How Should the Sixers Integrate Markelle Fultz Into Their Lineup?

Markelle Fultz, who was an enigma for much of his rookie season, is now being revealed to us to mixed results. The Open Floor podcast discuss his tough start, the Sixers' role in that and more.
Publish date:

After a year of uncertainty and rumors, the Philadelphia 76ers welcomed Markelle Fultz back to the basketball court.Markelle Fultz was revealed with mixed results, as doubts about his confidence and shooting ability still linger following two so-so games against the Celtics and Bulls.

So how should Fultz and the Sixers proceed going forward? The Open Floor podcast considers that question and many more.

(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Image placeholder title

Ben Golliver: Right now it is really hard to watch. What does he bring to the table? He's not bringing anything positive and I just don't like the treatment of it. They already gave him an entire redshirt year, they didn't make him play Summer League, they're giving him all this special dispensation of like, 'Hey, we're going to treat you different.' And how is he repaying them for that? He's afraid to shoot three-pointers and he wants to take contest midrange 12-footers that are contested off the dribble. Come on. 

Andrew Sharp: I actually appreciate your honestly because I feel exactly the same way. This is really tough to watch and I think part of that is most of the time we watch players go through some sort of nightmare-ish struggle. When we watch them on the other side we're generally watching them redeem themselves because the players who can never put it all back together generally never make it back to that spot.

With Fultz we're watching him try to put it all back together on national television, and there are moments when he's out there and it's hard not to wonder whether it isn't going to happen for him. And that's really depressing, because he seems like a good guy. I spent time with him and his family when he was entering the draft, but his career is tough to watch.

Golliver: His career was going great until you did that story. It's really been downhill sense. But can I just put it this way: I'm not a Sixers fan, I don't think I'm that hard on the Sixers, either. I mean, of course we went after them a little for the Colangelo tweet-fest and all that. I just think more than anything I am team Ben, and part of it is because you tried to punch him at training camp a couple years ago and it got a little dicey there. But I really believe in Ben Simmons's Hall of Fame potential, right. I'm all in, I think you could build an amazing offense around him as the No. 1 guy.

So I'm not to like Ben Inc. status like I am with Giannis, but I'm getting there. So I look at everything that Philly does through the lens of... Does this guy make Ben's life easier? Does he make Ben better? Is he basically fitting into the framework of a Ben-led Sixers team? And I realize that Joel Embiid is still the captain there, the biggest personality and all that, but I think ultimately Philly is going to go as far as Simmons takes them, I think this year and beyond.

And Markelle has not shown me anything to believe that he is going to be one of these guys who's going to really help Ben Simmons in the long-term, and I hope he turns it around, I hope he rediscovers his full confidence in his shot, I hope he can trust his three-pointers off the dribble because that's an amazing weapon that he had at one point. But right now it's just like, 'Man, you're just holding people back. You're just crunching the court around Simmons, just put J.J, Redick out there; it just seems obvious. 


Sharp: Can I push back on one point, though? I do think it's healthy for the Sixers to start him for the first two to three months of the season, maybe start him until Christmas. Just to find out what you have, and there would be no allusions about what Fultz really is. I think as an organization that's going to be really important to what they want to do. If Fultz isn't the guy it's better to get everybody on the same page as quickly as possible so you know we need to go find a guard who can work next to Ben Simmons. There's a chance he could be that guy, but the longer you wait the longer the whole organization is kind of in purgatory. 

Golliver: When you introduce people to your wife, do you say this is my wife or do you say this is my girlfriend, right? You say this is my wife, right? Seven days a week, there's not like three days of the week, like Monday, Wednesday and Sunday you call her your girlfriend, she's your wife. They've got Fultz as a starter in the first half and a bench player in the second half. Isn't that the most halfway committed thing you've ever heard? Wouldn't your wife be offended if you treated her that way? You're my wife when we go to dinner with my parents, but at the movies you're just my girlfriend. Come on, man? 

NBA Opening Week: LeBron James' Lakers Debut and More First Impressions

Sharp: That's true, it is certainly halfway in Philadelphia, but I still feel like it's a healthy step for them to give him as many real opportunities as they can before they make a decision there. And look, in all likelihood, they're going to get to January and Fultz is not going to be a meaningful contributor. But at least they'll know what he is. 

Golliver: At least they'll have ruined the first three months of their season. Can we flip this around? Imagine you were Fultz and Brett Brown, who's this nice, kind, straight-shooting man, incredibly smart, coach of the year candidate every year. Brett Brown comes to you and is like, "Markelle, you're going to start for us, but only for the first half. You're going to come off the bench in the third quarter." Aren't you offended? Wouldn't you feel like you're a charity case? How do you take it?

Sharp: How I personally take it is now I know that every time I watch the Sixers start a third quarter with J.J. Redick I'm going to be thinking of me introducing my wife as my wife with these friends and my girlfriend with these friends. It's a powerful analogy and it's clear that the Sixers have some things to work out.