Markelle Fultz Shines in Preseason Debut
Sixers fans finally got a glimpse of why the team drafted Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft on Friday night in their preseason opener.
Fultz put on a show, against Melbourne United, filling the stat sheet with 14 points (6-of-11 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), four assists, one rebound, two steals, one block in just 23 minute of work.
He did a little bit of everything in the game, with several highlight plays including a LeBron James like block, running the floor and chasing the play from behind. He also showcased some fancy passes that led to assists and some nice cuts off the ball.
That wasn’t the Fultz we saw during the 2017-18 season.
"Where do I begin," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said when asked about what was encouraging about Fultz's performance.
"In no order, the defense comes to my mind. He stayed in his stance defensively, was involved in a lot of pick-and-rolls, and I thought he navigated that whole environment really well defensively. We all saw his gifts in the open court tonight. He went to the free throw line and looked like he belonged there. Him rising up behind the pick-and-roll and then going under. His connection with Joel was great as well."
Yes, Fultz put on a show, showing a variety of offensive moves, including his rebuilt jump-shot, that he has been working on all offseason with Drew Hanlen. It was nice to see Fultz utilize that in a game setting rather than on periscope and YouTube videos.
"Huge," Brown acknowledged when asked about the impact of seeing Fultz shooting pull-up jumpers in a game setting.
"I sit on the sideline like I did when I put him on the free throw line in practice, which you all were watching, and you just want him to do so well. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m bleeding with him. I’m anxious to see how this turns out and he hasn’t disappointed so far. In practice he didn’t disappoint and tonight he looked confident. He really isn’t turning down any shot. He may not make them all, obviously, but he never looked like he was hesitant. Tonight I saw all of those things, and to your point, that stretch of the game validated a lot of what I just said."
Fultz got a boost of confidence before the game even started, coach Brown decided to start Fultz over veteran J.J. Redick and sounded like he was going to give the former No. 1 overall pick every opportunity to hold onto the starting job - he didn't disappoint.
"It was amazing, especially putting in the work I did this summer, just for Coach to put me in that position, it felt unbelievable," Fultz explained after the win about getting the starting nod. "I was just happy to have the opportunity. I think I did a pretty good job taking advantage of it."
The Sixers started Fultz, pairing him with last year's rookie of the year, Ben Simmons, something Fultz said made things easier.
"When you have a playmaker like that and a 6-foot-10 point guard, it makes everything easier," Fultz said. "You can run the floor and know that you’re going to get the ball if you’re open. And on the defensive end, if your man’s going by, you know that you’ve got a little bit of help with him and Joel. It just made everything a little bit more comfortable for me."
"I thought that this was good as well," Brown added about the pairing.
"You have two guards that really can make things happen all over the place. I thought that our outlets weren’t as high as we would want them, we want to play higher up the floor and always come back. Those two need to get better in that regard. Just them going to their floor spots and figuring out where each other are at times. At one point, Ben went to the other side of the floor when Markelle had the ball. It wasn’t a wrestling contest at all, so from that perspective there was a natural relationship that looked pretty good. I did like those two together."
The Sixers and Fultz continue the preseason, and return to the court Monday night against the Orlando Magic at the Wells Fargo Center.