Elton Brand: Jimmy Butler deal not a reflection on Markelle Fultz

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Sixers general manager Elton Brand said the club's trade for Jimmy Butler is not an indication that Philadelphia has lost faith in Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall draft pick from 2017.

"Not at all. It wasn't a changed view of Markelle's future. It was more of a changed view of being able to get a superstar right now and seeing where other teams were," Brand said Tuesday. "There are some really talented teams [in the Eastern Conference]. ... It was just a chance to have our team take another leap."

Brand didn't say so explicitly, but Butler's arrival likely will impact Fultz's role. The guard had started in the Sixers' first 15 games, but he may be removed from the starting lineup to make room for Butler.

"When you bring in a four-time All-Star like Jimmy Butler, there's going to be ripple effects on the entire roster," Brand said.

Butler expressed confidence in Fultz during his introductory news conference on Tuesday.

"He's a talented young player. From what I can tell, a lot of things [with Fultz] are mental," Butler said. "In this league, I think 90 percent of it is mental. If you think you can do something, you really can.

"I know how hard he works because I'm in L.A. [where Fultz] trains. [The people who train with Fultz] tell me how great he wants to be. As long as he goes hard and he's giving it all every day, the guy has my respect. I just want him to go out there, play hard, be who he is, stick to his strengths, and I know he's just going to thrive -- he's going to be successful."

Fultz's double-clutched free throw against the Miami Heat on Monday renewed the discussion among fans and media over his shooting form. Brand saw the shot but wasn't overly concerned by it.

"I've been seeing him work this summer, all this season, and he has times this season when something like [an unconventional missed shot] happens," Brand said. "But following that, he's shot it very well and it looked very fluid. He's going to have some ups and downs. He's going to have more ups than downs. You saw the talent level, in flashes; you saw how talented he is."

Fultz's shot has been closely watched since the beginning of his rookie season, when a shoulder injury impacted his form. He was limited to just 14 regular-season games last season because of the ailment, which confounded the Sixers.

While recovering from the initial right shoulder injury in October, Fultz was diagnosed with a scapular imbalance. The injury took longer to heal than initially expected. As late as last February, the guard was unable to shoot from beyond 15 feet with sound mechanics or rhythm.

Fultz said he felt fully healthy after spending the offseason working on his shot. Entering Wednesday's game against the Orlando Magic, the 20-year-old was shooting 41 percent from the field while taking nine shots per game in 24 minutes.

Brand, the first-year general manager, was asked on Tuesday if he felt Philadelphia was the best place for Fultz to develop. With Butler on the roster, there will be an increased expectation for the Sixers to win this season.

"I still think it's the best place for him to develop because we love him and we care," Brand said. "He's with us. He's a part of us. If he goes somewhere else, I don't know what that looks like. But for him to develop, it may be the best place for him still."

Brand added that he was proud of Fultz for the way he played after double-clutching the free throw against the Heat.

"It would have been concerning if he didn't come back and shoot three more shots and that they looked really fluid," he said. "I was actually proud that he came back, hit a shot and did what he did out there. Because he deals with a lot. He's 20 years old and very talented. It's my job to get the best out of him."

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