Is reluctance to trade Markelle Fultz preventing a roster upgrade?

With the NBA trade deadline about a week away, the Philadelphia 76ers have an opportunity to fill their bench.

The Sixers are fourth in the Eastern Conference and have won six of their last eight games, but coach Brett Brown knows the team needs more players to achieve a deep playoff run.

“No matter what happens, we feel good about our base. I think what we all recognize is there’s a belief that we need more,” Brown said Tuesday before the Sixers’ game against the Lakers, per reports from ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

“It doesn’t diminish how excited we are about what we have and what we are growing. But we feel that our time is now.”

The Sixers need a big who can come off the bench and provide interior defense. When Joel Embiid is on the floor, the Sixers have a defensive rating of 102.1, but when he is off it the Sixers have a defensive rating of 108.7, per nba.com.

Atlanta Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon is someone the Sixers are interested in, per the ESPN report. Dedmon brings defense, as he’s averaging a career-high 1.0 block per game this season. Along with that, though, Dedmon can contribute on the offensive end.

He’s averaging a career-high 10.3 points per game, and he’s also a capable shooter; he’s shooting 37.2 percent from three this season on a career-high 3.1 3-point attempts a game.

But for the Sixers to acquire Dedmon, they will likely have to part with Markelle Fultz, who they drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. Per the ESPN report, parting with Fultz is something the Sixers are reluctant to do.

Fultz has been out with an injury called thoracic outlet syndrome since the beginning of Decmber. Fultz has played in 33 games during his career so far because he’s struggled with injuries.

Last season he played in 14 games because of a shoulder injury. The Sixers might not be able to move Fultz, however, because they likely won’t receive a good player in return for him.

For the Sixers to keep moving forward, they must build depth to their roster. Corey Brewer is on his second 10-day contract with the team, but he has shown he can be a valuable player off the bench.

The Sixers need a wing who can provide defense and also score at a decent rate — Brewer could fit that bill. In five games with the Sixers, Brewer has averaged 9.0 points per game on 40.0 percent shooting. Also, when Brewer is off the floor, the Sixers have had a defensive rating of 106.6; when he’s on the court, they have a defensive rating of 102.9.

Philly is in a position to improve its roster as the trade deadline looms. They have one of the best starting lineups in the East, but for them to keep improving, they’ll need to bolster their bench.

According to Bontemps, it’s difficult to see the team finding a way to do that without including Fultz in a trade.

On a roster devoid of midtier contracts — nine of the 76ers’ 15 players make $5 million or less — trying to construct trades that don’t involve Fultz but will still bring back talent that can help will be difficult. Perhaps the 76ers could use Chandler’s $12.8 million expiring contract to do so, but that would then remove a quality rotation piece at the same time.

The NBA’s trade deadline is on Thursday, February 7—eight days away.

Between now and then, Brand will being trying desperately to improve the club. And Brett Brown will be hoping he succeeds.

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