With Markelle Fultz’s should fully heald, the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft needs to get his mind right to return to the court with the Philadelphia 76ers.
And unfortunately, it isn’t great.
When discussing the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft’s future with the team, Doris Burke casually described a conversation with Brett Brown, where the fifth-year head coach broke down what needs to happen for the former Washington Huskie to finally make his triumphant return to the court.
While we all know about Fultz’s shoulder injury that essentially rendered his outside shot useless in the four games he appeared in in 2017, now that his shoulder has finally healed, the team has a new hurdle that must be cleared in order to get their 6-foot-4 combo guard back: a total lack of confidence in their young star.
According to the conversation, Fultz’s early struggles shooting on a bum wing seriously affected the guard’s confidence and has left him struggling to regain the fire that made him a blue-chip prospect.
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Which is unfortunate because Fultz definitely has the talent to be a quality player in the NBA.
In 25 games with the Huskies, the consensus five-star recruit averaged almost 24 points and 6 rebounds a game while converting on over 41 percent of his three-point shots, so Fultz definitely isn’t lacking in ability, but a lack of confidence could render that talent pointless.
It’s no secret that many college sharpshooters struggle to translate their game into the pros, and often have their careers made or broken based off of their abilities to continue to produce and stay optimistic when their shots aren’t falling. Other than players like Steph Curry, who could probably shoot a three in his sleep, many of the league’s best outside shooters had to take a season or two to get used to the increased level of talent and the lengthened three-point line of the NBA, and some never regain their college form.
Want proof? Look no further than former Sixer Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas was selected eighth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Sacremento Kings to serve as a sharpshooter alongside dominant young big man DeMarcus Cousins (sound familiar?) but after struggling mightily to find his shot, only completing 32 percent of his threes in his 73 games, he quickly fell out of favor in Sactown.
This obviously wasn’t the production the team envisioned why they selected Sause midway through the NBA Lottery, and ultimately cut their losses by shipped him, along with two other players and their 2019 unprotected first round pick to the City of Brotherly love for cap room in what could go down as one of the worst trades of all time.
And things never really came together for Stauskas in his new home.
After a largely uneventful tenure in Philly, Stauskas was once again traded, this time to Brooklyn along with Jahlil Okafor and a second round pick for Trevor Booker to serve as a deep bench piece in the big apple. Though Stauskas may eventually become the player he was projected to be, it seems less and less likely with each passing season.
And the cautionary tale of Sause Castillo should be one the 76ers coaching staff takes to heart.
While the team could surely use Fultz production off the bench, it’s more important that he returns fully healthy, and regains his confidence if he’s ever going to become a starting caliber point guard for Brown’s squad.
But when a player’s problems are all in their head, there’s only so much the team can do.
Though his shoulder has healed, there’s no telling how long it will take for Fultz to regain his killer instinct, if he will at all. Though it’s not particularly common, even the most physically talented players have had their careers derailed due to a lack of drive, and an unwillingness to rise above adversity, like Anthony Bennet, largely considered the biggest bust in NBA history.
Bennet was a dominant force in college, as he was always a bigger, stronger player than his opponents, but when he could no longer bully smaller players, he immediately cracked under pressure and flamed out. Three teams, and a stint in Turkey later, Bennet is now a member of the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics‘ G-League affiliate, and a longshot to ever play another game in the NBA.
Hopefully it all comes together for Fultz and he can make his return to the 76ers roster before the end of the season, and he can become a legitimate bench piece for a team trying to make a run at their first playoff appearance in the Brett Brown era, but unfortunately for the Sixers and their fan base there’s no timetable on a mental block.