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.
The drama that is Markelle Fultz’s second NBA season took its weirdest turn yet last week.
We’ll get to Fultz’s performance over the last three games — including his jumper, of course — but first let’s take a look at what the Jimmy Butler trade means for him.
While Brett Brown has been adamant in wanting to start Fultz, that may change when Butler arrives.
And I don’t view that as a bad thing. There have been several times over the past couple weeks where Fultz has been better during his second half stint off the bench. Not only has he been better with the ball in his hands as a point guard, but he’s actually given the Sixers a spark.
For now, I don’t believe it will affect his minutes too much. He’s been averaging 24.3 minutes a game and that’s likely where he’ll stay. Since he’ll be leading the second unit for most of the game, there’s a chance those minutes could be even more impactful.
With that said, it seems likely the Sixers will make at least one move to bolster their bench. When that happens, it’ll be interesting to see how that affects Fultz. Brown has said all season he’s been trying to find the balance between growing Fultz and winning. Elton Brand seems more interested in the latter. It looks like Fultz is finding a little chemistry with Ben Simmons. That experiment may continue for a few minutes a game, just not to start it.
Also, a Butler extension this summer could be an issue for Fultz's future with the team (see story).
As for his play last week, it’s been more of the same. He had his most efficient performance against Memphis, going 7 of 9 from the field and continuing to be aggressive driving and finishing at the rim. An encouraging sign is the multiple times he’s finished through contact.
Another reason it seems like Fultz’s issues are mental is the incremental improvements he’s made on both ends. As Brown has alluded, he’s playing much tougher on defense. He’s fighting through screens and being more physical. And on offense he’s had a killer instinct in wanting to get to the paint.
The shot has been and will continue to be an issue. Last week, it was most glaring at the free throw line, where Fultz made just 4 of 9. In the game vs. the Hornets on Friday, he shot just 3 of 6 and that weird hitch seemed to reappear. He took a nice mid-range J against the Grizzlies. It’s a rudimentary thing, but it looks like Fultz shoots better when he has less time to think and also when he’s stepping into his shot.
While there’s certainly concern over how Butler has interacted with young players in the past, it’ll be fascinating to see how it’ll go with Fultz. Perhaps Butler will push the 20-year-old in a positive direction … at least that’s the hope.
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