6. Trading up for Markelle Fultz
Despite the earlier disclaimer, trading up for Markelle Fultz is debilitating. One could argue this is the biggest mistake; however, Fultz was a perfect prospect to pair with Simmons and Embiid, he was undoubtedly the best bet in that class at the time, and his meltdown was completely unexpected, and the franchise cannot be blamed for that completely.
For those who do not remember, Fultz stuffed the stat sheet at Washington after being a highly touted high school player. He was a high-volume, high-efficiency shooter with a tight handle and smooth athleticism. Had Fultz panned out, he would have been the ideal player to complement Ben Simmons. Fultz could mask a lot of warts Simmons had that made him a fake point guard.
The “What If” of a healthy Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz was never realized.
Though Jayson Tatum was drafted third, it seems unlikely the Celtics would have traded down to three if there was any chance the Sixers would take Tatum. For those reasons, it is hard to say that this is a true mistake, but it is certainly one of the most detrimental moves the franchise made simply due to bad luck.
Maybe the Sixers should not have ignored Fultz’s below-average free throw shooting in college, poor workouts, and other red flags that indicated an absolute breakdown like he had was possible, but he was almost the unanimous top-ranked prospect. They also could have attempted to put on a poker face for the Celtics and then steal Tatum from them, but it is an incredibly skillful task that should not be expected of the Colangelo regime (just look at Burnergate).
Jayson Tatum would have made the Sixers a dynasty, but at least the Sixers eventually acquired the pick that became Tyrese Maxey from the Magic when they decided to move on from Fultz in 2019 (though that required extreme luck and a miraculous shot from Sixers legend, Mike Muscala).
Luckily for Markelle Fultz, he has been able to resurrect his career with Orlando, but he is still not quite the player everyone expected him to be, nor the franchise player for Philadelphia that he should have been.