Sixers Putting Past Behind them, Focus Now on Present and Future
The Sixers took steps over the weekend to move on from their recent past, and tonight are about to get their first glimpse into the future.
The NBA's No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz will make his debut, in the Utah Jazz Summer League tonght.
The Sixers have spent the past few days retooling their roster with free agents, after adding Fultz, one of four young players that should help the Sixers take a big step towards the playoffs.
Joel Embiid, entering his second season, finds himself the face of the franchise, a role he’s seems to have embraced. Rookie Ben Simmons, should provide instant impact in whatever role the Sixers thrust him into. Second-year man Dario Saric, the runner-up for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, provides the Sixers with toughness and his game grew as the season went on. Lastly there is Fultz, who the Sixers are hoping is the final piece to the puzzle.
“His skillset, like his ball handling, his passing, his body balance, allows him to not get rushed," Sixers assistant coach and director of players development Billy Lange said.
"As he gets into Summer League games, which aren't real NBA games, but as he gets into Summer League games against teams that have guys that have played in some NBA games, we'll see how he is able to compose himself with that. But he has the skillset to be able to control pace.”
Expect to see Fultz with and without the ball, as the Sixers try to take a look at him in both capacities. The talk for most of the offseason has been to use Ben Simmons as a point guard with Fultz playing off-the-ball.
"When I was in high school, I played multiple positions all the way up to the four," Fultz said when asked about playing without the ball during the Sixers three-day minicamp.
"So being versatile is one of the things that I worked on, so I can play more than one position. It's pretty cool. I can score the ball easy. I can get other people involved easier. It's just another part of the game that I'm learning to become the best player I can possibly be."
Lange has been impressed by Fultz’s ability to play without the ball, but understands and is fully aware the rookie will need to find that balance to be successful in the NBA.
“I would say it's important for him regardless of who he is on the court with because if he has Joel [Embiid], Joel is going to want to touch the ball," Lange said.
"Dario [Saric] has shown himself able to initiate some offense. So regardless of the Ben [Simmons], Markelle pairing, it's primarily how we play anyone with the ball. The ball really dictating the movement of the offense. He has to learn. Being with a guy like Ben that can handle it, it becomes really important that Markelle learns that balance.”
Perhaps the biggest impression during the summer league could be made by second-year man Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. The 22-year-old from France impressed late in the season when given more minutes, scoring double figures in eight of his final nine games last season.
With Fultz, Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas and now J.J. Redick and rookie Furkan Korkmaz, the Sixers are well-stocked at shooting guard, but Luwawu-Cabarrot made huge strides last season, showing good finishing ability as well as an improved three-point shot.