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Fultz had 10 points with eight assists and four rebounds against the Nuggets on Monday (Winslow Townson/Associated Press)

Basketball

Glass half Fultz

After an emotional return to the court, Markelle Futlz’s presence can be an asset

“Spectacular” was one of the many adjectives used by Sixers Head Coach Brett Brown after Monday’s win against the Denver Nuggets. Officially eligible for the postseason, the Sixers are winding down the regular season playing for playoff seeding at this point. This win though meant more than just having the opportunity to clinch home court in the first round. Monday night, last June’s number one pick, Markelle Fultz, showed up to the arena preparing to play.

Fultz finished the game with ten points, eight assists and most importantly, knocked down two mid-range jump shots. With all the excitement about his return, one thing become clear: his talents can definitely be an asset this postseason for the Sixers.

In a surprising twist, Brett Brown announced to the media before the game that the rookie would be available. The shocking announcement sent Twitter in a frenzy. The saga surrounding Markelle Fultz’s absence over the past five months has been perplexing to say the least. The shoulder pain that was the root cause for him to sit out, and then the information that came out after speculating how the injury first surfaced. Then, there is the coverage on his jump shooting motion that took on a life of his own. The whole sage was among one of the oddest storylines to come out of the NBA in a long time. It left the NBA universe wondering whether the highly publicized “process” skipped a beat when taking Fultz instead of other thriving rookies currently tearing up the league such as Jayson Tatum or Donovan Mitchell.

All of that information is the reason why the news of Fultz playing turned from local to national news. The saga that seemed unexplainable was now coming to a close with the Sixers guard ready to return to action. The crowd was hyped and his teammates were pumped. What became apparent while watching him play is the important skill that he possesses. Whether he lives up to the potential of being a number one pick is a question that can be debated about in the future. For now, he provides another ball handler that the team needs. The Sixers have the makings of a modern NBA offense; they have spacing, ball movement and player movement. They currently rank in the top five in team assists.

Adding J.J. Reddick in the offseason, as well as Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli during the season was important in creating that spacing with the three point shot. The one thing this team lacked was playmaking. Ben Simmons is an other-worldly playmaker at such a young age. However, at the guard forward position he was essentially the only one on the team. Joel Embiid, who is a center, is top three in usage rate in the entire NBA. That is only behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden, both of whom are guards. With Fultz, things just became a little bit easier for the team. He is a guard who can alleviate the ball handling responsibilities of Ben Simmons, as well as make it easier to get the ball to Embiid on his sweet spots on the court.

What goes unnoticed is Fultz’s size. At 6 foot 4 he will have a height advantage against most guards he plays against. That will definitely help when he has a mismatch with smaller guards. His jump shot will always be the aspect of his game that will attract the most attention whenever he is on the floor from here on out. Twitter had the jokes ready to go after his first jumpshot was blocked by Nuggets center Mason Plumlee. But even with Markelle’s shot being questionable , his playmaking and the limited amount of time he will be on the court could prevent that current deficiency from being a major detriment to the team.

The crowd chanted his name and his teammates cheered him on after he made his first jump shot late in the fourth quarter. There will obviously be some growing pains over the next few weeks and into the playoffs. And that’s ok. Markelle Fultz doesn’t have to justify why he was last year’s number one pick this early in his career. He also doesn’t even have to automatically equal the production and contribution of the other two top five picks named Embiid and Simmons. All he has to do is provide the team with a skillset that comes natural for him, playmaking. If he is able to do that, then he will be helping the team, because that skill is needed.

Hill Boyce

Hill is a Staff Writer for DoubleGSports.com.

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