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Brett Brown has the right message for Markelle Fultz

Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown is preaching confidence with Markelle Fultz.

Through six games, Markelle Fultz is averaging 8.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 40.4 percent from the field. He’s shooting a clean 50 percent (3/6) from three-point range.

Overall, there have been both positives and negatives with Fultz’s performance. He’s not back to Washington form yet, but expectations were too high coming into the season. He’s showing flashes of the talent that made him a No. 1 pick.

With a questionable fit and clear confidence issues, Fultz is still far from contributing to a Philadelphia 76ers title run. He has the potential to get there, but that would require significant growth in multiple areas.

Assertiveness is his primary issue. Rather than shying away from shots, Fultz needs to attack open space with the swagger that defined him in college. Even if his efficiency takes a hit, Fultz launching pull-up threes would be a welcomed sight for most fans.

Before the shoulder issues, Fultz was relentless with the ball in his hands, using crafty dribble moves to free up space and seek out shots. He was liable to score from anywhere on the court, whether it be deep threes or finesse layups at the rim.

Despite much-improved mechanics, Fultz is still hesitant to take shots outside the 10-15 foot range. He’s deferring spot-up threes, closing wide-open gaps and, at times, killing possessions with his unwillingness to shoot.

Fultz has the tools — the craft, the athleticism, and even the shooting — to take another step forward this season. It comes down to confidence at this point, and Brett Brown seems to understand that.

It’s all about restoring the proper mentality for Fultz. If the Sixers are prioritizing his development, Fultz needs freedom in the offense. Allowing him to look for shots, attack off the bounce and “put his thumbprint on the rim” will help massively in the long run.

Even when he’s not shooting, if Fultz confidently attacks the rim — rather than hesitating and overthinking his options — he has the touch and craft to finish in traffic. His transition spin move was a promising moment in Saturday night’s win over Charlotte.

For the first time this season, the Sixers gave Fultz minutes in a close fourth-quarter game against the Hornets. He also spent time as the primary ball handler with Ben Simmons on the floor in the third quarter, which is a dynamic the Sixers should explore more often.

Brown is sending the right message to Fultz. He needs to attack the space he’s given, as defenses are still sluggish on their closeouts and willing to let Fultz get in rhythm off the dribble. He has every chance to go off, it’s just about seizing the opportunity.

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The Sixers also need to put Fultz in a position to succeed. Give him more point guard minutes, limit (or eliminate) his playing time next to T.J. McConnell, and design sets with the sole purpose of getting Fultz into his comfort areas as a scorer.

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