Another chapter in the Markelle Fultz saga, which continues to be the Philadelphia 76ers’ oddest storyline.
The Philadelphia 76ers are 10-7 on the season following their Friday night win over Utah. The story was Jimmy Butler, who tallied 28 points and seven assists in his home debut. Joel Embiid, despite foul trouble, managed 23 points of his own.
One underlying theme, however, was the continued evolution of Markelle Fultz‘s shooting mechanics. He’s no longer working with Drew Hanlen after a ‘colorful confrontation‘ between the shooting coach and someone in Markelle’s camp. That might relate to the sudden changes.
In Wednesday’s loss to Orlando, Fultz double-clutched in his second free attempt at the line. It’s worth noting that a) the first attempt was was not double-clutched and b) Fultz later said the ball slipped.
That wasn’t the case in Friday’s game. There was no mistake, no slippage — just a bold, very purposeful change to Fultz’s mechanics at the line. He tossed the ball between both hands on the way up, garnering puzzled looks from Jae Crowder.
Fultz attempted four free throws against the Jazz, all using his new form. Assuming the Sixers are actively looking for solutions, there’s no guarantee this is the final stage in his free throw evolution. The results were mixed, hitting 2/4 on the night.
It’s worth noting that these issues only persist at the free throw line. Markelle hasn’t ventured near the three-point line recently, but he’s comfortably pulling up from mid-range. He’s at his best on the move, when there isn’t time to put thought into every motion.
With his free throws looking especially clunky of late, this is likely an attempt for Fultz to generate rhythm. He keeps the ball moving and avoids awkward hitches on the way up, which might end up being a positive.
If it works, it works. There have been weird-but-effective free throw mechanics before. If Fultz gets comfortable with the back-and-forth motion, he should stick with it. No reason to let a few internet critics dissuade his attempts at finding a resolution.
As someone who has clearly gone through a lot over the past year, it’s hard not to root for Markelle’s success. He’s a good teammate, good person, and more importantly, he’s just 20 years old. He’s still human.
Some combination of shoulder injury and mental block has thrown a major wrench into Fultz’s development. It might take unorthodox measures to regain form.