Sixers guard Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick, is scheduled to see a shoulder specialist early next week at the direction of his agent, Raymond Brothers. Brothers confirmed to ESPN that Fultz will not participate in Philadelphia’s team practices or games until after the specialist has evaluated him.
Fultz was limited to just 14 regular-season games in his rookie season because of a shoulder ailment that confounded Philadelphia.
While recovering from the initial right shoulder injury last October, Fultz was diagnosed with a scapular imbalance. The injury took longer to heal than initially expected. As late as last February, the guard was unable to shoot from beyond 15 feet with sound mechanics or rhythm.
Fultz said in training camp of this season that he felt fully healthy after spending the offseason working on his shot.
The latest plan for his shoulder, which was first reported by The Athletic, leads to more questions surrounding the injury.
Fultz, 20, is averaging 8.2 points, 3.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game for Philadelphia. He is shooting 42 percent from the field.
In Monday’s win over Phoenix, Fultz played seven minutes and was benched in favor of guard T.J. McConnell, who served as the Sixers’ backup point guard.
After the game, Sixers coach Brett Brown said he didn’t know if Fultz or McConnell would be his backup point guard moving forward.
Brown had inserted Fultz into his starting lineup at the start of the regular season — despite Philadelphia’s original starting five of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid being among the NBA’s best last season.
Soon after, Brown said Redick would begin starting the second halves of games, while Fultz would remain in the starting five for the first. Once the Jimmy Butler trade was consummated last week, though, and the Sixers had a roster with three ball-dominant stars (Simmons, Butler and Embiid) and a lack of spacing, Brown pulled the plug on that experiment and returned Redick to the starting unit to give Philadelphia some much-needed shooting.
The organization has gone to great lengths to try to put Fultz in a position to succeed.
After the Butler trade, Sixers GM Elton Brand said the organization had not changed its positive view of Fultz and that Philadelphia was the best place for him to develop.
“I still think it’s the best place for him to develop because we love him and we care,” Brand said. “He’s with us. He’s a part of us. If he goes somewhere else, I don’t know what that looks like. But for him to develop, it may be the best place for him still.”
Prior to the 2017 NBA draft, then-Sixers president Bryan Colangelo sent Philadelphia’s No. 3 overall pick to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick, with which they selected Fultz. Boston selected Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick.
As part of that trade, Philadelphia will send the Celtics the rights to the more favorable of the Sixers’ own 2019 first-round pick or the Sacramento Kings‘ 2019 first-round pick, provided that the more favorable pick is not the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft. If the Kings’ pick is No. 1 overall, Philadelphia will send its own 2019 first-round pick to Boston.