2018-2019 Off the Glass Breakout Players Series: Markelle Fultz
With the 2018-2019 NBA season upon us, Off the Glass is making predictions on who the breakout players from each team will be. Today we look at Markelle Fultz from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Last week, my phone rings as I’m starting my car, en route to happy hour at a local bar with some friends. It’s my mom, who even at 22 years old, still receives the most prompt answer of anyone in my contact list.
“Hey, Mom. Whats up? I’m headed to bible study” I say.
“Matthew,” she responds “Please tell me you didn’t forget about your cousin’s rehearsal dinner.”
And forgot I had. Just like that, the entire process of planning, attending etc. just slipped my mind. It was as if I were a first overall draft pick in the NBA Draft, highly touted for my three level scoring and just suddenly forgot how to shoot.
The mechanics, footwork and all things involved in the skill were just gone. Similar to a young man named Markelle Fultz and the shoulder injury that supposedly plagued his first season in the league. Sixers fans and management alike would agree it wasn’t “just the shoulder,” much like my mother and I would agree I don’t even know what a bible study is.
Regardless, I believe the second-year point guard is poised for a bounce back year.
The young season has yielded mixed results for Fultz, who has posted around 10 points, four rebounds and four assists per game. However, statistical outputs aren’t really the most important consideration for Fultz this season. Instead, flashes of the “Washington Fultz”, an ode to the confident combo guard during his days at the University of Washington, are what fans and analysts alike seek.
Every spot up three pointer, pull-up jump shot, or spin move in the lane should please those rooting for the young guard as his confidence is slowly being rebuilt. In my opinion, Fultz’s biggest problem is his shaken confidence, which in turns has degraded his mechanics. Couple that with poor advice from a former trainer, and it’s hard not to feel bad for the 20 year old.
How Fultz ultimately looks during the final eight games of the season figures to be very different than how he looked during the first eight. His hesitance has been on display as he is too regularly been passing up spot up three. And he has yet to take a three point shot off the dribble, his bread and butter in college.
However, there are positives that have stood out. Fultz has seen some success in the mid-range and attacking the basket. Ball screens for the young guard have provided chances to show his refined jumper, and he has been more prone to shoot those than not. In transition, Fultz remains a blur, attacking the rim and even producing a poster or two in the young season.
As the year progresses, I expect that hesitation to dissipate. As his confidence grows, we should see more pull up threes out of the pick and roll, more creativity in the mid-range, and a burgeoning swagger resembling what we once saw from the former top prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Fultz has had his fair share of struggles and those will likely continue during his second season. Because of the large portion of his rookie season that was missed, this should be seen as more of a continuation of his rookie year and thus the kid-gloves approach still applies. The spacing will struggle, the team may be cost some wins but Fultz development is the Sixers primary path way to a third star they so desperately need. I believe Fultz will show enough flashes and give the Sixers an elite back-up option at point guard that will place him as one of the league’s best choices for break out player.