On June 17, 2017, 76ers fans exuberantly declared victory. Philadelphia’s standing within the league hadn’t really changed. The 76ers were stacked with assets from Sam Hinkie’s Process – Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and multiple extra first-round picks. But the 76ers were stacked with assets the day before, too. The only difference was Philadelphia consolidated a couple of those assets, agreeing to trade the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft and a future first-rounder to the Celtics for the No. 1 pick, used on Markelle Fultz.
76ers fans were just that certain Fultz was the missing piece. They saw him as a surefire star and a perfect fit with Embiid and Simmons. That trio would lift Philadelphia to championships and fulfill the destiny of The Process.
That closes a disappointing tenure in Philadelphia for Fultz, whose career has been derailed by a mysterious combination of injuries and mental blocks. Fultz played just 33 games with the 76ers – the fewest ever for a No. 1 pick with his original NBA team in the modern-draft era. It’s fewer than this season’s No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton has already played with the Suns. It’s fewer than Anthony Bennett played with the Cavaliers. It’s even fewer than the 34 games Pervis Ellison, the Kings’ No. 1 pick in 1989, played in his lone season with Sacramento before getting traded.
Here’s every No. 1 pick since 1966, the first draft without territorial selections, sorted by games with the player’s original NBA team. Traded players count with the first NBA team they played for (e.g., Andrew Wiggins with the Timberwolves, not Cavaliers). Only a player’s first stint with his original team counts (e.g., LeBron James‘ 2003-10 games, not 2014-18 games, with the Cavaliers).
As little production as Philadelphia got from Fultz, it could have been worse.
The Hawks drafted David Thompson No. 1 in 1975. But after Atlanta (according to legend) wined and dined him at McDonald’s, he signed with the ABA’s Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets joined the NBA in the leagues’ merger the next year. Thompson stayed with Denver, the team he’s listed with above. But the Hawks got nothing from him – not even 33 games, a couple middling draft picks and a struggling veteran.