendous young man. I think he is going to fit the culture of this organization."

All the excitement surrounding that night, coupled with how his tenure concluded, makes this one of saddest stories in Philadelphia sports history. Fultz, who played in just 33 games for the Sixers, was shipped to the Orlando Magic at Thursday's trade deadline for Jonathon Simmons, a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2020 top-20 protected first-rounder.

That's far from the trade value one would expect for a guy who was once considered the final piece to The Process.

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