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Sixers fans are pumped about the return of No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz. What, realistically, should those fans expect from Fultz this postseason?
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David Aldridge: Not much, at least not consistently. If he comes off the bench and can give the Sixers six to eight points a game while he's out there, that would be sufficient, considering he'd played 76 minutes (get it? 76!!) total and missed four months before returning Monday. I just can't see Fultz being able to get his timing/wind up to speed to the point where he should be a regular part of the rotation in the playoffs. I guess he could take some of T.J. McConnell's minutes. But given the roll Philly is on now I'd be surprised if coach Brett Brown altered his lineup to give Fultz a meaningful postseason role.
Steve Aschburner: If Fultz were Michael Jordan, maybe we’d get a 63-point explosion like MJ produced against Boston in the 1986 playoffs when he returned from a season-derailing foot fracture. If he were Wilt Chamberlain, maybe he’d average 22.1 points and 22.2 rebounds in the 1970 playoffs after appearing in only 12 regular-season games due to a knee injury. But Fultz is neither of those legends, as far as we know at this stage, so I’m expecting a rusty, inconsistent player who -- based on what he showed in his return Monday -- might be an “X” factor in one or two games of a playoff series to boost Philadelphia to an extra round. Expecting anything more isn’t fair to Fultz; expecting much less is asking to be proven wrong.
Tas Melas: I don’t think they should expect a lot. He sat for five months, I doubt he’ll be on the floor for one minute of crunch-time this postseason. Baby steps. It was a significant step this week though. It was more about next season than it was this season -- it allows him to work on his game this summer rather than continuously thinking about not playing. That’s when he can potentially evolve in to an elite ball-handler. That being said, their bench needs a boost. They have one of the worst in the league and could use a player who pushes it for his 15 minutes to set other guys up. Playoff pressure is, of course, far different than a game in late March the day after a team clinched its playoff spot.
Shaun Powell: Expectations should be measured for a rookie who's barely broken a sweat this season, yet it wouldn't be a surprise if Fultz is a bigger asset than expected. Remember, he doesn't have the wear and tear from the regular season, he gives a different look and speed at point guard and he adds depth. Of course, that's the best case scenario. It's all a bonus for the Sixers, who can ride into the postseason pressure-free and maybe cause a shiver or two on the other bench.
John Schuhmann: They should set expectations at zero. Fultz's ability to get to the basket and finish can be an asset in open-floor situations. But if he's not comfortable with his jumper outside of the paint (and that seemed to be the case on Monday), he could hurt the half-court offense. The Sixers will always have either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid on the floor, and those guys need maximum spacing around them. Marco Belinelli obviously offers more spacing than either Fultz or T.J. McConnell, so it's Fultz vs. McConnell as the primary ball-handler when Simmons sits. The offense has been pretty bad (102 points scored per 100 possessions) with McConnell on the floor this season, so Fultz has a chance to make his case over the last nine games, but right now, I imagine McConnell is more likely to get the call from Brett Brown.
Sekou Smith: Sixers fans are definitely trusting "The Process" these days, as they should. There is a lot going according to plan. The emergence of both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should inspire everyone in Philly to start dreaming big about the future. But I'd temper the expectations for Markelle Fultz and what he's going to bring in the playoffs. I don't think it's fair to him to expect to play at a high level consistently in the postseason. That would be hard to do for any rookie, but particularly for one who has missed the amount of time he has this season. In fact, whatever positive impact he has this postseason is a bonus, considering where he was just weeks ago in the process.