I was maxing and relaxing the other day...listening to one of my favorite podcasts (Flagrant 2, shout out to the a**holes, keep it tight); and on the podcast one of the hosts Andrew Schulz, was bashing Philly. This is a regularity for him. He is always talking about how everything breaks in Philly, and how Philly is always taking Ls, including in this past Super Bowl (you have to listen to see how he explains it but that’s usually the premise of his Philly jokes and they’re hilarious). I should also mention that he’s my 2nd favorite comedian right now so naturally I gravitate to his jokes.
Moving on though...while listening to this podcast, I forget exactly how, but they arrive on the subject of the 76ers and Markelle Fultz. Some background information...Markelle Fultz was the first pick (number one overall) of the 76ers in the 2017 NBA Draft. He has been sidelined all season (he only played the first 4 games of the season) by a mysterious injury that no one seems to be able to get to bottom of, and this mysterious injury has greatly affected his jumpshot in a very negative fashion. As always, Andrew and his two co-hosts come up with conspiracy theories as to why all this is happening. They’re obviously speculating from the outside looking in with (by their own admission) limited inside information.
However, listening to them talk sparked a train of thought within me. This train of thought lead me to come up with a conspiracy theory of my own. I think I know the real reason why he has been sidelined all season with no plans of returning to any sort of game action during the 2017-2018 NBA season. It might seem crazy, and out there at first (then again what conspiracy theory doesn’t), but keep reading to the end then let me know if I’m crazy or this might actually be true and a possibility.
Let's get to it…
Prior to this season, the Philadelphia 76ers have had a very long run of mediocrity. So much so that the league influenced the firing/step down of their former GM (Sam Hinkie) because he was blatantly tanking each season trying to get the highest picks possible in the draft. It was done in hopes of drafting a franchise player or two with which he would build a long term successful and championship contending team. However that process didn’t seem to be working. Every pick they made seemed to already be hurt or always getting hurt (Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Ben Simmons) or worse not the player they thought he would be (Jahlil Okafor). Which begged the question...is this method really working?
Fast Forward to today...it’s the 2017-2018 NBA season. Joel Embiid seems to be rounding into form and staying healthy (knock on wood...that boy is a beast, would hate to see him go down again). Ben Simmons is all he’s advertised to be; he came into the league ready to make an impact right away. They parted ways with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor and got some compensation back that’ll help with their future. On top of that they’re a top eight seed in the eastern conference poised to make their first playoff appearance in a long time.
To most, it would seem like a healthy Markelle Fultz would be just what the doctor ordered. He would be another perimeter threat to compliment Simmons and Embiid. To be a perimeter threat in today’s NBA having a jumpshot is quite crucial. Fultz in college, showed more than a competent mastery of this skill set. That contributed immensely to him being the number one overall pick in the drafter but that skill seems to have magically disappeared in the NBA.
How does that happen? How is he not able to shoot all of a sudden? His legs work, he’s healthy. My inside sources say he’s able to do everything and workout just fine but he just can’t seem to get out of his own head with his shot. Several rumors are circling, and they range anywhere from an actual shoulder injury that’s affecting his shot to his trainer prior to the draft influenced him to change his shot and he hasn’t been the same since.
Even if this was the case or as close to exactly what was going on...why wouldn’t the 76ers just throw him out there? Let him learn and figure it out on the fly. I watched him play in college, he wasn’t just a shooter, he had other skills and attributes that made him a very special player. One that was worthy of the number one overall pick in the NBA draft. That’s gotta be worth something on the court sans a consistent jumpshot. Yet for some reason he hasn’t suited up once for the 76ers all season.
This brings to me conspiracy theory/hot take….THERE IS NO INJURY. IT’S ALL A SMOKE AND MIRRORS. THE 76ERS ARE SITTING HIM OUT OF THIS SEASON ON PURPOSE. THEY HAVE ULTERIOR MOTIVES AND I’VE FIGURED OUT WHAT THEY ARE.
