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NBA: The curious case of Markelle Fultz

Shubham Pant
Modified 20 Dec 2019, 20:17 IST

The Markelle Fultz saga never seems to end. He was supposed to be the missing piece to finish off "the Process" that Sam Hinkie had begun all these years ago. The Sixers were all in on him and gave up potentially, the best player of that draft, Jayson Tatum, trading their 3rd pick with the Celtics for the #1 pick in the 2017 draft.

Markelle Fultz was a bright prospect out of Washington, he was an elite guard prospect, with almost no offensive holes in his game and he had the length to defend multiple positions. He was supposed to be a ball handler and was amazing at the pick and roll, which was almost 30% of his game.

An excellent off the ball player, he had a nice spot up shooting percentage and was only going to get better. The 76ers were supposed to be the best fit for him, alongside the duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The future was bright for both Fultz and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Markelle Fultz was the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft
Markelle Fultz was the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft

He had gotten injured at the start of his rookie season, something that the 76ers were very accustomed to. He had some right knee and right shoulder soreness which was not expected to be a huge roadblock in his rookie season. Coach Brett Brown though had experience with this sort of thing and was going to get him back slow. But this is where things got a little bizarre with Fultz.

He was sidelined for a total of 68 regular season games for the Philadelphia 76ers with a mysterious shoulder injury and his shot, by all accounts, had fallen apart before the season even started.

He finally took to the floor in the final games of the season and was showing instances of why he was the #1 pick before being shut down in the postseason. Fultz, during this injury. was shooting free throws like Shaq, and he made them at a really horrible percentage.

His agent, Raymond Brothers, had tried giving an explanation to Fultz's injury. He said in a quote that "Markelle Fultz had a shoulder injury and fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder. He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball. He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent."

He then changed his statement a few days later, saying that Fultz had actually received a cortisone shot, which means fluid was put into his shoulder -- not taken out. This was actually confirmed by a few sources and the story checked out.

But this had kept Fultz out for almost the whole of his rookie season, raising the intrigue around him and his shooting had not really improved, making everyone ask the same question - What is wrong with Markelle Fultz?

Was Markelle Fultz really worth the 1st pick is what some executives wonder now
Was Markelle Fultz really worth the 1st pick is what some executives wonder now

His return to the court this season was heralded across Philadelphia, his shooting was apparently better, he was taking free throws normally as well. Everyone was excited to see what Fultz was really made of. He was also given the starting berth in the 76ers team by Brett Brown, at least for the first half of every game until he gets more accustomed to the court.

His return was met with a lot of fanfare, but he failed to back it up on the court. Fultz’s shot had improved only marginally, making only 30.8 percent of his 3s, 25.9 percent of his 2-point jumpers, and 66.7 percent of his free throws.

Opponent defenders started leaving him free a lot more so that they could be on a faster rotation to double team a better player. He still was not able to shoot well and was doing bizarre free throw routines. Everyone started thinking that he has a psychological roadblock rather than a physical issue. Then came another twist in the story.

After the Sun's game with the 76ers on November 20th, Markelle Fultz and his agent/lawyer, Raymond Brothers, decided that Fultz will need to visit several specialists in New York and is expected to undergo further testing over his shoulder issue. He was said to be out indefinitely, much to the dismay of the Sixers.

Making matters even worse, Fultz reportedly wanted to be traded to a different team since Butler had joined them from the Timberwolves. Raymond then squashed these rumors by saying that he nor his client had made any such request to the Sixers franchise.

Markelle Fultz might have finally found the root of the problem
Markelle Fultz might have finally found the root of the problem

Soon enough, after meeting with a bunch of shoulder specialists, Sixers guard Markelle Fultz was diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome and is expected to miss three to six weeks as he undergoes rehabilitation. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a when a nerve usually gets compressed around the neck and shoulder region, leading to numbness, pain, or muscle weakness, all of which can be attributed to why Fultz is not playing like the prospect he was.

A tumultuous two years for Markelle Fultz, whose reputation as a college basketball wonderkind went up in smoke and his celebrated jump shot vanished overnight, might have finally found the reason why he was unable to reach the heights he was destined to.

This might be the latest news in the Markelle Fultz saga, who is now being talked about as one of the worst draft picks ever, alongside Anthony Bennett, but might not be the final twist this story takes before reaching a conclusion.

Published 09 Dec 2018, 19:45 IST
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