If you trust the process, then you have to believe Markelle Fultz will be fine.
Because, despite all of his self-promotion, Joel Embiid isn't The Process. Sixers coach Brett Brown is. He doesn't lie. Trust him.
Two weeks ago, Brown said Fultz's reconstructed jump shot is progressing nicely. Brown said Fultz has regained the confidence that helped make him the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. Brown said, "he's going to have a hell of a year."
Brown's usually right about this stuff.
Brown said last summer that Ben Simmons, who played forward in college and spent his first NBA season injured, would be a transformative point guard. The year before, Brown said Embiid, who had been compared with Hakeem Olajuwon on draft night 2014, could become a centerpiece like Tim Duncan. Neither had played an NBA game. Simmons was the rookie of the year last season. Embiid was an all-star starter.
This summer, Brown is saying Fultz will show everyone why he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, and, ostensibly, why Jayson Tatum was not.
Fultz developed a shoulder injury last summer while working on altering his shot. The injury and the resultant psychological deterioration cost Fultz 68 games as a rookie and glued him to the bench for most of the Sixers' playoff run. This summer, Fultz is working with Drew Hanlen and Pure Sweat Basketball in Los Angeles.
Brown checked in on Fultz in LA last month. Brown also dispatched Conner Johnson, the team's director of player development, to visit Fultz. Both returned satisfied that Fultz will come to training camp in September with a viable jump shot. Thanks to advanced technologies, Brown has access to the results of Fultz's workouts.
Two team sources said that there is no anxiety at the team's training complex in Camden about Fultz's jump shot. Sixers coaches and medical staff were exasperated by reports over the past few weeks that minimized, or even dismissed, Fultz's injury as the root of his shooting problems. Like any injury, symptoms took a while to disappear even after he was medically cleared to resume play in March. Finally, Fultz no longer feels any discomfort in the affected area.
Nor is there any concern about Simmons' shot, nor about Embiid's conditioning. Simmons is working with his brother, Liam, an assistant at the University of California's Riverside campus, as he travels the world and courts a Kardashian. Embiid, unrestrictedly healthy for the first time since he was drafted in 2014, looks chiseled in LA.
Hanlen, who also trains Embiid, uses online video to market his services. This one, which features Embiid and Fultz foil Jayson Tatum, has been a viral hit.
On July 4, Fultz posted a photo of a follow-through that at least resembles one component of a functional shooting motion.
Four days later, Hanlen cryptically tweeted that Sixers fans should be excited.
On Saturday, Hanlen appeared on the hoopshype.com podcast with Alex Kennedy and, about 21 minutes in, indicated that Fultz's psyche might still be fragile:
"You don't ever want to add pressure to a player when you don't have to … We're purposely doing things to protect him."
Considering how protective the Sixers have been with every foundational player they've had in the past five years, it only makes sense that they'd want Fultz protected, too. Like Embiid and Simmons, Fultz's ceiling is incredibly high. His ceiling is why deposed general manager Bryan Colangelo traded a first-round pick to Danny Ainge to move from No. 3 to No. 1 in the 2017 draft. Tatum then dismantled the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals as Fultz watched. That precipitated a lot of hand-wringing during that series, and since.
For anyone who watched Fultz go through pregame conditioning work against his teammates during the playoff series against the Celtics, hope should remain. Excitement, even. The kid is special. Witnessing Fultz's refined ballhandling and his breathtaking athleticism — the balance, the power, the speed, the explosiveness — made it a little easier to watch Tatum tear the Sixers' defense apart. It's why the Sixers refused to make Fultz part of trade packages as they sought to add star Kawhi Leonard this offseason.
Believe this: Markelle Fultz will be great. Embiid will be magnificent, which is more, and Simmons, a revelation, which is different, but Fultz will be great.
Tatum understands this.
At a pre-draft interview in 2017, Tatum and Josh Jackson, who eventually went fourth overall, were asked which current NBA player Fultz most closely resembled. Jackson replied, "James Harden."
Tatum said, "That comparison is spot on."
James Harden is the reigning MVP.