Without Colangelo, Markelle Fultz may become expendable
Before I go any further, I just want to preface this by stating that I have the utmost respect for Markelle Fultz as a basketball player and a corner piece for the Sixers' future moving forward. I do believe that his career will pan out, showing the world why the Sixers used their No. 1 pick in 2017 on him. Even though he struggled to prove anything worthwhile all while forgetting how to shoot the basketball, he still projects nicely for what the Sixers are trying to accomplish as a team.
That being said, Markelle Fultz is in a peculiar situation now than he was just a few weeks ago.
Interestingly enough, Fultz was Bryan Colangelo's draft pick last season, a pick that many believed would solidify Colangelo's career as a general manager in the NBA and define his tenure as a league executive. At first, that was true, but it didn't take long for the perception of Fultz to deteriorate due to his injured shoulder, whether it was physical or mental. And when the perception of Fultz started to deteriorate as last season progressed, so did Colangelo's reputation.
Colangelo never really gained the approval of Sixers fans during his tenure, even when his decisions and discussion surrounding the GM plateaued during the season following a raucous January-May 2017 with the Nerlens Noel trade and the handling of the Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons injuries.
For Colangelo, the success of how Fultz was going to turn out, in the end, would have ultimately dictated his legacy as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. Now, in June 2018, that luxury is gone and the only thing deciding Colangelo's legacy as a general manager in the NBA is a scandal surrounding his wife and five burner Twitter accounts.
The thing about many of the Sixers key players, especially those of which that were acquired through the draft, they all have an association with a former general manager. Many current Sixers could call Sam Hinkie responsible for bringing them to Philadelphia, while just one currently in Fultz can be attributed to Bryan Colangelo. Still, the Sixers obtained the No. 3 selection in last year's draft because of the pick swap with the Sacramento Kings because of Hinkie's trade, but Fultz will always be Colangelo's own draft pick.
You could always tell Colangelo felt a little different towards Fultz than he did towards other Sixers players whether it be Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. At the end of the day, he's responsible for Fultz because of his desire to trade up to get him. In all of his press conferences, even though there was always a great unknown of his progress, Colangelo always stood up for Fultz, no matter how strange it felt. As a general manager, you will always feel a sense of connection to the players you bring in from the draft or through a trade you executed. That's just how it ends up being.
The most interesting part about Colangelo's thought process on initially drafting Fultz right now, is that it has been reported that Sixers' ownership wasn't too happy that Colangelo was going to draft Fultz in the first place. If that's the case, that could change a lot of minds about what could potentially happen to Fultz after this summer.
For the Sixers' point guard, this season will bring a lot of pressure to the 20-year-old to live up to his No. 1 pick potential. Last season was a wash, so for 2018-19, it's almost a completely blank slate.
Right now, with Bryan Colangelo out of the picture, Fultz still has favor with his head coach Brett Brown. That much is certain. When the Sixers decide to remove the 'interim GM' title off of Brown and bring in fresh blood to the organization, all bets are off. Like Colangelo did to make his own moves and bring in his own players, the new general manager will do the same. If that includes trading away a struggling Markelle Fultz as an asset, then that's what they will end up doing.
To sum it up, the pressure to succeed in his sophomore season is on for Markelle Fultz. He doesn't have the luxury of having his own personal general manager anymore to back him up and nurture him any longer. A new general manager might actually be the best possible move in this present moment for rejuvenating Fultz's young career, poising him for a breakout season next year.
Josh Liddick is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and Sixers managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshLiddickTalk.