Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz to come off bench for Sixers to start season

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If we have learned anything about the Sixers organization in the past few years, it’s that they are unwaveringly focused on the big picture. Joel Embiid needs to sit out two seasons (and most of a third), they’ll wait. Ben Simmons needs to sit out a season, they’ll wait.

So it’s no shock that the Sixers are willing to be patient with No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz.

After a preseason where he only played in a few games due to shoulder and knee issues, and where he was clearly still finding his game in the ones he did play (after tweaking his free throw form on his own this offseason, and his whole shot went wonky shooting less than 30 percent in preseason), he will be coming off the bench to start the season, coach Brett Brown told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

It’s not a good sign to have a No. 1 pick that doesn’t start. It’s rare. It’s Andrea Bargnani or Anthony Bennett territory.

This feels different from those situations, however. First, he did suffer injuries in the preseason that limited him.

Moreso, Fultz was a deserving No. 1 pick, but he always had development to do — he has great skills and can do a lot of things well, but it’s another level to fit those things into an NBA game against NBA defenders. Once he figures out how, once he’s healthy and confident again, he will be a player in this league.

The Sixers are willing to wait for Fultz.

Markelle Fultz says injury contributed to ugly free throws (video)

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Markelle Fultz was already causing concern with his shooting form.

Now, the No. 1 pick is sparking alarm with his Shaq-esque free throws, seen above in the 76ers preseason game yesterday.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

Fultz has been dealing with soreness in his right shoulder, which caused him to miss Friday’s preseason game, but he “can’t recall” when he first felt the pain. After Monday’s game against the Celtics, he said the shoulder has been hurting “on and off.” “I talk to trainers when it bothers me, and they get right to it and start working on it,” Fultz said. “When it’s not, I’m happy. Either way, I’m happy and I just go out and play.”

After Fultz left the locker room, I asked him if the shoulder issue motivated him to revise his free throw mechanics, to minimize the pain he feels when he raises his arm. Fultz said, “Yeah, for the most part. I’m just trying other things to make free throws. At the end of the day, that’s not an excuse for me. I’m just out there hooping.”

The big question: Is Fultz developing bad habits while playing through his shoulder injury?

If he’s just pushing up free throws for now so he can play and hone other parts of his game, OK. It’s the preseason. Heck, Philadelphia could probably afford him playing through that flaw in the regular season.

But if Fultz is screwing up his stroke, that’d be a major concern – especially if it flows into his shooting from the floor. If that’s the case, the 76ers should sit him.

It’s almost impossible to tell which is the case from afar and maybe even from the inside while Fultz’s shoulder is still bothering him. The 76ers just have to hope they’re handling this correctly.

Report: Joel Embiid agrees to five-year, $148 million max extension with Sixers

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Joel Embiid has trusted the process all the way to the bank.

The Philadelphia 76ers have bet big that Embiid is going to be healthy.

The Sixers have agreed to a five-year, $148 million extension with the big man at the center of their rebuilding efforts, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN(and since confirmed by Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia).

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has agreed to a five-year, $148-million designated rookie scale maximum contract extension, league sources told ESPN.

The designated exception — termed “The Super Max — allows Embiid to earn a higher percentage of the salary cap — and potentially millions of dollars more — if he meets criteria over the course of the deal, including, making All-NBA teams, winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, or the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. If Embiid meets the super max criteria, he could earn an as much as $178 million on the contract, league sources said….

The deal will include some salary cap protection for the 76ers should Embiid sustain injury that causes him to miss significant playing time, league sources said.

Joel Embiid reacted like you or I would have to $148 million.

I’m curious what those protections are for the Sixers, because the agents want to spin this as a max extension but you can be sure Philly covered its bases. There was a quickly removed report that Embiid would only get half that money if he didn’t meet certain criteria in terms of games played, however, we don’t know what those benchmarks might be (or what numbers really are in the contract). Zach Lowe put it this way.

In three NBA seasons, Embiid has played a total of 786 minutes across 31 games. He has been plagued by foot issues, then had last season cut short with surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 27. He has just been cleared for 5-on-5 action but has yet to play in a Sixers preseason game. They are hoping he is ready by opening night.

That said, when Embiid has been on the court he has looked like a max player. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game (despite a minutes limit), he was a defensive force in the paint, and the Sixers were outscoring opponents on the court. With him and Ben Simmons (back from injury and looking good in the preseason) plus No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, there is real optimism in Philly because of all this.

And the Sixers can keep adding to the roster — they have a lot of draft picks stockpiled and they will still have about $40 million in cap space next summer to chase free agents (in what will be a tight market that can buy them a lot of talent).

NBA GMs overwhelmingly pick Warriors to win title, LeBron MVP

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NBA GMs seem to agree with Jeff Van Gundy — this season belongs to the Golden State Warriors.

The NBA released its annual survey of league general managers and they overwhelmingly picked the Warriors to repeat as champions. GMs picked the Warriors at a higher rate than any team in the history of the survey.

They also picked LeBron James to win MVP in a crowded field, Lonzo Ball to be Rookie of the Year (but Josh Jackson to be the best player from this class in five years), Kawhi Leonard as the best defender in the NBA, and Gregg Popovich as the best coach in the game. This survey has certainly not been 100 percent accurate over the years (they picked LeBron to win the MVP last year, too) it’s been pretty reliable.

Here are some of the results of the NBA GM survey for 2017 (when the percentages don’t add up to 100%, there were other teams/players receiving one vote).

Which team will win the 2018 NBA Finals?
1. Golden State – 93%
2. Cleveland – 7%

GM’s ranked the top four teams in the East (in order) as Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto. In the West, it was Golden State, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City.

Who will win the 2017-18 MVP?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 50%
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State –29%
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 11%
4. James Harden, Houston – 7%
5. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 4%

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 29%
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 21%
3. LeBron James, Cleveland – 18%
4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 14%
5. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 11%

Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 48%
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 21%
3. James Harden, Houston – 14%
4. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 7%

Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 55%
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 34%
3. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 7%
4. LeBron James, Cleveland – 3%

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2017-18?
1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 21%
2(T). Kristaps Porzingis, New York – 14%
2(T). Myles Turner, Indiana – 14%
4. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland – 10%
5. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota – 7%

Who is the best point guard in the NBA?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 62%
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 28%
3. Chris Paul, Houston – 7%
4. John Wall, Washington – 3%

Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA?
1. James Harden, Houston – 83%
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 10%

Who is the best small forward in the NBA?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 61%
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 32%
3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 7%

Who is the best power forward in the NBA?
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 41%
2. LeBron James, Cleveland – 28%
3. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 17%
4. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 7%

Who is the best center in the NBA?

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 28%
2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 24%
3. Marc Gasol, Memphis – 21%
4. DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans – 14%

Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?
1. Oklahoma City – 43%
2. Boston – 25%
3. Minnesota – 14%
4. Houston – 11%
5. Golden State – 7%

Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact?
1. Paul George, Oklahoma City – 59%
2. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota – 17%
3. Chris Paul, Houston – 10%
4. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 7%

What was the most underrated player acquisition?
1. Paul Millsap, Denver – 24%
2. Avery Bradley, Detroit – 17%
3(T). Jimmy Butler, Minnesota – 10%
3(T). Jae Crowder, Cleveland – 10%
5(T). Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento – 7%
5(T). Rudy Gay, San Antonio – 7%

Which team will be most improved in 2017-18?
1. Minnesota – 69%
2. Philadelphia – 17%

Who will win the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers – 62%
2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 24%
3. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas – 7%

Which rookie will be the best player in five years?
1. Josh Jackson, Phoenix – 24%
2(T). Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia – 21%
2(T). Jayson Tatum, Boston – 21%
4(T). Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers – 14%
4(T). Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 14%

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Dennis Smith Jr. (9), Dallas – 37%
2. Kyle Kuzma (27), L.A. Lakers – 22%
3(T). Donovan Mitchell (13), Utah – 7%
3(T). Caleb Swanigan (26), Portland – 7%

Who is the best international player in the NBA?
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 69%
2. Nikola Jokic, Denver – 14%
3. Marc Gasol, Memphis – 10%
4. Kristaps Porzingis, New York – 7%

Who is the best defensive player in the NBA?
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 62%
2. Draymond Green, Golden State – 21%
3. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 10%

Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA?
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 72%
2. Avery Bradley, Detroit – 14%

Who is the best interior defender in the NBA?
1. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 66%
2. DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers – 24%

Which is the best defensive team in the NBA?
1. Golden State – 55%
2. San Antonio – 34%
3. Utah – 7%
4. Oklahoma City – 3%

Who is the best head coach in the NBA?
1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 82%
2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 11%

Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments?
1. Rick Carlisle, Dallas – 34%
2. Brad Stevens, Boston – 31%
3. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 24%
4. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit – 7%
5. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta – 3%

Which active player will make the best head coach someday?

1. Chris Paul, Houston – 39%
2. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio – 14%
3(T). Stephen Curry, Golden State – 7%
3(T). Garrett Temple, Sacramento – 7%

Which team is the most fun to watch?
1. Golden State – 90%
2. Houston – 7%
3. Denver – 3%

Which team has the best home-court advantage?

1. Golden State – 76%
2(T). Oklahoma City – 7%
2(T). San Antonio – 7%

Which player is the most athletic?
1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 62%
2. LeBron James, Cleveland – 14%
3. Zach LaVine, Chicago – 10%

Which player is the best pure shooter?
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 71%
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 25%
3. Devin Booker, Phoenix – 4%

Which player is the fastest with the ball?
1. John Wall, Washington – 48%
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 45%

Which player is the best passer?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 36%
2. Chris Paul, Houston – 32%
3(T). James Harden, Houston – 7%
3(T). Ricky Rubio, Utah – 7%
3(T). John Wall, Washington – 7%

What bench player makes the biggest impact when he enters the game?
1. Andre Iguodala, Golden State – 41%
2. Eric Gordon, Houston – 24%
3. Jamal Crawford, Minnesota – 10%
4. Lou Williams, LA Clippers – 7%

Who is the most versatile player in the NBA?
1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 55%
2(T). Kevin Durant, Golden State – 14%
2(T). Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio – 14%
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 10%
5. Draymond Green, Golden State – 7%

Which player has the best basketball IQ?

1. LeBron James, Cleveland – 64%
2. Chris Paul, Houston –14%
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 11%

Markelle Fultz tweaked his jump shot and it’s causing concern

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The Sixers had an open scrimmage over the weekend, and one of the big storylines was that Ben Simmons looked dominant (and while Joel Embiid danced around the court he did not play).

But watch the video and you notice something else — Jerryd Bayless and other Sixers defenders played off No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz. I mean way off. As in “I dare you to shoot that jumper” off. Fultz shot 41.3 percent from three in college, he should be a threat from the NBA arc, at least enough for defenders to respect him out there. So why is Fultz getting the Rajon Rondo/Tony Allen treatment from teammates?

Fultz tweaked his jump shot and free throw stroke over the summer and it has raised some concerns. Brett Brown said he was not comfortable with it, as reported by David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“No (he’s not comfortable with it), and so we’re gonna get back on track. His heart is in the right place. All by himself, he pivoted out over the summer and tried to make it better and tweak it, and he’s in a place right now where we’re gonna try to remind him where his shot was and try to bring that back into probably more a tighter shot, bring his release point down a little bit, bring the ball closer to his body. We have a Team Markelle all around him to help him, and he’s gonna be just fine.”

Fultz seems to have worked on a quicker release from a higher release point, but it’s not where it needs to be yet.

It’s a concern because when Fultz and Simmons share the court Fultz will work primarily off the ball, and he will need to show he’s a good spot-up shooter. This is from Brown again, talking to Jessica Camerato at NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“His percentages revealed that he’s a more-than-capable shooter,” Brown said. “I think right now him trying to figure out how to not overcomplicate things and maybe make over something that didn’t need to be made over as much as he might of thought is a challenge.”

Fultz also changed his free throw stroke.

Fultz is a 19-year-old rookie who is going to have ups and downs, and that includes with his shot. There will be streaks and slumps. There also is a lot of time to work on the weaknesses in his game — even the ones that are self-inflicted. I doubt this is a long-term problem, but it’s all something to watch.