In the 2017 NBA Draft, the 76ers traded their third overall pick and a future first-rounder to move up and draft Markelle Fultz first overall. The hope was that he could help carry this team to success alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He was a highly touted prospect who could create shots for himself and knock them with regularity and we all had high hopes going into his rookie season.
After suffering a scapular imbalance in his right shoulder, his shooting form was clearly compromised. After struggling through his first couple games, he was declared out indefinitely. With each passing checkup with doctors, Fultz continued to be sidelined and his confidence declined by the day.
It seemed like a mystery why Fultz wasn't returning, and the team wasn't providing any clear details. During the season Fultz took a lot of heat from the media over his extended absence for what they saw as not much of an injury, as well as for his broken shot form. Instead, people believed that Fultz's issue was mental, a version of the yips.
Finally, after missing 63 games, Fultz returned to come off the bench down the home stretch of the season. He looked to have some of that bounce we knew he had, becoming the youngest NBA player to record a triple-double, but his shot was still not back all the way.
He eventually slipped out of the rotation during the playoffs due to a lack of experience and inability to keep up with the physicality, but suffice it to say it was a mysterious rookie season for Markelle Fultz.
Despite all that has occurred with Fultz, his working with renowned NBA trainer Drew Hanlen has been a piece of hope fans can hang on to. Just the other day he tweeted eluding to the progress his trainee has made this offseason.
Sixers fans... Get excited!— Drew Hanlen (@DrewHanlen) July 8, 2018
What a positive sign it is to see a trainer as established as Hanlen is get this excited over Fultz's progress. This is an incredibly positive sign for Fultz's future.
In an article published by Sports Illustrated, Brett Brown had some encouraging things to say about Markelle Fultz as well. Brown was quoted as saying,
I have tremendous optimism and confidence that he’s going to have a hell of a year next year.
This is a wonderful thing to hear about the young player hoping to prove himself, especially coming right after Hanlen's tweet.
Brown went on to say,
"I have a gut feel that he feels good about himself, that he is confident. When I'm with him, he feels and looks confident. Then I start seeing the progression of his shot and I start listening to him talk about his shot, it confirms that he's feeling good."
These are incredibly powerful words from Brett Brown. The fact that he explicitly stresses that the jumper is looking much better and that he's seen it with his own eyes gives assurance that it might actually be the case.
His description of Fultz's confidence is encouraging as well. He looked uncomfortable at times last year, and hearing that he is openly discussing his shot and is carrying himself with confidence paints a different picture than how it was last year.
It is clear that everyone’s confidence surrounding Markelle Fultz is beginning to improve for the most part. It is doubtful that all of this recent optimism would come about if there wasn’t solid justification behind it, which should provide hope for Sixers fans.
The Sixers could make serious strides forward this year if Fultz is back to his old self, or even close to it. That would add another first overall draft pick talent to the mix, thus influencing the game in a number of ways.
A Markelle Fultz resurgence would partially make up for not landing a major star in free agency, too. If he can create and score on his own and build on his existing skill set, he can without a doubt have a massive impact on this season.