• Kyle Zwiazek

Markelle Fultz’s Injury and How the Philadelphia 76ers Can Make a Playoff Splash

The last time the Philadelphia 76ers graced the NBA Playoffs was in 2012 at the end of their second A.I. era as the Answer himself Allen Iverson enjoyed retirement and his high-flying successor Andre Iguodala was dealt to the Denver Nuggets. Ever since, the 76ers have been an NBA laughing-stock and “the Process” has been as much of a punchline as the NFL’s winless Cleveland Browns. General Manager Sam Hinkie’s extreme rebuild earned nationwide critiques that he was out of touch and unfit for management while some diehards maintained certainty of his genius. In 2018 the times have certainly changed and while the 76ers are no powerhouse, the new managerial regime seems to be profiting from Hinkie’s work as the team looks ready to push for the playoffs. Currently one place out of the 8th seed, the 76ers have the post-season well in their sights despite having played much of the season without 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz.

Fultz is currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury that he suffered on October 23, 2017. Until then, Fultz was mediocre at best and looked like a bust of a draft pick. According to Basketball Reference, in four games with the 76ers this season Markelle averaged 6 points, 1.8 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game. Those are not the numbers of a pick so high that it is often expected to be game-, team-, and even league-changing. Granted, Fultz has only played four games and everyone adjusts to the NBA differently so the jury should most definitely stay put.

Markelle joins a list of 76ers over the past couple of years that have had weird injuries. Look back at guys like Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. All had freak injuries that kept them out for significant time during their rookie seasons. Fultz joined the 76ers as one of the most promising young players in the NBA in recent memory. If he can bring out the potential we saw out of the young bull in Washington during college while in the NBA, Fultz will turn the 76ers into a veritable basketball powerhouse.

Just looking at the team they have now, Philadelphia is already showing some serious promise and production. Ben Simmons is looking like a superstar with highlight dunks, stellar defense, and a calm head atop his lofty shoulders. He is averaging 16.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 8.4 rebounds a game according to Basketball Reference. To go along with that, the man nicknamed “The Process” is having a great season when he actually plays. Joel Embiid is an exciting center that is still working on being able to play back-to-back games after missing his first two NBA seasons with a broken navicular bone in his foot. In his second season actually playing in the NBA, Embiid is averaging 23.8 points and 10.8 rebounds a game according to Basketball Reference. To go along with the two faces of the franchise, J.J. Redick has had a resurgence in Philly and is scoring more points than he has in any other of his 12 seasons in the NBA. Robert Covington and Dario Saric are also playing incredibly well, making for a well-rounded team that has kept close to a playoff spot.

Markelle Fultz is starting to practice and could be back playing games within the next couple of weeks. Just what will the 76ers get when he returns? According to Chris Chavez’s scouting report for Sports Illustrated, Fultz was the most complete player coming out of college in the 2017 NBA draft. He has the ability to be a top offensive threat in the league with a propensity to thrive in the pick-and-roll. Fultz is also, when healthy, an athletic wonder that has the tools to create highlight-reel plays and dunks.

The knock on Fultz is his lack of defensive consistency. Markelle has the length and size to become a solid defender in the league, but had issues in college playing consistent defense. Another important area of concerns is Fultz’s struggles with his jump shot. As shown early in the 2017-2018 season, Fultz was definitely inconsistent. That was true when he was in college as well. The volume he got helped to give the former Washington star 23.2 points per game while in the NCAA but if he wants to be a top contributor in the NBA, Fultz will have to continue focusing on improving his shot.

Overall, Markelle Fultz will be a welcome addition to the Philadelphia 76ers. They are right in the middle of the playoff hunt and can use an athletic guard to run the pick-and-roll with Joel Embiid. A guy like Fultz is exactly what this team is missing. He is a guard that can run the point or the two and thrive. The big question is how healthy Fultz can stay. His injury is not your typical NBA injury and there is no proof that he will be back to the player he was right away. The 76ers should really make sure Fultz is fully healed and ready to go because losing him for extended time could be disastrous to a playoff run.

#NBA #Sixers #Philly #KyleZwiazek