Markelle Fultz’s time in the NBA so far has been jumpy, stunted, and…confusing. The 2017 No. 1 overall pick was a huge pickup for the Sixers last year but is still working his way up to filling his own shoes. With the team getting 2016 No. 1 overall pick and future Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons–and star center Joel Embiid at full health–it seemed that the addition of Fultz would make the team young, energetic, and nigh-unstoppable.
But the story of Fultz is as disappointing as it is concerning. The 6′ 4″ guard from Maryland averaged 23.2 points per game at Washington University, shooting 41% behind the arc, 64% at the line, and tacking on a solid 6 assists per game in the 2016-2017 season.
When he got to the NBA he was almost immediately a no-go after a shoulder injury that seemed to wreck his shot:
#20 for the Sixers went from being one of the most exciting new prospects of the season to being a non-presence–making either a minimal impact in a few games or not playing at all for his entire rookie season.
Markelle Fultz Doesn’t Want to Talk About His Injury
So far this season, the 20-year-old is at least getting consistent minutes on the floor. He averages about 24 minutes per game and has never gone scoreless. But that’s not much to expect from a recent former No. 1 pick.
The untimeliness of the injury and the pressure associated with his former glory have created a perfect storm for Fultz, and he seems tired of talking about the injury. When asked about his health in a post-game interview last night, he immediately shut the question down.
Stephen A. Smith roasted Fultz for similar comments earlier this year, but the young guard is understandably frustrated by his current situation.
Showing Signs of Life
Seemingly on the up-and-up, Fultz sat down with Nuggets player Isaiah Thomas last month with The Players’ Tribune and opened up about the injury and his hopeful comeback.
“For me, I’m a hooper, so I was like ‘Man, I’m not gonna let this stop me,'” Fultz said in the interview. “Everything’s back to even better than it was. So right now I’m really excited to just go out there and showcase my full ability.”
Fultz definitely isn’t better than he was before, but it’s good to see that he’s at least approaching the situation with as positive of an attitude as he can. He’s still working on his jump shot–some attempts are going better than others–but in last night’s game against the Pacers he was able to show some flashes of things to come as he continues to recover.
As he works on getting his jumper back, Fultz is taking advantage of his still-present dribble-drive ability and athleticism to make an impact for the 76ers. He had 7 points last night in 26 minutes and is averaging 9.1 on the season, but the sky’s the limit for him once he can get, yes, healthy–but also confident.
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