The Rise, Fall and Rise - Markelle Fultz

Polarizing is the word that comes to mind when I think of Markelle Fultz. If you watch any of his highlight tapes from his time at the University of Washington in Seattle it is not difficult to spot what may presumably become a generational talent. Markelle has the speed, the handles, powerful slams and the supreme ability to put the ball in the basket from distance. All of the things that are necessary for today’s fast-paced, floor-spacing game. Fultz was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA draft and immediately all of the pressure and expectations that come along with being the Overall No. 1 pick flooded the newest Philadelphia 76er. 

Fultz came out of the gate doing all of the things that many thought he’d be capable of following his time at UW, but soon thereafter things began to change. His free-throw shooting became abysmal, his shot was visibly different. Then, rumors began swirling that he was working with a shooting coach to change his shot and ultimately fans and national media began commenting on his mental stability and questioning if why his shot changed was more so psychological than physical. Philadelphia began to fuel these rumors once Markelle fell out of the lineup. Fast forward a few months and 10+ games on the bench the news was released. Markelle Fultz had been diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) which according to the Journal of occupational rehabilitation is “is a controversial cause of neck and shoulder pain due to complex mechanisms involving muscular dysfunction and nerve compression”.

Orlando analyzing all of this traded for Fultz at the trade deadline sending Jonathan Simmons who had fallen out of rotation, and what will ultimately be two 2nd round picks. Anyone who objectively looks at the trade can see how Orlando won that trade. After acquiring Fultz Orlando tempered expectations by allowing Markelle to continue his rehab in Los Angeles and slowly integrating him into Orlando. For the rest of the season, Markelle did not touch the court on active playing minutes. However, he did share Snapchat footage of him in the Orlando Practice facility, snaps of his sneakers in the gym; all things that were enticing to the Orlando Magic fan base but nothing much of him putting up shots which is what everyone was waiting to see. 

During his rehab Coach Clifford, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond expresses their intent on easing Markelle back into the game. Setting the table for a low-pressure return while being interviewed during summer league Steve Clifford alluded to Fultz’s situation saying that he had yet played 5 on 5 scrimmages. This all fits the narrative that Orlando had pushed since acquiring Markelle in February. 

Fast forward to August 2019 and we get our first glimpse of Markelle putting up shots with resistance in the form of non-pressure defense and he looked good. Moved swiftly with the ball, showed some quick handles and pulled up for a fade-away shot as well as a 3pt shot from the top of the key.

 
 

Needless to say Magic Twitter went insane:

 
 
 
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Philadelphia 76ers Twitter was not as happy as Orlando. Maybe resentment because they won’t be reaping the benefits of Markelle as they gave up on him but some fans took the Markelle hate to the extreme:

 
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All in all Markelle’s story in the NBA has been marred by false narratives and exaggerated realities. He was on a team who gave up on him, and now is surrounded by people who want to see him thrive, he has great facilities and medical staff helping his recuperation and monitoring his progress without a dire need for him to return at 100%. If there was a situation where Markelle could thrive Orlando is it. Not much pressure, a patient front office, and the culture of young athletic guys who will make Fultz’s life as our point guard relatively simple. Welcome to Orlando, and we for one cannot wait to see you flourish! 

Also, remember as Aaron Gordon put it:

“Markelle is a sleeper. He’s a sleeper. So, if he wakes up, and he’s awake and woken up, he’s a monster. A monster. So, people are sleeping on him. That’s what I mean by he’s a sleeper. People are sleeping on him. He’s going to be huge for our team.”

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