Every week this season, we’ll be taking a look at Markelle Fultz and how the 2017 No. 1 overall pick is progressing through his second NBA season.
Markelle Fultz had yet another weird, uneven week.
He had his best game of the season — maybe of his young career — but threw up maybe his worst shot attempt since early last season.
In games against the Hawks and Clippers this week, Fultz gave the Sixers a huge boost off the bench in the second half. They likely don’t beat L.A. without him. When the Clippers went ahead briefly in the third, the team went on a 10-2 run to reclaim the lead for good. Fultz had a hand in all 10 points, scoring six and assisting on a Mike Muscala four-point play.
The aggressiveness on his drives to the rim has been a welcome development.
Make way, Fultz coming through!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 2, 2018
Kelle ends the third with a big drive to put the Sixer up four going into the fourth. pic.twitter.com/tIKdHtxXkK
The Sixers had a hard time dealing with the large human that is Boban Marjanovich when he started the second half for L.A. On the play above, Fultz does the exact right thing driving right at Marjanovic’s chest and finishing.
Another positive was his performance on the defensive end. Brett Brown pointed out after the win over the Clippers that Fultz was starting to play screens better, both physically and mentally. I also liked the way he competed against two physical, veteran guards in Patrick Beverly and Avery Bradley.
Against the Pistons on Saturday, he had one of the finest defensive plays you’ll see.
Access denied.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 3, 2018
Markelle with a big block as the Sixers hold a 43-30 lead! pic.twitter.com/eSyFmLJ41q
What makes this even better is when you consider the opponent. In the overtime loss in Detroit, Brown sat Fultz in favor of T.J. McConnell for defense. Former Sixer Ish Smith was giving Fultz fits in that contest. On this play, Fultz wins the battle in a most impressive fashion.
Now we address the elephant in the room. In a game in which no Sixer played well, Fultz put up his worst shot attempt of the season.
There’s no way around it, it wasn’t pretty. The regression is odd because we’ve seen Fultz hit four threes this season and while the release was extremely long, the form looked OK. When you take a look at his first made three of the season compared to last night’s long two side by side, there’s a noticeable difference, especially in his lower body.
Everything looks better on the made one. The release looks smoother and even his body language was drastically different. He knew the shot last night was bad as soon as he let it go.
Maybe it’s tired legs playing four games in five nights … at least let’s hope that’s what it is.
The starting lineup featuring both Fultz and Ben Simmons continues to produce poor results as well. That two-man lineup has a -6.3 net rating (measuring the team’s point differential per 100 possessions). That’s with Joel Embiid being an absolute monster to start games with both of them on the floor.
But this is the way Brown is choosing to go about it. I agreed with it when the season started, but as its progressed I’m beginning to turn to the other side. What’s more important than having Fultz and Simmons learn to play together is to get Fultz in a groove. And it appears the only way to do that is to put the ball in his hands.
Other than the two disastrous performances by the whole team in Toronto and Detroit, Fultz looked like a different player. He had a bounce to him and even his body language was better.
The effort, aggressiveness and defensive progress are great to see, but the image of that jumper is what will linger for the next few days.
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