Markelle Fultz is now more valuable than Ben Simmons

The Orlando Magic have split a pair of games against the Philadelphia 76ers in their last two contests and point guard Markelle Fultz has been at the forefront of their improved play.

Now firmly the starting floor general for the franchise and a part of the long-term plans for the Magic, Fultz is finally healthy and helping the franchise to win games.

They are 15-12 in their last 27 contests, playoff form for the team as Fultz has averaged 12.3 points, dished out 5.6 assists (career high) per game and shot 33.3 percent from deep (also a career-high). To see him take any shots from deep at all after the “yips” that previously plagued him, has been brilliant.

Fultz has played and started all of the 31 games he has appeared in this season. He has easily eclipsed the combined 26 games he was able to muster in the previous two seasons as a result of injury.

Leaving Philadelphia as an opponent for the first time gave Fultz plenty of time to reflect on how far he has come since his tumultuous time early in his career.

With Markelle Fultz a key component for a growing Orlando Magic roster, he has now overtaken his former Philadelphia 76ers teammate Ben Simmons as a more valuable player in the NBA.

Fultz was not the only former first-overall pick to struggle in Philadelphia. But as both he and Ben Simmons have entered the next phase of their careers, they are both carving their roles and their futures.

Simmons has of course also moved on. And after one of the most talked about playoff moments in recent memory with the Philadelphia 76ers, he is now employed by the Brooklyn Nets.

An organization who are right in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s top seed, but who have achieved this mostly without Simmons.

At 26 years old, he is two years older than Fultz, and this season has only managed to play five games more than him as well. Simmons has averaged 7.4 points and 6.4 assists, numbers inferior to Fultz.

Simmons also famously does not shoot 3-pointers, meaning Fultz is always going to have the edge on him there, hitch in his jumper or not.

Obviously, it goes beyond raw numbers with these two. But the combination of continued improvement from Fultz, and being able to rely on him when he is healthy are more than Simmons can provide for the Nets.

In the two recent games against the 76ers, Fultz was one of the Magic’s best players. In the second game, a loss, he had 18 points as he was more aggressive in trying to get his teammates over the line in what was another worryingly lethargic display at times.

On both of their best days, Simmons is the better defender, capable of guarding one through five on the court. Fultz cannot do this, but he is certainly an above-average defender for a guard, and he has a basketball IQ that Simmons does not possess.

He reads the game in his own time, controls the pace and tempo, and appears to be a joy to play with. The Magic are about the same in defensive rating (114.5) as they are when Fultz is on the court (114.8), but to watch him play is to see his importance to the team on both ends.

Neither Fultz nor Simmons likely cracks the top 100 most tradeable players in the league today right now (Simmons is more likely to find himself on the dishonorable list if anything), but there is now no doubt you would rather have Fultz than Simmons.

And there is one key reason.

He means so much more to the Magic than Simmons does to the Nets. You can see right away when he is playing how it gives his team a lift, and the upturn in the Magic’s results has coincided with the return of Fultz on a regular basis. That is not a coincidence.

Fultz is also the perfect guard to pair next to big-time scorers like Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. His style of play also allows better offensive guards like Cole Anthony and Gary Harris to go off while he stays home and protects the house.

He is a great mover of the ball, and as their third or fourth offensive option who also gets a big man like Wendell Carter involved excellently, is doing everything the organization could hope that he would.

The Nets are not only excelling without Simmons, but center Nic Claxton is doing a lot of the defensive work that Simmons showed glimpses of doing in his absence.

This team will always revolve around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Ben Simmons has not found his niche in Brooklyn the way many assumed he easily would.

We are now veering into hypotheticals, but Fultz likely could have found his spot with the Nets quicker than Simmons ever did. Even next to Irving, he would have kept it simple and leaned even more into his defensive abilities.

Finally, Simmons cost the Nets the princely sum of James Harden. It is true that Harden wanted to leave anyway, but the Nets would have had plenty of suitors for him and could have gotten a better return.

Fultz on the other hand cost the Magic Jonathon Simmons, a protected first-round pick, and a second-round pick. That’s much better value for money, and despite being ridiculed at the time, but on reflection the Magic easily won that trade.

Which is why Markelle Fultz has overtaken Ben Simmons as the more valuable player today. He means more to his team, has better raw numbers than Simmons, continues to get better and his currently healthy.

He also cost far less to acquire, and is two years younger and very much a part of the bright future that the Orlando Magic have. An amazing turn of events when you consider where he was only a few short years ago.