The Sixers want to make it to the playoffs, and a large part of the team’s success depends on the development of 19-year-old Markelle Fultz.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a teenager. But, like most teenagers, Fultz believes he can handle anything thrown at him.
Changing his body and adding muscle: Check. Playing off the ball while Ben Simmons runs the offense: No problem. Dealing with the pressure that comes with being the No. 1 overall draft pick: He says pressure helps him work hard.
To top it all off, Fultz said he’s “cooking up some stuff” with Nike, and he wants to be the rookie of the year.
“I set high goals for myself, so that I can work hard to achieve them,” the University of Washington product said Monday.
Of course, another very confident Sixer will be chasing the same prize: Simmons.
In Fultz’s defense, he’s off to a good start. He’s no longer tending to a sprained left ankle from summer league and says he is ready to go with zero limitations. That’s more than some of his teammates can say.
He has garnered praise from general manager Bryan Colangelo, head coach Brett Brown, and from teammates who have watched him in the gym this summer. Justin Anderson has even taken to calling Fultz “Quick Wash” because of his spin moves.
Even with a ton of praise, all is easier said than done, and Fultz knows his youth means he has room to grow.
“I think being this young shows that I still have a lot to improve,” Fultz said. “I’ll be able to take the bumps and bruises and be able to recover fast.”
There will definitely be bumps and bruises along the way.
Fultz will be tasked with guarding some of the league’s most experienced point guards. He’ll have to deal with the growing pains of transitioning to the NBA and improving the weak parts of his game while the season drags on. He’ll be asked to play a different type of guard position from what he is used to and he will often have to share the limelight with one or more of his teammates.
With training camp beginning Tuesday, and the backcourt depth chart largely undecided, the friendly competition should be a good start for Fultz. But everything will change once the season starts, and the eyes of the basketball world will be on the No. 1 pick, seeing whether the teenager has what it takes.