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Should Sixers Fans Worry About Markelle Fultz?

Most fans were ecstatic when the Philadelphia 76ers selected Markelle Fultz with the first pick in this summer’s draft. He was the consensus number one pick and perfectly fit what their team needed. Joy has turned to horror after a shoulder injury prompted a strange free throw motion. Today, the Sixers have finally decided to rest him. How did we get here?

When Philly first made the trade for Fultz in June, the reaction was so positive because Fultz projected to be a James Harden or Damian Lillard type pick-and-roll wizard. His combination of shooting and ball handling was rare and made him a perfect fit next to Ben Simmons. At some point he injured his shoulder and changed his free throw mechanics. The new free throws spawned a video aptly entitled “Markelle Fultz has Worse Free Throw motion than Shaq”. That probably says it all when it comes to his current shooting.

The rest of Fultz’ game looks crisp. In fact, the announcers in the 76ers’ opening game against Washington thought his work around the basket was excellent. That is quite surprising for a player known largely for his jump shot and pick-and-roll mastery in college.

Reasons to Worry:

This is another example of Philadelphia’s ineptitude with their young players, particularly with handling injuries. It is becoming a growing trend to see rookies missing chunks (or all) or their first seasons. There have now been a number of controversies spanning from Michael Carter-Williams, to Nerlens Noel, to Jahlil Okafor, to Simmons, and obviously Joel Embiid being the most obvious. Colangelo and his team have been tight lipped and evasive but provide strange timelines when providing them at all. Inexplicably, Embiid played with a meniscus tear and a bone bruise after getting an MRI.

The concern for Sixers fans should be about the team’s ability to manage its players. It takes many players an entire career to perfect their jump shot while the stories from camp were that the coaching staff helped Fultz adjust his shot to ease his discomfort. It seems like a modest proposal to simply sit someone if their shoulder hurts too much for them to shoot it normally. The Sixers would seem like a team who should be prepared to deal with injuries given their experience with them. Nonetheless the staff seemingly pushed the short term option of altering his mechanics and giving him a cortisone injection rather than resting him.

It is a mind-boggling move from a franchise that has had a few missteps from management since fan favorite GM Sam Hinkie left the organization. The team traded Nerlens Noel for cents on the dollar and proceeded to tank Jahlil Okafor’s value by gluing him to the bench. This latest move could derail the first season for a player the 76ers had to trade what will surely be two high lottery picks to get.

Many college players shoot too few three pointers to create an accurate sample size. Their free throw shooting can often substitute as a good measure of their shooting ability. In Fultz’ case, his three point percentage was a sizzling 41.3 percent while his free throw percentage was a dismal 64.9. For comparison’s sake, if you plug those numbers into the NBA last season, Fultz would be top-20 in the league shooting threes but 107th among the 114 (115 including him) qualified players in free throws. If his future shooting numbers follow his free throws, he could be in trouble.

Why Everything Will Be Just Fine:

Fultz is just 19 years old! If the old form continues to bother him, he can tweak it. Sports Illustrated wrote a great article about Steph Curry’s constantly evolving shot a few years ago. The lesson is that the best players are always working on their shot. Fultz should work on his, particularly if it is giving him discomfort. The coaches should  be helping him tweak his old mechanics if they think they contributed to his shoulder injury. They should not be helping him turn himself into a walking meme by letting him shoot like a grade schooler.

Another reason people should stop worrying is that the rest of his game is still intact. Let the shoulder heal because Fultz has already showcased his handles and ability to get into the paint. He has the length and quickness to be an impact defender on the other end and should be a contributor even if he is not an elite shooter.

The final reason not to worry about Fultz is that the team might not need him to make the playoffs. In fact, his injury could help their chances since rookies are usually net negatives. Jerryd Bayless does not possess his ceiling but he knows where to be and can knock down shots. Ben Simmons can handle the point guard duties so the 76ers should take their time and ease Fultz back. Let’s ensure he keeps his old form and works on that rather than trying to mimic Charles Barkeley’s golf swing.

The Final Verdict:

Give the kid a break! Let him rest and enjoy watching Simmons and Embiid terrorize defenses in the pick and roll.

Worry Meter:


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Ben is a Staff Writer at with a focus on the NBA.
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