If Markelle Fultz starts, who moves to the bench?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 26: Head coach Brett Brown, Dario Saric
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 26: Head coach Brett Brown, Dario Saric /

 Markelle Fultz might end up in the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting rotation at some point this season. If that’s the case, who would most likely get moved to the bench?

There is no doubt that the biggest story line heading into the 2018-19 season for the Philadelphia 76ers is the development of Markelle Fultz. Coming off arguably the strangest season for any pro athlete in recent memory, there is a major buzz building around the prospects of Markelle having a major bounce-back year. Not only has he reportedly completely rebuilt his jump shot, but he has refined every other aspect of his game and is now a vastly improved player overall.

A revamped Markelle Fultz is huge for this team. The point of drafting him in the first place was because he was seen as this squad’s missing piece: an athletic, playmaking comboguard who can create his own offense and score in a multitude of ways that can act as an ideal complement to the dynamic duo that is Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

While he still put some of those attributes on display this past season despite the broken jumper, his shooting ability from the guard position was ultimately what made him a perfect fit on this team. Now that it appears he’s back to form, all signs point to Fultz entering the starting rotation this season.

More from Sixers News

Obviously, it would be unreasonable to expect Fultz to earn a starting job right away, though. Even if he lights it up in the preseason, there’s no doubt that he will start the season as a reserve. He’ll still play a significant amount of minutes, but he’s going to have to prove himself if he wants to earn starter-type playing time. And if he does, Brett Brown just might have no choice but to insert him into the starting rotation.

If that ends up being the case, adjustments will obviously have to be made. Breaking up a Simmons-Embiid-Saric-Redick-Covington lineup will be difficult, being that it was one of the most effective five-man lineups in the entire league this past season. But if Markelle turns out to be what the Sixers thought they drafted, he could seriously elevate the starting unit to another level.

So who would you relegate to the bench?

Simmons and Embiid are clearly untouchable. You would have to be psychotic to think otherwise.

The anti-Covington clique will argue that it should be RoCo who gets moved to the bench, but contrary to their belief, Covington has way too much value. He is arguably this team’s best perimeter defender and one could make the case he’s their most valuable defensive asset thanks to his overall versatility. And he’s proven to be a major threat from beyond the arc. Yeah he might not have had the best series against Boston, but one bad showing shouldn’t hide the fact that Cov is a very vital piece of this lineup’s identity, and therefore shouldn’t be benched.

So it’s down to two: J.J. Redick and Dario Saric.

The obvious case for taking Redick out of the rotation would be his perceived deficiencies on defense. And yeah this was exposed a bit in the Boston series, but the fact of the matter is J.J. is way too much of a versatile threat offensively to take him out of the starting rotation.

He’s through and through the best shooter on the team, and at times seemed like the number one option on offense (second on team in scoring last season (17.1 PPG on 46 percentshooting from the field, 42 percent from three)). His skill set is somewhat limited, but he still makes too substantial of an impact to take out of the starting rotation.

You’ve probably figured out by now where I’m going with this, and it honestly pains me to go this route. But if Markelle becomes a starter, Dario will probably be the odd man out.

Is Simmons set to become the best PG in the East?. light. Hot

I want to be clear: I am not anti-Dario.

I repeat: I am not anti-Dario.

I don’t think anyone expected him to have the season that he did. He took tremendous strides in his playmaking ability and especially his perimeter shooting (three-point percentage jumped from 31.1 percent in ’16-17 to 39.3 percent in ’17-18), and in my opinion is still the most painfully underrated player in the NBA.

But moving Dario to the bench could actually open up a number of opportunities for this team. For one, replacing Dario with Markelle (albeit he’s back to form) immediately makes the starting lineup much more athletic.

It would also benefit the play of other Sixers, namely, as detailed by our friends over at Liberty Ballers, Robert Covington, who would benefit from being defended by the less-agile players on other teams who normally would be guarding Dario. And most importantly, it would allow the second unit to run the offense through Dario, furthering the development of his overall game and giving him the opportunity to absolutely eat up opposing bench units.

Now there is reason to be hesitant about moving Dario to the bench mainly because of recent history. If you remember, for the first week or so of last season, Dario was coming off the bench. Over that five-game span, he struggled, averaging a mere 5.6 points a game on 33 percent shooting from the field in 21.4 minutes a game and the Sixers went 1-4. Saric eventually became a starter again and the rest was history.

3 reasons Fultz will win Most Improved Player. dark. Next

And who’s to say that Dario wouldn’t struggle again if he comes off the bench? You just never know. But Dario is by far a vastly-improved player since last October, and I truly believe that if Markelle ends up replacing him in the starting lineup, Dario will continue to thrive even in a reserve role while allowing Markelle to continue to blossom.