During last season’s exit interview Markelle Fultz appeared optimistic for his future with the 76ers. He was prepared to work during the offseason and claimed his shoulder and shooting strength were “pretty good” but not “100 percent”. In his limited play last season, Fultz had already become the youngest player to ever record a triple-double. For a moment it appeared as if Fultz was headed in the right direction, but things have quickly gone sour this season.
Just 19 games into the season Fultz decided to rest his sore shoulder, indefinitely. The time he was playing earlier in the season was confusing, to say the least. He seemed to have a new free throw release every game and found little success shooting the ball. Reports of a falling out between him and his trainer Drew Hanlen suggest problems deeper than what we can see on the surface.
Additionally, many theories and rumors have swirled around Markelle Fultz this season. One theory that has recently gained popularity is the idea that Fultz injured his shoulder in a motorcycle incident. While it is an interesting theory that you can check out more in depth here, that’s not what I want to talk about. In this article, I want to share what I believe will happen in Fultz’ murky future. But first, some context.
A Quick Look Back
There was a reason Markelle Fultz was the consensus number one pick. If you know his background, you’ll know he is obviously no stranger to hard work. He didn’t play varsity high school basketball until his junior year. Few NBA players, much less first overall picks, aren’t on varsity in their first two years. This is a testament to his dedication and work ethic that brought such rapid improvement in his skill set. Elite colleges such as Louisville and Arizona recruited Fultz out of high school. But, ultimately, Fultz decided to commit to the University of Washington.
In his one season at Washington, Fultz averaged 23.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.9 APG and was a great shooter. That season, Fultz shot 41% from three. Even though the college three isn’t as far as the NBA three, his form looked really good. Much better than it has looked throughout his NBA career. Additionally, he appeared to be a borderline elite defender, averaging 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game in college. The fact that his abilities suddenly disappeared once he started playing in the NBA suggests a mental, rather than physical, limitation. Players recover from upper-body injuries and regain their shooting ability all the time, but reports have come out that anxiety rather than a physical issue is preventing his shot from returning. This would make more sense than a structural issue causing him problems for 2 years.
Fultz has already asked for a fresh start from the 76ers. Personally, I believe he no longer has a future in Philadelphia. After the Jimmy Butler trade, Fultz’s starting spot is gone and the team has been just fine without him in the rotation. If Philadelphia isn’t the right place for Fultz to develop, where is? Well, this connects back to his anxiety issues pressuring his shot. It’s possible Fultz chose Washington over Arizona for college because he knew there would be no expectations to win and less coverage overall. Now, Fultz needs to find this with an NBA team. I believe there are three locations that would give Fultz the best chance to succeed.
1. Phoenix Suns
This is the best scenario for Markelle Fultz. He needs somewhere with no news coverage, no expectations, and plenty of opportunities to improve his game. Phoenix checks all three boxes. Currently, their the worst team in the NBA, Phoenix is also one of the smaller markets in the league, and their starting point guard is actually a shooting guard. Although the Suns are experimenting with Devin Booker at point guard, similar to what the Rockets tried with James Harden, it would be worth letting Fultz take that spot. The Rockets were good with Harden running the show but only became great once they added Chris Paul.
This move has clear benefits for both sides. Adding another ball handler to the wing-heavy rotation in Phoenix would be a huge benefit for the Suns. For Fultz, he would have the opportunity to handle the ball and create plays and not have any pressure to shoot. Reports claim that when he is relaxed Fultz’ shot looks fine. There is no reason to believe his shot wouldn’t return in Phoenix once he was comfortable there. The potential of a superstar backcourt with Fultz and Booker is insane and Phoenix offers the best chance for Fultz to make a comeback.
2. Orlando Magic
Orlando may be a slightly bigger city and may have a few more wins than the Suns, but they offer a similar level of comfort for Markelle Fultz. The primary reason the Magic are winning games is Nikola Vucevic. Because he is on an expiring deal and doesn’t fit into the Magic’s timeline he should be traded right now, while his value is high. If they decide to dump Vucevic and have another losing season Fultz should be their new starting point guard. He fits well into the front office’s defensive-minded approach to the construction of the roster along with Jonathon Isaac and Mohammed Bamba. His length in addition to what he showed in college suggests he could become an elite defender. Because of the roster construction, Orlando is another great, low-pressure and high-opportunity spot for Fultz to reach his potential.
3 Chicago Bulls
This is my least favorite location of the three, but I still thought Chicago was worth a mention. The big city and coaching instability aren’t great for Markelle Fultz, but the low-wins and lack of a starting point guard are great. Kris Dunn may be their starting point guard when healthy, but there is no question that Fultz’ ceiling is much higher. If Fultz found his way on to the Bulls he would deserve playing time over Dunn. Also, although Zach Lavine, Lauri Markanenn, and Jabari Parker all take shots away from Fultz, they also take way pressure. Due to other players being the primary focus of the offense, Fultz won’t have much pressure on that side of the ball. On defense, he shouldn’t feel any pressure with the Bulls. While he would need to find a trustworthy mentor and learn to deal with the pressure of being in a great basketball city, Fultz would have plenty of on-court opportunities to repair his career.
What do you think would be the best option for Fultz? Comment below or contact me!