Fultz Shows Pre-Season Improvement

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

When it comes to reviewing Markelle Fultz’s anticipated preseason, examining it through the sum of its parts is probably just as productive as looking at it on the whole.

Appearing in and starting all four of the 76ers’ exhibition games, the 2017 no. 1 pick averaged 9.0 points (43.2 fg%), 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in 22.6 minutes per game - all solid numbers, given the limited live reps Fultz had as a rookie.

He got off to a strong start this fall, totaling 26 points on 11 for 23 shooting between the Sixers’ first two outings - wins over Melbourne United, and Fultz’s jumper-filled showing against the Orlando Magic.

His numbers then experienced a slight dip in China, with foul trouble in both match-ups versus the Dallas Mavericks emerging as a culprit.

But in the fresh, post-game press conference aftermath that immediately followed Monday’s pre-season finale in Shenzhen, Brett Brown had a positive assessment to share.

“It’s really what I expected,” Brown said of Fultz’s preseason. “He’s 20 years old, it’s the NBA. You’re going to see ups and downs.”

Digging a little bit deeper into Fultz’s efforts, there’s more cause for encouragement.

He helped the Sixers push the ball, posting a pre-season pace of 108.68, according to stats.nba.com. That figure was second-highest among the club’s regulars.

Fultz’s individual defensive rating, 97.6, was also third-lowest among Sixers who logged at least 20.0 minutes per pre-season game. Often times, he was tasked with guarding one of the opposition’s most formidable scoring threats.

“I think that the best thing for me is the fact that he’s a willing defender,” said Brown, who praised Fultz for letting the Sixers “coach him.”

“I think that he’s shown improvement, tremendous heart picking up other ball carriers, other point guards. I think that we’re all going to have to step back and be realistic-slash-patient with a 20-year old’s growth.”

Which, undoubtedly, will represent a pivotal storyline in the regular season.

Heading into Tuesday’s opener at the Boston Celtics, which, of course, ended the Sixers’ 2018 playoff run, Brown said he intends to continue deploying Fultz as a starter.

But, there’s a chance the combo guard could take on a different role in second halves. As we saw in Monday’s pre-season game, JJ Redick was up first at the two spot, with Fultz part of the bench corps.

“For me it was the thing we’re going to try to pursue in rotation,” Brown said. “I believe that Markelle is at his best with the ball, and so when you watch how I substitute and determine patterns, when you can bring him off the bench in the second half, you’re able to get him four or five more minutes as a point guard. I believe it’s something we will continue to look at.”

In a few days, we should start to get an even better sense of how things will shake out.