The state of the young talent on the 76ers at this moment is one of the more intriguing aspects of one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA. While there’s two notably high profile young men taking huge steps forward in Embiid and Simmons, this piece isn’t about those two. They’ve both been steadily improving after their shared first healthy offseason, where they got to work on their respective games, get bigger and better, and work to patch the holes exposed in their games from last year’s playoffs. But we all know enough about them, for right now at least.
With the much-anticipated arrival of Jimmy Butler, with a less-than-negligible history of locker room issues specifically with rookies, let’s investigate the state of the true young guys-Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet, and of course Markelle Fultz.
Zhaire Smith, unfortunately, hasn’t had much to be discussed lately. Besides his preseason injury and a strange emergency surgery to save him from a food allergen he had ingested (which is apparently not weird enough by 76ers rookie standards to make big NBA news), Zhaire has been quietly humming along. As the Sixers’ highest draft pick from this past offseason, there’s high hopes he can make a speedy recovery and work to be a strong young player, particularly on the defensive end of the ball, as soon as possible.
Landry Shamet, surprisingly, has made a big impact-and fast. He’s quickly dug himself a role in Brett Brown’s rotations as a shooter and has made some impressive plays off the dribble as well. And most shockingly, he’s overcome what was expected to be a defensive deficiency due to his small frame and wingspan, but his quick decision making and smart reads have made him much more playable on the other end of the ball. All in all, this kid has showed he’s willing to work hard to produce value for this team in a variety of roles and that will be worth a lot in a locker room with someone who’s got beef with the ever-lackadaisical Andrew Wiggins.
Finally we reach the elephant in the room, and the primary source of the title of this article, Markelle Fultz. The problem with Fultz is just that: The Kid is alright. Just alright. And for someone that the 76ers took number 1 overall, and traded picks for, he needs to be that killer from UW. Fultz problem hasn’t been so much that he hasn’t shown these skills: he shot a couple 3-pointers early on, but the attempts tapered off, he has improved defensively, and he has glimpses of those skillful plays from days of yore. But glimpses aren’t enough for someone we gave up future assets for. He clearly has the skills, at least enough to not be a total minus off the bench. So where is that killer instinct that he used when he was the No.1 option at Washington?
All in all, the Sixers have much to be excited about with this bunch. But the fact that the one drafted far and away the highest is the one with the gloomiest present and the most doubtful future with the franchise, there is much to be figured out for Markelle Fultz.