Philadelphia 76ers: What if Markelle Fultz is actually really, really good?

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After having his shot completely revitalized by Drew Hanlen, what if Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz turns out to be really good in 2018?

The Philadelphia 76ers (lack of) roster shaping offseason moves got you down?

Well, what if I told you the team doesn’t need to bring in a third outside superstar because they already have one on the roster?

Setting aside his…unconventional rookie season, coming out of college virtually every draft expert pegged Markelle Fultz, not Jayson Tatum or Lonzo Ball as the best prospect in 2017 class, and even though he struggled to get on the court last season, what if he finds a way to put it all together and cash in that potential in 2018?

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While a shoulder injury may have cost him all but 14 games of his rookie season, and he was never quite 100 percent even when he did return to the court, Fultz did show some promise over the final10 games of the season, capping off the run with a very impressive 13-10-10 triple-double on the final game of the regular season against the Milwaukee Bucks.

And the best part? He did it all without a reliable outside shot.

When Fultz had the ball in his hands down the stretch last season, most defenders could pretty accurately predict what he was going to do, either drive it to the basket or flick the ball out to the wings for a corner three.

Who does that remind you of? None other than 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons. Throughout the offseason we’ve heard it about a million times: “If Ben Simmons can develop an outside shot he could be unguardable”, and while Fultz may not be as physically gifted as a 6-foot-10, 230-pound point guard, the same could be said about his development as a player.

If Fultz can regain his smooth college shot, he could conceivably give Brett Brown his most dynamic, do-it-all scorer of any player on the roster, capable of attacking defenders regardless of how they play him. Unlike last season, where opposing guards could play off Fultz without fear of getting burned, if he’s able to knock down a stepback 19, 21 or even 24-foot jumper at an above average NBA clip, it could make the entire 76ers roster a whole lot better almost right away.

A high tide raises all ships if you will.

Being able to dominate as a scorer from all three levels would also help him to rack up assists, in a very similar way to the player he was so often compared to in the pre-draft process, James Harden. One of the best pure scorers in the league, Harden often gets doubled in the paint when he drives for a basket, in a move that just so happens to open up one of his teammates for a much better, usually wide open three-point shot. With a plethora of capable shooters already on the roster, like Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, with the opportunity to add another with the team’s mid-level exception, a more dynamic Fultz could effectively make all of his teammate’s lives a little easier.

If Fultz can recapture his offensive versatility, he could also help to pay major dividends for the 76ers’ fast break game.

Last season, the 76ers finished out the season ranked fourth in the league in average pace, behind only the New Orleans Pelicans, the Phoenix Suns, and the Los Angeles Lakers. With one of the fastest, most athletic playmakers in the league in Simmons running the point, any time a Sixer got the ball in open space, the game turned into a glorified track meet as the team raced towards the bucket. Now imagine the same situation with Fultz complementing Simmons in the Sixers backcourt. With not one, but two athletic playmakers capable of going coast to coast for a dunk, layup, or well-timed dime, Coach Brown’s offense could get faster and a whole lot more potent if Fultz and Simmons can coexist on the fast break.

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This all sounds great, but what if Fultz takes a little longer to get his game together, and doesn’t come out of the gate as a freshly minted 20 point scorer? Does he still present value to the team?


Last season during the Sixers Eastern Conference Semifinals appearance between the Sixers and the Celtics, the team’s most glaring issue had to be their ability to lockdown Boston’s guard tandem of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown.

Or should I say, their lack thereof?

Say what you will about Fultz as a player, but no one can knock his athleticism, and that makes him an absolutely tantalizing prospect on the defensive end of the court.

Because of the unique backcourt configuration Brett Brown chooses to deploy night in and night out, with Simmons often placed on a forward on the defensive end of the court, and Redick far from a defensive juggernaut, the Sixers routinely got bullied around by teams with dominant point guard, like the vast majority of their division. Though T.J. McConnell does his best to pester opposing ball handlers and steal his fair share of balls, Fultz is a vastly superior athlete, and if he commits to playing good defense, could be one of the better young two-way players in the league.

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While it’s almost impossible to predict exactly how a player like Fultz will play when he eventually returns to the court, as he is one of the more curious situations of any player in recent memory, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his 2018-2019 sophomore season, and beyond. As one of the most athletic ball handling prospects in the league, with the versatility to play and cover both point and shooting guard, if Fultz has, in fact, repaired his shot and recreated his game this summer, Philly may have finally found a third superstar to pair with Embiid and Simmons in the starting five for the foreseeable future.