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Patience will be key with Markelle Fultz

Philadelphia 76ers fans should have relaxed expectations for Markelle Fultz.

Winning their first preseason game over Melbourne United, the Philadelphia 76ers looked comfortable against inferior competition. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were thoroughly dominant, while Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric and J.J. Redick contributed double-digit points.

The former, however, was the most talked-about player of the evening. After a difficult rookie campaign, this was our first taste of healthy Markelle Fultz. He didn’t disappoint, but there were lingering questions after a game in which he didn’t attempt a three-point shot.

Fultz took approximately 150,000 shots during his time with Drew Hanlen this summer. Some fans, in ill-advised fashion, expected him to begin the season in Washington form. That was never going to be the case.

It’s clear that Fultz’s confidence level is higher than it was last season. He hit both free throws, attempted a few short-range jumpers, then finally hit a 15-footer in the third quarter while gracing the Sixers’ starting five. He looked overwhelmingly positive, save for a few turnover issues.

With that said, it’s going to take time for him to comfortably step into shots at all three levels. He played in 14 games last season, seldom attempting jumpers. Figuring out his new form and how it fits into the flow of an NBA game isn’t an immediate process.

The mechanics are fine — the pull-up looked fluid, as did the free throws. His shot is making progress and he’s going to continue working with Hanlen moving forward. Barring an unforeseen injury, it’s all upside for the 20-year-old.

As Fultz continues to get reps, he’ll get more comfortable with where to pull the trigger and how to find shots within the Sixers offense. He’s already an exceptional passer, boasting elite court vision and impressive accuracy. His handles aren’t too shabby either.

Even without a three-point attempt, Fultz’s talent shined in the first preseason game, as it did through much of his 14 games last season. His shot is imperfect, yes, but he’s still capable of positively impacting the game on both ends.

Fultz’s defensive ceiling is criminally underrated. That alone helps him make up the value lost by moving J.J. Redick or Dario Saric to the bench — it should be Dario, but Redick seems likely to end up in a full-time sixth man role.

Next: 3 takeaways from the Sixers’ first preseason win

Temper expectations and appreciate the talent. Fultz is on the right track.


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