Philadelphia 76ers: Starting Fultz will actually help McConnell and Redick

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After leapfrogging both McConnell and Redick on the depth chart, starting Markelle Fultz could actually help to solidify the entire Philadelphia 76ers’ backcourt.

In the move that shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who watched the preseason, the Philadelphia 76ers have officially named their opening night starting shooting guard: Markelle Fultz.

Though Fultz’s transformation from a player who couldn’t even play for the vast majority of the games last season due to a hurt shoulder and broken shot into an opening-night starter is pretty impressive, and admittedly a bit surprising, in context of the team it actually makes a lot of sense.

Want proof? Just look at last season.

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One of the main reasons ex-Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo coveted Fultz enough to trade two first-round picks for his services was because of his versatility. Often compared to James Harden over his lone season at the University of Washington, Fultz looked like a perfect backcourt complement to the enigma formally known as Ben Simmons, who could effectively play at a high level both on and off the ball alongside the position this wonder.

However, when he eventually returned to the court, Fultz with almost exclusively used as the second team point guard, a role formerly held by T.J. McConnell. This move effectively forced Brett Brown to create mismatched lineups to get Fultz into the game, often resulting in McConnell miscast as a super-small two guard on the wings.

Don’t get me wrong, T.J.’s shot has made leaps and bounds since entering the NBA only three short years ago, but he is not going to make anyone forget about Steph Curry anytime soon.

But now, with Fultz assuming J.J. Redick‘s former spot as the team’s starting shooting guard, parody will finally be restored.

While it’s anyone’s guess how Fultz’s game will adjust to playing off-ball almost exclusively, and if his recently repaired shot is up for the rigors of life on the wings, but this move clearly makes both the first and second team offense better and could result in some interesting lineups throughout the game.

Here’s how.

By pairing McConnell, a pass-first point with a pesky defensive game with a certified dead-eyed sharpshooter like Redick, the second team will be able to maintain a fairly traditional lineup, with no player playing too far out of their typical position. With Marco Belinelli now a member of the San Antonio Spurs, the team has effectively upgraded his spot from last year with one of the best shooters in the entire league (Redick), while providing McConnell with one of the best outlet pass options in league.

This move will also allow Brown’s first-team offense to remain fast, with five players capable of playing, and covering multiple positions, essentially the antithesis of their second-team unit.

Though Redick obviously played extremely well last season, finishing out the year second on the team in scoring, his defense, or lack thereof, was a clear deficiency on otherwise fairly formidable unit. While Fultz is hardly the shooter Redick is now, and may never ascend to that level, he is certainly a more athletic defender, which will come in handy thanks to Simmons unorthodox defensive fit.

While this move may have initially seemed surprising, as teams typically want to start their best shooting-guard at shooting guard, this line up shake up could actually help to bolster not one, not two, but three positions on the Philadelphia 76ers roster, and carve out long-term roles for players like J.J. Redick and T.J. McConnell, who many assumed weren’t long for the city because of their less-than-ideal fit alongside Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz.

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But no matter how good this series of moves look on paper, none of it actually matters until they are vindicated in an actual game. Fortunately, fans won’t have to wait long to see how it all plays out, as the 2018-2019 NBA season has officially begun!