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What if Markelle Fultz returns to form?

In a time of sharing, the best gift a Philadelphia 76ers fan could receive is Markelle Fultz coming back healthy and playing in the form that made him the No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick.

This is the time of year for joy, celebration and thinking well of your fellow man and woman. So, in this time of hoping wishes come true, here is one gift the Philadelphia 76ers and its followers would like to receive:

How about Markelle Fultz comes back completely cured of his shoulder/whatever-it-was problems, and proceeded to play like the Sixers and the rest of the NBA expected him to when he was drafted?

Remember what he looked like in Summer League right after being the No.1 overall pick? He was pretty darn good:

Not to rehash all that has occurred since that period, you can go through here,  here and here for that, but remember how Sixers fans in the summer of 2017 rejoiced as general manager Bryan Colangelo swindled Celtics GM Danny Ainge in a trade for Fultz, forcing Boston to take the lower-rated Jayson Tatum instead.

In a nutshell, Fultz and his representatives say he suffers from a shoulder problem that has plagued him since training camp in the fall of 2017. Others think he might have had a slight shoulder problem at some point but right now the problems are in his head. Some think the problem is entirely psychological.

Despite all the whispers, articles and videos, the few times Fultz himself has spoken on the subject (and after all he is the only one who truly knows) he has maintained it is 100 percent physical.

Since it is the holidays, let us be positive, give Fultz the benefit of the doubt, and say that Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is the sole cause for his shooting struggles.

While the Sixers have officially put no timetable on Fultz’s return, or even if he will play this season at all , Fultz’s camp is hoping 3-6 weeks of physical therapy with Dr. Judy Seto, Kobe Bryant‘s personal PT person when he played, will do the trick.

If Fultz ends up being out for the year, then all the questions and decisions about his future with the 76ers are pushed to the summer, as obviously no one will trade for a player until he can actually play, and that is assuming the Sixers even want to trade him.

But, let’s say in late January (giving him about six weeks since the original diagnosis) Fultz returns and says he has no pain whatsoever. What if he then goes right back to the 2017 Summer League/college form that had fans so excited?

What if Fultz returns knocking down three-pointers at his collegiate rate of 41 percent, pretty much the same percentage as J.J. Redick. Now full of confidence, what if Fultz can take over games at times and swoop to the basket for dunks and layups like he used to do?

Fultz, before he left, had already established himself as a pretty good ball handler and improving defensive player.

Basically, what occurs if Markelle Fultz really becomes MARKELLE FULTZ , the player everyone expected. It brings up many questions and possibilities.

The first question to Brett Brown would be, does Fultz regain his starting spot in the lineup that was given to  Jimmy Butler following the trade.

Benching Butler is out of the question but if Fultz is too good not to be a starter,,could Brown yank Wilson Chandler and move Ben Simmons to power forward and let Fultz be the starting point guard? That would most likely not go over well with Simmons.

Or, Brown could just roll out the starting lineup he had to start the season, with Fultz replacing Redick. The difference being, Fultz now would start both halves and be in the game at crunch time, two things Brown was loathe to do.

You could also make Fultz a ‘Super’ Sixth Man since the starting lineup is, statiscally, doing quite well. The Sixers wafer-thin bench could certainly use a boost.

Of course there would be a ripple effect among others as well. When Fultz played there were some games that reserve point guard T.J. McConnell never even got in. The fact Fultz would once again have a sweet-shot from the outside allows him to play some two-guard, which means McConnell should get some kind of run, just not as much as currently.

Chandler’s minutes would be affected because Simmons can slide to play the post if Brown wants Redick and Fultz in the game at the same time. Landry Shamet and Furkan Korkmaz will also see a decrease in playing time as Fultz will be providing outside shooting with a better overall capability.

On the defensive end, with Fultz and the possible recovery of  Zhaire Smith, the opponent’s usual layup drill, known also as the Sixers’ substitutes perimeter defense where humans turn into turnstiles, will quickly get a lot better.

If it matters, if Fultz does indeed come back looking like a future star, the entire Philadelphia region will go absolutely insane. Dreams of a Warriors-76ers final will be in every fans head.

With only a couple of months until the playoffs and rotations already pretty well set, it would be interesting to see how Brown handled a cured Fultz.

Allowances will have to be made, no matter how good Fultz looks, that he has only played 33 games in his entire NBA career. There will be a learning curve no matter how much talent he displays.

Next: 2019 NBA Mock Draft 3.0

Some people might be dreaming of a White Christmas, but Sixer fans would rather ho-ho hope for a Fultz re-awakening.

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