It’s fair to say that Markelle Fultz’s rookie campaign has not gone according to plan.
Fultz, a player whose talents so intrigued the Sixers front office that GM Bryan Colangelo traded in some of the team’s prized draft assets to move into the No. 1 slot in order to select him, was supposed to be the culmination of the organization’s multi-season rebuild. At the very least, fans expected him to play a significant role as the Sixers shifted from “The Process” to the postseason.
So far, the Sixers’ young slasher has been stuck in neutral. Fultz labored through a shoulder injury that affected his jump shot and ultimately pushed him out of the lineup after four games.
There’s hope on the horizon, however. Kevin Kinkead’s Sunday notebook included a lengthy update on Fultz’s progress. The rookie’s participation in a full contact practice suggests his return to game action is imminent. The Sixers would certainly stand to benefit from Fultz’s presence in the rotation as they look to make a playoff push during the second half of the season.
No matter what happens this season, the Sixers made the right choice when they drafted Fultz. Ever since the NBA modified its hand-checking rule in 2004-05, point guards have never been more integral to the success of a team. The space-and-pace revolution that has overtaken the game demands a team employ a ball handler who can take advantage of overextended defenses by driving and dishing to open teammates. He also needs to be a perimeter scoring threat on his own who, ideally, can play off the ball as well. After all, the organizations that are excelling in the modern NBA are attacking defenses with multiple athletes who can run the offense.
Fultz’s ability to penetrate and pass to open teammates will make him a good player. But the three-point shooting ability he demonstrated in college will make him special.
There’s still time for Fultz to refine his game, of course. He’s only 19, and in the collegiate one-and-done culture that has been created in the wake of the NBA’s minimum age requirement, more and more players are starting their professional careers as raw prospects. Fultz likely won’t begin to hit his prime until his second contract.
Looking back on the 2017 NBA draft, there was really only one other viable option that the Sixers could have considered with the first pick. They could have taken a chance on Lonzo Ball. Continue Reading