Brett Brown is tinkering with the Philadelphia 76ers’ rotation to put Markelle Fultz in the best position for success.
The Philadelphia 76ers will begin the regular season against the Boston Celtics on Oct. 16. For the first time in his young NBA career, Markelle Fultz will line up in the starting unit alongside Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.
Despite an imperfect jumper, the 20-year-old showed enough progress in preseason to earn the trust of Brett Brown. He was 1-5 from deep in four games, but hit some mid-range jumpers and showcased his talent as a playmaker.
With that said, Brown does plan on bringing Fultz off the bench to start third quarters. While that may indicate a desire to lean on J.J. Redick down the stretch of games, Brown’s motivations seem geared toward Fultz and his development.
Here’s his input on the Fultz situation, according to Yahoo! Sports.
“What [starting Fultz] does is it lets me try to grow Markelle and bring him along at the start of a game. It’s five minutes — I think it’s not as dramatic as sometimes people do. So it’s five minutes. I’m doing that because I want to grow him. I want to grow us. Can that help us? And I believe that it can.
And I believe the decision of, ‘Well, why don’t you do that again in the second half?’ I’m trying to give him as many minutes as I can as a point guard, and I can better do that with the way I just spelled it out, if I’m committed to starting him, and I am. I want to see how this goes, and those are the reasons.”
By starting Fultz, Brown can tinker with the Fultz-Simmons dynamic, which could determine their success long term. While neither Fultz nor Simmons is a reliable floor spacer, their collective playmaking ability is integral to the Sixers’ ability to overcome Boston and Toronto.
In preseason action, both Simmons and Fultz showed promise off the ball. Fultz did a nice job locating open space and cutting to the rim, while Simmons took advantage of several mismatches in the post.
As long as that continues, the pairing should work fine — with or without consistent three-point shooting.
In the second half, Brown is aiming to get Fultz more time at point guard. That allows him to consume all the non-Simmons minutes, keeping at least one high-level playmaker on the floor at all times.
At Washington, Fultz’s ability to terrorize defenses with his ball handling, passing and three-level scoring got him drafted first overall. He isn’t quite there yet, but giving Fultz time to run the show is important to his development.
Given the Sixers’ desire to make the NBA Finals, there’s a good chance Redick is on the floor late in close games. His off-ball movement and shot-making was a key cog in Brown’s offense last season, and that won’t change because of a minor shift in the rotation.
Fultz’s development seems to be at the top of Brown’s priority list, though, and that’s the way it should be. He still has the talent indicative of a star player — it’s just a matter of reclaiming that swagger, confidence and, eventually, shooting touch.