Simply put, I think the 76ers are sitting him out this season in order to help him better acclimate to life when he’s actually playing. By all accounts, by most players that have been sidelined during their true first years in the NBA, having a deferred rookie year campaign does nothing else but help you play better that second year (but your rookie year officially). By most accounts, you get used to the rigors of the NBA schedule (traveling, games, back to backs, multiple cities in multiple nights, as well as long road trips). You get to experience all that without having to get yourself up to perform every night. You get the mental reps so to speak.
However, most importantly, you get to work with a NBA trainer for a whole year before ever stepping foot on an NBA court to play a game. Both skillswise by fine tuning the tools you need to be successful in the league, as well as getting their body in tip top shape to withstand the rigors of a NBA season. The average fan may not know this but there’s a far, wide, and drastic difference between the professional basketball and college basketball. This really can be said about any other form of basketball, but that difference is even more pronounced between college and NBA. The point is, if you get to work with those trainers, and being around the game for a whole year you’re way more prepared than you would be by playing a year of college basketball during that same time.
I should also note that skipping your first year in the NBA isn’t always the first choice. It’s usually caused by some sort of injury. No franchise wishes injury on a player, especially not young player they just drafted. I do think this franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers, as much as they don’t wish injury on their young players, they’re perfecting the art of taking full advantage of it so as to benefit the franchise the most in the long run.
One thing that can’t also be lost within this is that, said player is not just working with any NBA trainer, they’re working specifically with the teams trainer. The team trainer is the one person whose ear the head coach has. Therefore, said player is going to be working on things that will definitely translate to the game. The trainer is knowledgeable and well versed on the system the coach is trying to install with team, and more importantly how the coach plans on using said player. This all helps better prepare the player for NBA action.
Now considering all of that information, it is my conspiracy theory that the Philadelphia 76ers evaluated their situation and came up with the conclusion that it would be in their best interest to sit Markelle Fultz out this season. They figured they need to focus on the development of their players at this stage as opposed to going full out trying to make the playoffs/win a championship or even going their usual direction which is trying to lose in order to get a good pick. They now have two cornerstone players to build their franchise with (Embiid and Simmons), so why rush Fultz into the mold. Put him on ice and let him develop. Embiid had his years to sit out. Simmons had his year to sit out. Now it’s Fultz’s turn.
They know they aren’t going to win the championship or be in the finals this season (Lebron’s making sure of that). They also know that Simmons and Embiid need to continue their development. So they’ll get their feet wet in the playoffs this season. They also have accumulated enough assets to where they don’t really need to go into full tank mode for a top pick this season (Simmons and Embiid are really just that good). So why rush Fultz back? Let him sit. Let him develop. Let him get his body right.
When he’s finally ready, Simmons and Embiid will be that much better and that will only help Fultz with his transition. It’ll be less pressure on him. He can take his time finding his role and his space within the 76ers without the immense pressure of having to perform right away. The expectations will be much lower. If the team is more successful with Embiid and Simmons leading the way he’ll look that much better. Add that to him being better prepared to perform after a year of training and you have a young man primed to have a great ‘rookie’ campaign. He’ll also be less affected by the rigors of the lifestyle since he’s lived it for a year already.
Let me know your thoughts on this. Am I tripping? Or am I on to something here?
Before you come to a conclusion, I also have some research to back this up. Over the last 10 years or so, here are some notable players that sat out their entire rookie year and how they fared in their deferred rookie year.
As you can see, two of Markelle Fultz’s teammates are already on this protocol. The 76ers have first hand experience of how this works. If anything, with this being their fourth go around with it (I didn’t mention the same thing happened with Nelens Noel), they know exactly how to execute this maneuver with their rookies.
I really don’t think this was always their plan, I do think that they stumbled upon it, and this is their first time doing it purposefully. Hence why there’s so much cloud and uncertainty as to what type of injury it is that Fultz has. With previous players it had always been clear cut. Noel was the knee. Simmons the foot. Embiid the back and then the knee. With Fultz I think they just came up with something and thought that would be it, but with investigative journalism in the NBA at an all time high it was hard to keep up with the same narrative hence the different reports and the different stories about Fultz. Which leads to my deduction that something is wrong, but we just don’t know what it is. Only thing that’s known for sure is that something is off and we the people definitely don’t know the full story.
Ultimately I may be proven wrong but we have to wait until next season to know for sure. Until then, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.