Season Preview: Denver Nuggets
Quietly, the Denver Nuggets have turned into an offensive juggernaut led by a budding superstar in center Nikola Jokic.
Markelle Fultz sort of became a forgotten player once he had a shoulder injury and missed a chunk of his rookie season. Now he is in position to prove once again why the Philadelphia 76ers drafted him number one overall. If Fultz performs like he did at the University of Washington (UW), he will lead the 76ers to the NBA Finals.
There was a lot of hype coming out of UW and rightfully so. In the 2016-2017 season, Fultz led the Pac 12 in scoring with 23 points a game. He also added six assists and 5.7 rebounds. He demonstrated the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
Fultz had the prototypical size and scoring ability that the 76ers needed. Not to mention they liked the idea of pairing him with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The only issue at the time was that in the 2017 draft, they had the 3rd overall selection. The 76ers made a bold decision and drafted their way to the top to snatch the coveted rookie.
All the excitement quickly died down when Fultz randomly changed his free throw technique. He lowered his release point considerably. While he did shoot about 65 percent at UW, at least it looked much better back then.
According to Coach Brett Brown, Markelle changed his motion all by himself. Reporters asked him if his shot was where they wanted it to be. “We’re going to get him back on track.”
Unfortunately, his free throws did not get back on track. In fact, it got worse. In a preseason game, everyone could see something was wrong with his approach. Hardly anyone could figure out why Markelle changed his shooting form.
Fultz finally fessed up. According to Kevin O Connor, Fultz altered his shooting motion because of a shoulder injury. He sustained shoulder soreness and ended up missing the rest of the preseason.
Months went by and the 76ers will appeared to be formidable team. However, they were missing a play maker with scoring ability and that is exactly what Fultz brought to the table. He demonstrated flashes of potential when he recorded his first triple-double.
One could argue Philly is one of the best teams without Fultz on the floor. As the talented as Philly is, they are extremely careless in the most critical games. They lost a 22-point lead in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics. Ben Simmons only had one point.
The scary fact to point out is that the Celtics found a way to steal games from Philly despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on the floor. Fultz could have taken pressure off Simmons while always sharing some of the responsibilities of being the ball handler.
Once Fultz starts playing like himself again, the ceiling for the 76ers will be through the roof. Boston is clear favorite but if they ever fall to Philly, Markelle will make all the difference.