By Will Delaney ‘20
He had it all going for him. He was the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft and had a wide set of offensive skills to make him a scoring machine. So what has caused this man’s woes? And should he be traded?
Let’s start from the beginning. Back in 2016 Markelle Fultz was a senior at Dematha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. He was the star point guard on his basketball team and one of the best players in the country. In fact, he was a 5 Star recruit that had college scouts from across the nation coming to watch him play every night. This guy was special.
After he graduated from Dematha, he went to the University of Washington on a full ride. At Washington his ceiling only rose higher. He started as a freshman and had one of the greatest seasons in school history. His performance was also one of the best in the NCAA this century. He averaged 23.2 points per game(PPG), 5.7 assists per game(APG), and 5.9 rebounds per game(RPG). The most impressive part is that he did this all in 35.7 minutes per game(MPG). That year he received Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-PAC-12 honors. He scored on future NBA players such as Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzbass. He also gained much attention from NBA teams that were in possession of lottery picks. This is what pushed him to enter the draft after his first year at college.
On June 22, 2017 Markelle was taken with the first pick of the draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. The bar was not only set high because Kelle was the first pick of the draft but he, along with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were supposed to turn around the misfortunes of the Sixers. This did happen, just not with much help from Fultz.
He began his rookie season coming of the bench and did pretty well with it. In his first game he posted 10 points, 3 boards, and an assist in only 18 minutes. However he had a shoulder injury that hindered his shooting. The injury got so bad that he was sidelined for a few months. When he came back from his injury he was still the 6th man and still playing pretty well. However, he was still not shooting the ball well. He was putting up good numbers but he couldn’t hit a mid-range jumper to save his life. The Sixers made the playoffs that season as the third seed and won most of their games without him. Philly played the Miami heat in the first round and the Boston Celtics in the second round and Fultz did not play in either of those series. Many people thought that was weird but he just seemed to go along with it because he knew his jump shot wasn’t good. So right after Boston bounced the Sixers out of the playoffs, Markelle began working out with world class basketball shooting coach Drew Hanlen.
In the summer of ‘18, Sixers fans were worried about two things; whether or not Philadelphia would sign LeBron James, and whether or not Hanlen would be able to fix Fultz’s shot. Fans were very optimistic. Fultz would be working with his trainer three times, five days a week, for about three and a half months. Hanlen also worked with the likes of Joel Embiid and Jason Tatum and they turned out pretty good. Kelle put in a lot of hard work and that showed in the pre-season. Fultz began shooting the ball more often and even made a few threes. His shot, even though not perfect, was much better than before. But then something happened.
A few weeks into the season Markelle had a falling out with his trainer and he began to play bad again. During a game against the Utah Jazz people would think he forgot how to shoot with the form he was playing with. A few games later during a blowout win against the Phoenix Suns, Kelle was benched in favor of 4th year point guard and fan favorite, T.J. McConnell. Markelle and his agent, Raymond Brothers, were furious and demanded a trade.
And that brings us to today. Markelle is still with the team but has not played in three weeks. The Sixers are shopping him but not hard, and everyone has their speculations on why Fultz’s career has turned out like this so far. Most of it appears mental and only a little bit physical. Obviously his shoulder was injured last year and his fine this year, but Kelle is shooting like he’s had an ailment all this time. He could see a psychiatrist to put him in a better mindset but his agent doesn’t want him to do so because he believes Markelle is still injured.
Should the Sixers trade Kelle? To be honest, I’m not sure. It depends on what we get in return. The only problem with that is that no one is interested in trading for him. No other GM wants to take on that challenge. So right now the 1st overall pick of the 2017 draft, a man who was once compared to NBA MVP James Harden, is sitting on the trade block due to God knows what. But I hope that he gets better from whatever is causing harm to him, for his career’s sake.