A rookie no more, Markelle Fultz set to attack crucial summer

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A rookie no more, Markelle Fultz set to attack crucial summer

You won’t hear a single Sixers player say anything negative about Markelle Fultz and that’s not just because he’s their teammate. It goes much deeper for the rookie.

“Having all my teammates, from T.J. (McConnell) all the way down to the starters, Ben (Simmons), Joel (Embiid), everybody on the team. We talked every day, we had a close relationship,” Fultz said during the Sixers’ end-of-season press conferences Thursday. “It almost felt like I was in college, just being able to hang out with guys off the court, go out to eat and stuff like that. 

“The relationships I built with these guys, they’re life-long relationships now that I have with these guys where they know I have their back and they have my back, so I’m very glad I got a chance to be on this team and be with this group of guys.”

Having that level of support was necessary as Fultz endured one of the most trying first seasons for a No. 1 pick in recent memory.

After being taken with the top overall selection in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed time throughout the summer and training camp with ankle and knee injuries. 

Then came the much-publicized shoulder issue. Whether the guard changed his shooting motion because of the pain or his newfound shot mechanics caused the pain will forever be the chicken-and-egg debate among Sixers fans, but it ended up sidelining him for 68 games.

Fultz was able to finally return and play in 10 regular-season games before dipping his toe into the postseason waters. However, that was short-lived as he saw action in only the first three games of the Miami series and then took a seat on the bench.

You got all of that? Now factor in the 19-year-old had to navigate his way through all of it while hearing questions and criticism every day about whether the organization made a mistake drafting him.

“Obviously I had injuries, I had stuff that I had to get over,” said Fultz, who averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 14 regular-season appearances. “It was God’s plan. That’s the way it happened, and I think I dealt with it fine.

“I’ve been going through stuff like this my whole life really, going against the odds and a whole bunch of outside noise. I don’t really look to it. I’m with my team, I’m with family, and that’s all I really care about. All the other stuff doesn’t really matter to me on what other people think or what other people have to say. I’m just worried about how my team’s doing, how my coaches and teammates look at me, and how I look at myself.”

“We had a long chat with Markelle yesterday,” Brett Brown said Friday. “The things that he had to endure this season, we all understand.”

What’s also understood is that even with the flashes of talent Fultz showed during his abbreviated first season and strong support from the front office, he must get better. That starts with an important summer of getting back to being the guy who wowed the Sixers before they took him atop last year’s draft.

“If I were to shrink it, I want him getting back his mojo,” said Brown, who admitted he hopes Fultz plays in summer league again. “I want him playing basketball in a high-level, sort of energized individual instruction.”

Fultz said he plans to “improve on all aspects” of his game this summer to prove he belongs in a Sixers jersey. And after his first professional season ended watching other rookies make an impact on the game's biggest stage, he wants to show he can be the player to push the team to the next tier.

“First of all, those guys did an unbelievable job this year, out there playing as hard as they could and obviously showing you their talents,” Fultz said. “Coming back next year, I think once I join that, it just takes us to the next step. The stuff we did, nobody thought we were going to do. Coming in next year, we have bigger expectations and everything, so I just can’t wait to put my foot on it.”

Report: Sixers trade No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to Pistons; No. 39 Isaac Bonga to Lakers

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Report: Sixers trade No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to Pistons; No. 39 Isaac Bonga to Lakers

The Sixers opened up their crop of second-round picks by opting for another trade.

The Sixers drafted Creighton guard Khyri Thomas and traded him to the Detroit Pistons, per a report from Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. Exact terms of the reported deal were not immediately known.

They followed that up by selecting Isaac Bonga, a small forward from Germany, with the No. 39 choice. However, that pick had already agreed to be dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday in a transaction that netted the Sixers a 2019 second-round pick and cash, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (see story).

The Sixers still hold picks Nos. 56 and 60 in the second round.

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Sixers select Wichita State guard Landry Shamet with 26th pick in NBA draft

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Sixers select Wichita State guard Landry Shamet with 26th pick in NBA draft

After a bit of a bang with their initial pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the Sixers followed up with a shocker.

The Sixers selected Wichita State point guard Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.

Shamet had a stellar career for the Shockers, capped off by a 2017-18 season in which he averaged 14.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 boards a game. His main asset is his three-point shot. Shamet (6-5, 189) shot 43.7 percent from long range during his collegiate career, including 44.2 percent last season.

Shamet was part of the Sixers’ final workout group this week, which also featured earlier acquisition Zhaire Smith.

The Shamet pick came after the Sixers caused a bit of a frenzy with their lottery pick. They selected Villanova standout Mikal Bridges only to send him to the Phoenix Suns a short time later for No. 16 pick Smith and a 2021 first-rounder (see story).

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