Markelle Fultz

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Markelle Fultz

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz

Position: Guard

Status for 2018-19: Second year of rookie contract for $8,339,880

Fultz in 2017-18
It’s not hyperbole to say Fultz had one of the most bizarre rookie seasons in NBA history. Let’s quickly run through the entire saga.

First, there was the mysteriously broken shot, the scapular imbalance in his right shoulder, the speculation about whether the injury led to the new shooting form or vice versa, and of course all the eyes on the brief videos of Fultz at practice, meticulously analyzing his jumper.

Then there was the surprise return on Mar. 26 against the Nuggets after missing the past 68 games, flashes of the handles and athleticism during the final 10 games of the regular season that compelled the Sixers to pick him No. 1, a chance to be part of the playoff rotation, and finally a return to the bench after three playoff games.

Got all that?

By the way, Fultz averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 14 regular-season games and posted 1.7 points, 1.7 assists and 1.0 rebound per game in his three postseason contests. Those stats obviously don’t tell his story.

Plenty of NBA players have had their rookie seasons derailed by injury, demonstrated flawed shooting mechanics, faced constant scrutiny from fans and media, and given glimpses of their potential. Until Fultz, nobody had combined all those ingredients into a single, surreal season.

Signature game
Fultz made history in the season finale on Apr. 12, a 130-95 win over the Bucks. With 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, he became, at 19 years and 317 days old, the youngest player in the NBA to ever record a triple-double.

After securing the accomplishment late with his 10th rebound, Fultz was immediately mobbed by his teammates and then doused with a unique cocktail of strawberry milk, chocolate milk and water afterwards in the locker room celebration.

That night, you saw Fultz’s immense potential. You also felt the human side of his odyssey and saw how much joy his teammates took from his achievement.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Until Fultz looks comfortable with his jumper, there’s going to be plenty of scrutiny on his shot. He shot 19 for 75 (25.3 percent) from three feet and out and made only 2 of 8 attempts from further than 15 feet.

Fultz and the team haven’t decided yet whether he’ll play in summer league, but that’s a possibility. It could be a good chance for Fultz to get some more time on the court and continue regaining his confidence, and his jumper as well.

While Fultz’s name will probably be tossed around by outsiders as a possible trade piece, it doesn’t seem like potential trade partners would place a very high value on a player with 14 games of NBA experience and a suspect shot. It also would be a huge surprise to see the Sixers give up on their No. 1 pick and a player with Fultz's natural ability after one season. They'll almost certainly give him ample opportunity to show why they took him No. 1. 

On Fultz
“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.”

- Fultz on dealing with outside noise at his end-of-season press conference on May 10 

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

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USA Today Images

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.”

Bryan Colangelo stands behind Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum decision

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Bryan Colangelo stands behind Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum decision

CAMDEN, N.J. — If Bryan Colangelo were to redo the 2017 NBA draft, he would select Markelle Fultz No. 1 again. 

“We made the deal to put ourselves in the position to select the player we felt was the best fit for this team and this roster moving forward, and still feel that way,” the Sixers' president of basketball operations said Friday. 

Last summer the Sixers traded the third pick and a conditional future first-round pick to the Celtics in order to land Fultz, who was the consensus top pick as a freshman out of Washington. Boston drafted Jayson Tatum.

The two rookies could not have had more different debut campaigns. Fultz was sidelined by a shoulder injury for the majority of the season. He returned in late March after missing 68 games, recorded a triple-double in the regular-season finale and then played only 23 minutes over the first three playoff games. Fultz did not play in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which Colangelo said is not a reflection of his future role. 

Tatum started all 80 of his games for the Celtics and was their third-leading scorer during the regular season. He averaged 23.6 points against the Sixers in the second round. 

The contrast between Tatum’s production on the court and Fultz’s time on the bench was a hot topic during the five-game series. 

"Jayson is a great talent," Colangelo said. "I'm really proud of what he's done. He was very high on our board. But when you make a deal and you move forward, you do it with purpose and you do it with reason. We had our reasons why we moved forward with that. I'm very complimentary about Jayson Tatum and what he's been able to accomplish. 

"Deals are judged immediately all the time. We live in that world and I understand that and it's easy to draw that conclusion. But our future is our future and Markelle's future is bright.” 

The Sixers are not turning their backs on Fultz after a rocky rookie year. They are considering him as a contributor as they make their offseason roster plans. Colangelo noted improvements in Fultz’s development from the start to the end of the season, including finishing at the rim, athleticism and preparation for the NBA. 

“I think he was a consensus No. 1 pick for a reason,” Colangelo said. “He was the player that we traded up for with the future in mind as the best fit for this organization.”

Fultz may participate in summer league this July.