2017 was a year to forget for Markelle Fultz. The first overall pick in the NBA draft suffered from a shoulder injury that was poorly explained to anyone outside of the building for months as well as a clear lack in confidence. It was easy to forget in the midst of it all that this wasn’t just an asset for the organization, this was a young 19-year old trying to find his feet while everyone around him insisted on breaking his shot down and rebuilding it. This year, things seem different.
Fultz has started off the preseason in a hot fashion. From registering 14 points in his debut against Melbourne United, to draining his first professional 3-point shot against the Mavericks in last night’s win, the former Washington standout is beginning to hit his stride.
“I mean like I said I put a lot of work in the summer just to be comfortable shooting the threes, shooting my shot, and getting back to being confident in the shots I want to take.” Fultz told reporters after the game. “So coming into this game, I feel comfortable taking those shots when I had the opportunity I took my shots.”
As well as draining his first 3, Fultz notched 12 points and 6 boards during the contest. The leaps taken from year one to year two are immediately visible, with Fultz looking calmer on the court and confident when handling the ball. It doesn’t take a basketball guru to look at the way that the young playmaker is carrying himself and a chip on the shoulder that has clearly mounted. After a year of having the whole world trying to find as much footage on his shot as possible and a surreal amount of pressure from the passionate sporting city that is Philadelphia, Fultz is ready to silence the noise with his play on the court.
“I’m really excited.” He explained. “Just to be able to come here and have the confidence and be healthy and just be able to be myself. I’m excited just to contribute to the team and try to get us further than we went last year. Then, talking to Ben and Joel, they all had sat out a whole year, so just talked about keep up confidence, working hard and believing yourself, so that definitely helped.”
Surrounded by future greats that have also endured the same fate, Fultz has been able to settle into a Sixers organization that was rocking with instability. Simmons knows exactly what it’s like to in effect endure a redshirt season and it’s very interesting to hear his perspective on the rise of his teammate.
“He’s making shots.” The Australian told reporters. “I mean I don’t really see a huge difference between—I mean his mentality stayed the same, he doesn’t care what anybody thinks. That’s how it needs to be just because you need to get out there with a clear head and focus on what you do well and he’s doing that right now. He’s playing great.”
It won’t be long until the Sixers take to the court once again to start the regular season and when they do, we can expect to see a very different Markelle Fultz. A Markelle Fultz who spent an offseason in the shadows building what was ripped away from him. The latest in a growing line of rookie season’s gone wrong, Fultz will be looking to finish that trend with an outstanding sophomore campaign.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports