Markelle Fultz is showing signs of growth for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Philadelphia 76ers‘ win over the L.A. Clippers was Markelle Fultz‘s best game of the young NBA season. He tallied 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists, providing an important spark off the bench in the third and fourth quarters.
Early struggles have led many to question Fultz’s present value to the Sixers. He compromises spacing for a team built around a non-shooting point guard and a post-centric big, making for a less-than-perfect marriage.
The game against L.A., however, shifted that narrative. Fultz is still an NBA player, and when he’s aggressively attacking the lane and making plays, his dynamism adds to the Sixers’ offense. He just needs to enter every game with that mindset.
Shooting more threes is the next step in Fultz’s development, but that isn’t the only path to productive minutes. When he’s making strong moves to the rim and acting decisively with the ball, Fultz shows flashes of what made him the consensus No. 1 pick.
Here’s an excellent example. With time winding down, Fultz takes the inbounds pass and drives full-court, using the Joel Embiid screen to gain seperation and get directly to the rim. He then goes up fearlessly against the 7-foot-3 Boban Marjanovic, showing no hesitancy.
Fultz also grabbed nine boards against the Clippers, which helped spark his big outing. After securing rebounds, he was able to immediately push the tempo and survey the defense. That jibes nicely with his newfound decisiveness. Fultz is comfortable with the ball in hands, and allowing him to grab-and-go boosts the offense.
Fultz pushing the tempo also allows him to shine as a playmaker. Here, he’s able to get into the lane and draw in the defense before kicking it out to Robert Covington for the trailing three-pointer.
Here’s another example, in which Fultz draws the attention of three defenders, leaving Dario Saric open for the rare three-point make on the perimeter. When Fultz is aggressive, defenses tend to pay him more attention. It’s funny how that works.
Again, in the long run, Fultz needs to shoot jumpers. His three-point mechanics are still a work in progress, but even bad misses are a positive, as long as he possesses the confidence to get shots up.
If Fultz can pair aggressive drives to the basket with the occasional three-point shot, he will stress defenses in a major way. It’s important to keep Fultz’s situation in context — he’s a 20-year-old recovering from shoulder issues and a mental block, so some early rust was expected. He needs to time to find rhythm and confidence, which are already coming along.
Even shots like this, where he attempts the spot-up jumper with zero hesitation, are a positive.
As long as Fultz is making quick decisions and looking to score, he’s going to earn more minutes for the Sixers. He’s making serious progress.
In addition to his offensive performance, the Clippers game marked Fultz’s best defensive performance to date. He was aggressively fighting through screens and, in the words of Marc Zumoff, locking all windows and doors for L.A. on multiple occasions.
This thread from The Athletic’s Jackson Frank does a nice job detailing his standout performance on that end.
Right now, the Sixers’ best five-man group doesn’t include Markelle Fultz. If the 20-year-old continues to up his aggressiveness and make an imprint with his scoring, however, that could change before the season’s end.
Some more threes wouldn’t hurt either.