Being the weirdest thing in the NBA during a given season is an extremely high bar, but through this early point in the 2018-19 campaign, the weirdest thing we’ve seen so far came in an otherwise innocuous game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks. The Sixers defended their home court and won, 113-92, but here was how the Hawks played defense against Philly guard Markelle Fultz.
To his credit, Fultz had a decent game against Atlanta, as he had 16 points on 7-for-16 shooting with seven assists and four rebounds in 25 minutes. It was his season-high in scoring and tied for his season-high in assists, but the Hawks are coached by Lloyd Pierce, who spent last year as an assistant in Philly. He saw first-hand what Fultz went through during his rookie campaign and decided the best way to defend him was to just not view him as a threat on the perimeter.
Fultz started the game 2-for-7 (well, 2-for-8 if you want to add the clock-beating heave at the end of the first, which he carried into the half) and eventually figured out what to do as the game went on. It’s ironic, in a way, because so much of Fultz’s season has been trying to figure out exactly what needs to happen, both in regards to him and his fit in Philadelphia.
One thing that gets lost in talking about Fultz is that, despite his injury/shooting yips/whatever, he’s still an immensely talented basketball player. In a phrase I hate using, it’s obvious when you watch him that this is the case. Fultz is still a tremendous athlete and someone who is capable of, say, attacking the rim and scoring when Boban Marjanovic is right there.