If you look up the definition of an ‘x-factor’ this is what you’ll see:

X-factor (noun, informal): a noteworthy special talent or quality or a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.

While that definition makes solid sense, it should really just be a picture of Markelle Fultz.

Like this:

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Because Fultz is the x-factor for the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2018-19 NBA season (and potentially beyond).

Last June, after trading up with the Boston Celtics, the Sixers drafted Fultz to be a high-impact backcourt partner to Ben Simmons that could play off of Simmons and Joel Embiid with the capability of stretching defenses and knocking down shots, while also having the ability to generate his own offense. Fultz’s skillset projected to be an ideal fit for the Sixers’ style when they drafted him, and that hasn’t changed.

Things obviously didn’t work out that way during his rookie campaign as the Washington product was hampered by a shoulder injury that resulted in a collapse of on-court confidence. But Fultz, who is still not yet old enough to drinks a Corona Light on Main Street in Manayunk - is still oozing with potential, as evidenced when he became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double at the end of last season.

If you’ve been on social media over the summer you’ve undoubtedly seen the videos of him jumping out of the gym and putting in endless hours of work in the gym with Drew Hanlen.

*If* - and this is obviously a big if, and something we won’t know until we see him out on the floor – Fultz is able to put the shooting and confidence issues that plagued him last season behind him and become the player that the Sixers drafted him to be, the team could be adding a third star – or at least a very solid contributor – this season, even without making a huge splash in free agency.

For what it’s worth, former Sixers forward and current NBC Sports Sixers Analyst Marc Jackson concurs with my hypothesis that Fultz will be the x-factor for the 7-6 in ’18-19.

“I really think the addition of a healthy Markelle Fultz gives you that third star, that third superstar, which puts this team over the top,” Jackson said on air to myself, Mike Gill, and Pete Thompson at the Sixers Shore Tour in Stone Harbor, New Jersey on Saturday. “He was the piece they needed last year going into the season. [He gives you] a guy that can produce defensively, another ball-handler, and another scorer that can create without having his number called.”

When I asked Jackson point-blank if he thought that Fultz should be labeled as the x-factor for the Sixers he absolutely agreed.

“One hundred percent. I really believe that. I’m not just being a homer,” Jackson said. “If you look at what they lacked last year, it was another scorer. I’m not saying a jump-shooter, another scorer that can get points without his number being called, which means one-one-one, break his opponent down and create for himself and others. I think he gives them that.”

After a underwhelming rookie campaign, the stakes are high for Fultz’s second season. Another subpar season could raise serious questions about his long-term role on the team, or even in the league. But with a bounce-back year, Fultz could establish himself as Philadelphia’s third young star and in turn propel the Sixers to another level.

 

Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.