The NBA season is about to hit its midway point. And in Philadelphia, the Sixers are showing glimpses of why trusting the process was the correct way to go as a franchise with Joel Embiid being named a starter for the All-Star Game and Ben Simmons having a rookie-of-the-year worthy season. While the Sixers continue to be a fun show every time they take the court, the reality is they could be heading to the postseason for the first time since 2012. The Sixers are on track for having the most wins in a season since going 41-41 in 2010-2011.
The vibes around the Sixers are as positive as they have been in years, but there is one aspect of the team that continues to look ominous. Markelle Fultz, the number one overall pick in last summer’s NBA Draft, has played in just four games for the Sixers this season as he continues to work his way back from a shoulder injury from before the start of the season. Ramping up the level of concern over the top draft pick is video of Fultz taking foul shots in practice, with criticisms about his shooting from running wild.
Fultz from the line pic.twitter.com/Yl1D66ZyfR
— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) January 24, 2018
The shooting form from the top draft pick arguably leaves something to be desired, and plenty of NBA folks have come out questioning how Fultz could have such an awkward-looking shot after seeing what he was able to do in college. Even the Sixers seem a little confused as to what happened to Fultz’s shot.
Man, this is hard to watch. Markelle Fultz's shot is just hideous at this point. I really hope he can get back to 100% and return to how he shot the ball in college. pic.twitter.com/qbbI5ZLHcj
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 24, 2018
It is so crazy to me that Markelle Fultz has somehow forgot how to shoot. Dante Exum went through a shoulder surgery midseason and still is, ya know, an NBA basketball player. https://t.co/0lyngA9Moc
— SLC Dunk (@slcdunk) January 24, 2018
Did the Monstars actually steal Markelle Fultz’s basketball ability?
— Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson) January 24, 2018
It is fair to expect the Sixers or any team to have a player that has a rock solid shooting form when they use the top pick in the NBA Draft for that player, even if that player is coming off a shoulder injury. How much that shoulder injury has impacted the form of Fultz is unknown, frankly, because the Sixers have largely been silent on Fultz this season. For the Sixers, this has been the standard operating procedure the last couple of years, whether that is right or wrong. They did it with Embiid. They did it with Simmons. They continue to do it with Fultz.
As long as Fultz stays off the court and is reduced to sitting on the bench in street clothes instead of a uniform, the questions will continue to be floated about when to expect to see Fultz join his teammates. Without any concrete answers, some will be forced to run with their speculations, and that may only make things more complex and nauseating than they need to be.
You really can’t trust NO ONE !!
— Markelle Fultz (@MarkelleF) January 29, 2018
But maybe, just maybe, the Sixers are calm and collected about Fultz and his future with the Sixers. Some may be suggesting the Sixers should dump Fultz now with the hope of finding one more piece that can contribute now for a possible push into the playoffs. But those comments may be coming from the same people who said in recent years the Sixers should trade Embiid when he was not playing or Simmons when he was not playing. With the way these two players are performing this season, you can see why the Sixers feel they can trust their process and that alone should be a suggestion Fultz is not going anywhere.
It is also worth a reminder that Fultz is just 19-years-old. Even as the top draft pick, he was going to come into the league with some growing to do. As with Ben Simmons the year before, there can be plenty of development in practice as the team grooms Fultz to embrace the role he will one day assume on the roster. For the Sixers, this is all part of trusting the process.
When the Sixers initially began their process, the franchise made it a point to stress how valuable patience would be for the long run. For years, the Sixers were mismanaged with the roster and there was never a solid long-term vision that could have led to a team capable of competing for a championship. After a few years to cleanse the roster and establish a foundation to build a new roster with a master plan from the ground up, the results are beginning to pay off. Embiid and Simmons are the 1-2 combo to build around, and Fultz is expected to one day be the third key member of the starting lineup that will allow for ball control and reliable shooting. It won’t matter what Fultz’s shooting form looks like as long as he is making jumpers and taking advantage of his free throws. But because Fultz has seen minimal time court for an NBA game, his shooting form is an easy target as the Sixers once again get criticized for a high draft pick that has yet to have an instant impact.
But the Sixers clearly have not been focused on having players make an instant impact. The Sixers are being patient with the anticipation of having a team that could compete for years to come. For now, it is a waiting game for Sixers fans to see the third piece of the puzzle hit the floor along with Embiid and Simmons. Until then, Fultz will do his best to the distractions behind him.
Markelle Fultz drains a full-court shot … backwards. pic.twitter.com/TJwl8QUclC
— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) January 26, 2018