76ers

Markelle Fultz stock watch: Yet another weird week

Markelle Fultz stock watch: Yet another weird week

In a season full of weird weeks, the last one may have been the weirdest for Markelle Fultz. 

With the arrival of Jimmy Butler, Fultz lost his spot in the starting lineup. As Brett Brown stated, it’s nothing that Fultz did wrong, it’s a matter of having a superstar player like Butler and using the team’s optimum starting five.

If anything, this move could benefit Fultz in the long run. Instead of trying to fit on the court with Ben Simmons, he’s now just leading the second unit and playing with the ball in his hands. 

Stat-wise, there’s nothing that will blow you away. He averaged 6.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 19.8 minutes a night in four games. He shot 44 percent from the field, which is fine for a perimeter player.

The inconsistent shot is maddening on a couple fronts. A few times last week he came off screens and took confident mid-range jumpers that he buried. Then he got to the free throw line and I have no idea what happened. 

In Miami, the now infamous pump fake free throw took place. There had been a hitch over the past couple games that culminated in that attempt. Fultz said the shot slipped but it’s hard to buy that. Witnessing that shot, I just plain felt bad for Fultz. We all saw the work he put in during the offseason and to be scrutinized for that one weird shot is rough.

On Friday vs. Utah, he revealed an odd juggle as he raised the ball up to his release point. A couple of the shots looked better and it clearly eliminated the hitch from his shot. The difficult thing will be repeating that motion.

It's a little disappointing that Fultz hasn't taken a three since Oct. 30 in Toronto. He hasn't taken a jumper outside of the mid-range since that ugly jumper in Brooklyn on Nov. 4.

Fultz has said it’s a “trial and error” thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. The concern would be if Fultz kept struggling and was too stubborn to fix the issues. The kid has at least proven to be coachable and willing to work. That’s no small thing.

He’s also shown he’s willing to fight and scrap on the floor. This is just one example of plays he’s made this season where he’s hustled and earned his team an extra possession.

What also makes watching Fultz struggle with his shot difficult is how much he’s improved in other areas. Defensively, he’s already grown by leaps and bounds from the first game of the season. He’s doing such a better job physically and mentally. His on-the-ball defense is a little inconsistent but he’s just 20. If he ever figures out how to use his length and athleticism more on that end, he could be special defensively.

Offensively, he continues to be aggressive in getting to the basket. The most impressive thing I’ve noticed is how he takes on elite shot blockers. You’re told as a driver to go straight into the shot blocker’s chest. Fultz did that twice against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. One drive he finished, and he forced Gobert into a foul on the other.

You see the work, you see the progress. You just have to hope it all comes together one day.

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Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

The Sixers were well represented by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago Sunday.

Ultimately, Team LeBron won a thrilling — well, at least the fourth quarter was — game over Team Giannis, 157-155, on an Anthony Davis free throw. Kawhi Leonard won the newly named Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award scoring a game-high 30 points.

Embiid, playing without the splint on his left hand for the first time since having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger, got Team Giannis on the board with an early dunk.

Then Simmons put on a show.

Simmons had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in the first half.

The NBA decided to break away from its traditional game format, making each quarter its own mini-game. That means each period had its own tip-off.

And would you look at who was squaring off to start the second.

(Simmons won the tip, by the way)

Not to be outdone, Embiid had a couple fancy dunks of his own as Team Giannis built a lead in the third.

Simmons also had this beauty of a put-back dunk for good measure.

He took a spill at the end but appeared no worse for wear for the rest of the game.

Another wrinkle in the new format this year is that the fourth quarter wasn’t timed, and the teams played to a “target score.” In honor of Kobe Bryant, the “target score” was 157 — 24 more points than what Team Giannis, who was in the lead, had total heading into the fourth quarter.

With Team Giannis nearing that point total, Embiid made his presence felt down the stretch, including dropping this nasty Dream Shake on LeBron James.

Both Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Simmons (17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) showed why they were selected for the game.

They’ll return to the court for the Sixers Thursday against the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

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NBCSP/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

The Sixers are off to a solid start for any team, but the Sixers were built to be a championship contender. Danny Pommells and Anthony Gilbert discuss that and who will take up the open role in the starting lineup on this edition of Sixers Talk, presented by Wilmington University.

• Are the Sixers still a Finals contender? (2:00)

• Who will move into the starters lineup in place of Al Horford? (6:34)

• Did the Sixers miss on the trade deadline? (10:31)

• This team lacks veteran leadership (20:42)

• Story time with Anthony Gilbert (29:03)

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