The most fascinating story of this season is the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft suddenly having a jump shot broken to the point of apparent disrepair and being unplayable because of it.
Markelle Fultz appeared in four games to start the season prior to the Sixers shutting him down due to “muscle soreness” and a “scapular muscle imbalance,” forcing him out indefinitely in late October. Two and a half months later, Fultz is back with the team, but doesn’t appear close to a return to game action as his jump shot remains completely broken.
The timeline of Fultz’s jump shot deteriorating into a complete mess began with a tweak that, allegedly, accounted for his injured shoulder. He then completely stopped shooting from the perimeter and began pushing free throw attempts at the rim. After four games of that, he was shut down and video emerged of him shooting left handed shots. Following that video being passed around the internet, we didn’t see Fultz on the Sixers practice court for two months. After some minor optimism from video of 1-on-1 drills from Fultz surfaced, things got worse after recent footage of his jumper from London revealed that things had not improved.
Now, we have better, clearer video of Fultz hoisting jumpers from Philadelphia’s practice on Sunday, and it’s almost unfathomable how bad his shot looks.
Fultz’s form is nowhere close to what it was at Washington, where he shot 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three-point range. The Sixers have said he’s in the “final stage” of his return to play program, but there’s still no timetable – and there’s no way they can put him on an NBA floor shooting this way. Brett Brown even said as much, bluntly, on Sunday.
Fultz’s shoulder soreness has been gone for more than a month, per the Sixers, which means this is no longer an issue of him changing his shot to compensate for an injury and it’s time to seriously worry about whether Fultz is simply dealing with the yips.
He’s clearly searching for something with his shot and can’t find it. It’s sad to watch because this is a young player with tremendous promise who has somehow lost his feel (and possibly his confidence). It is, at the same time, fascinating because it’s something we haven’t seen on this scale in the NBA. This isn’t a big man that can’t hit a free throw, or someone who just isn’t a good shooter.
This is a legitimately great college scorer and quality perimeter shooter who suddenly lost the ability to shoot over a matter of months. It’s as bizarre as Chuck Knoblauch losing the ability to throw the ball to first base, and all that Sixers fans (and apparently Fultz) can hope for is that it comes back to him. Until then, I fear we’re going to continue getting videos of a young man searching desperately for answers.
Check out our DIME podcast this week with Chris Herring. Subscribe on iTunes.
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