By Dan Knerr, Sports Talk Philly staff
Markelle Fultz has been quite the enigma since he was drafted first overall by the 76er's in the 2017 NBA Draft. Despite all the hype surrounding him after a dominant freshman season at The University of Washington, he showed up during Summer League with a major, if not multiple major hitches in his shooting form. This was evident from the field as well as from the free-throw stripe. The rest of his game was present and as advertised, but the shot was clearly not right.
After the first few games of the season, Fultz still did not look comfortable shooting, and was ultimately diagnosed with a scapular muscle imbalance in his shoulder, and was said to be out indefinitely. Long story short, Fultz sat out all but the last few games of the regular season, and even when he came back, didn't look comfortable shooting. The shot was improved, but nowhere near 100%.
This offseason, there has been lots of speculation over whether or not Fultz is a bust or not. There has also been skepticism over the legitimacy of the injury that was reported.
Some blamed his form on his ex-trainer who had close family ties with Fultz. Fuel was added to this fire when a video of Fultz training before his rookie season surfaced in which he was chucking up shots from his back. This looked incredibly uncomfortable, unnatural, and counterproductive. It seemed like maybe it was his old trainer that had sabotaged his shot all along.
Nonetheless, this summer Fultz has been training with the renowned NBA trainer Drew Hanlen, who has worked with a plethora of NBA talent. His list includes Jayson Tatum, Zach Lavine, Kelly Oubre, Bradley Beal, Mohamed Bamba, and Joel Embiid. This provided hope that Fultz would turn around his career in his sophomore season.
This summer, Fultz has posted numerous impressive dunk clips which have wow-ed fans, but have not shined a light on his suspect jumper.
Drew Hanlen may have just done just that.
In an article written by Kyle Neubeck of Phillyvoice.com, Hanlen claims that Fultz simply had a case of the "yips." Here's what he had to say.
With Markelle, obviously he has one of the most documented cases of kind of the YIPS of basketball in recent years, where he completely forgot how to shoot and had multiple hitches in his shot. So for me it was, hey listen, how can I get this kid that was No. 1 in last year’s draft back rolling and get him to the point where he was before, if not better?
He went on to say:
We’ve been working hard every day, working on rewiring his body and getting a kind of smooth stroke back into his shot. We’re way ahead of pace where I thought we were going to be, I thought it was going to take me at least six weeks before we had kind of a serviceable jump shot, and we’re already starting to shoot with a jump in week two.
It’s not perfect yet, but I think by the end of the summer it will be perfect, he’ll be back rolling and he’ll show people why he was the No. 1 pick.
After giving it a minute to settle in, it should give fans comfort knowing the yips were a part of the struggles and that Hanlen feels he can help Fultz overcome these issues. Although many would argue this is unacceptable after trading up to acquire Fultz, take some satisfaction in that he's working with one of the best coaches to get back to a high level of shooting.
Nerves could have definitely played a part in things, which is acceptable too as Fultz was just a year and a half removed from high school. Not all NBA stars blossom immediately after being drafted.
This doesn't let Fultz's old trainer off the hook. Just by seeing the video of Fultz shooting from his back shows the kind of ridiculous things the trainer was having Fultz do. Who knows what other sorts of wacky drills Fultz was subjected to earlier. Training with someone like he did could have had a damaging effect on mechanics as well as psyche.
Fans should be optimistic that Hanlen will guide Fultz down the right path.
The fact that Hanlen suggested they are way ahead of schedule and that the shot will be perfect going into the season is absolutely wonderful news. Being that such a distinguished NBA trainer , who played a large part in Embiid's development of his jumper, assured the media that Fultz's jump-shot will be back is an extremely positive thing to hear after last season. Fultz proved in his short stint in the NBA that he has the tools to successfully guard, pass, rebound, and drive in the NBA. Adding a shot to that mix makes him a formidable threat on both ends of the floor.
This by no means guarantees that Fultz's shot will look like it did in college. We of course have to witness the jumper ourselves rather than taking a trainer with personal vested interest's word for it. But most would agree that even if it is almost at the level it was, it would be a huge step in the right direction and would make him a dangerous player to have on the roster.
It seems like the future just might be bright after all for the youngster with enormous upside. At just 20 years old, Markelle Fultz has the chance to become a very solid player in the NBA and a cornerstone for this franchise in the future, which is exactly what the Sixers are looking for as they strive to contend for an NBA Championship.