Better or not, Markelle Fultz needs to be in the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting five on a full-time basis moving forward.
The Philadelphia 76ers are undefeated through two preseason games, taking care off Melbourne United and the Orlando Magic. Markelle Fultz has played a role in both wins, scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The former No. 1 pick has surpassed J.J. Redick in the starting lineup, with Brett Brown looking to develop chemistry between his core pieces. Fultz might not be better than Redick right now, but the dynamism he brings to the offense is an important part of the Sixers’ future.
With that in mind, Brown’s decision should be simple once the regular season arrives — make Fultz the full-time starter.
In the Sixers’ win over Orlando, Fultz showcased the jump shot that eluded him all of last season. It was fluid, compact and spot-on from mid-range. All of Fultz’s made baskets were jumpers, with some coming as the pick-and-roll ball handler.
Fultz also hit his first three-point shot, spotting up from the corner and shooting without hesitation. He would go on to attempt three more deep balls, including one semi-heave to end the second quarter.
There is still some inconsistency in Fultz’s three-point mechanics, but that will smooth over in time. Hanlen remains heavily involved in his development and the potential for regression seems slim, if present at all.
With that being the case, getting Fultz reps in regular season action will be important. He made an impact in 14 games last season, even tallying a triple-double in the season finale. With an improving jump shot and more experience, things should get easier for Fultz in his second season.
His ability to attack off the dribble, run the pick-and-roll and drill pull-up jumpers is something the Sixers’ offense desperately lacked against Boston in the playoffs. He isn’t quite a “three-level” scorer at this point, but he’s tantalizingly close to becoming one.
As long as his confidence persists, Fultz will gradually restore the hype that once surrounded his immense talent. The undisputed top prospect on most draft boards in 2017, Fultz is a consistent jumper away from being an All-Star. That jumper is slowly making its way back.
In reality, the Sixers should be starting both Fultz and Redick, with Dario Saric assuming the sixth man role. That won’t happen, but even then, Fultz deserves the starting two-guard spot. He’s too talented — and too important to the Sixers’ future — not to get those reps right away.
If the Sixers’ goal is to overcome Boston, Toronto and (eventually) Golden State, Fultz needs to play a role in their success. Their ceiling isn’t reached without a heavily involved Fultz. It’s that simple.