SALT LAKE CITY — All eyes will be on Markelle Fultz when the 76ers open NBA Summer League action in Las Vegas on Saturday, which is natural for the NBA’s No. 1 overall pick.
Folks will want to see if Fultz can duplicate the scoring ability he showcased in the Utah Jazz Summer League. They’ll also look to see if the point guard can cut down his turnovers and be more consistent on defense.
There’s a chance that fans will see some improvement in those areas, but it would be unrealistic for the 19-year-old to be on an accelerated learning program. As good as he is, Fultz is going to make some mistakes in summer-league play. Most rookies do. And then they will have their share of ups and downs during the regular season.
That’s why for the top picks, the summer league is all about getting an introduction to the NBA. And that’s what Fultz did in the Sixers’ first two games in the Utah Jazz league. He sat out Thursday’s 94-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs on the third and final day of the Utah league as a scheduled off day.
“I learned the pace of the game [and] the stuff I need to work on on the defensive end,” Fultz said of his first exposure to summer-league play.
A student of the game, Fultz likes to watch tape of his practices and games. He was eager to do that after a 100-94 loss to the host Jazz on Wednesday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
In addition to improving his defense, Fultz is determined to do a better job of finding teammates. “See how they can score,” he said, “just learning the teammates. We haven’t been together very long.”
But it was far from a bad performance for him on Wednesday. He finished with team highs of 23 points and five assists to go with five rebounds and six turnovers. Thirteen of his points and all of his assists came in the fourth quarter.
For the game, Fultz made 9 of 16 shots from the field, including a game-high four three-pointers on eight attempts. His failure to record an assist in the first three quarters had more to do with teammates missing shots. However, Fultz did not duplicate the defensive presence he displayed Monday, when he blocked three shots in an 89-88 loss to the Boston Celtics.
On Wednesday, he had his hands full guarding point guard Dante Exum, who will be entering his fourth year this season.
But overall, Fultz had two solid performances to build upon in the summer league. He averaged 20 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 blocks, 5 turnovers, and 24.5 minutes. Fultz shot 46.1 percent on three-pointers.
“Too see my shot falling is all good,” Fultz said. “But now I just have to work on the other things that are not going right, which is the defensive end and some of the stuff on the offensive end, just learning [from] my turnovers.”
He’ll try to improve on that Saturday in a 10:30 p.m. game against the Golden State Warriors at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.