Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken: 76ers Need To Bench Fultz Indefinitely

Dan O'Shea

Before trusting the process was the thing every fan wanted to do, being a Sixers fan was seen as a punishment fit for prisoners instead of facing death row. Sure, they had a cool catchphrase and a number of draft picks to build around, but there was no reason to believe they could be even marginally successful until this season.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the Sixers actually lived by their motto. Now that things are in place with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Philadelphia is for some reason trying to speed things up with Markelle Fultz and his injured shoulder. It may not be the go-to option for those who have been impatiently waiting for success over the years, but it would make complete sense for the Sixers to shut down Fultz until he’s fully healed.

For those who haven’t been paying attention and just assumed the Sixers would just chug along and finally figure it out, you clearly have been watching a different movie here. For what feels like the hundredth time, Philadelphia’s top pick is dealing with an injury. Markelle Fultz has played just four games and is already dealing with a shoulder injury.

Just for those keeping score at home, that’s a big fat zero games for Ben Simmons his rookie year, zero games for Embiid his first two years, and now just four games before their newest messiah Markelle Fultz went down with an injury.

It’s truly not fair for Philadelphia fans to go through this with Fultz. They’ve had numerous prospects that are supposed to be part of their core go down with injuries. It’s like the Sixers are Charlie Brown, success is football, and the injury bug is Lucy, constantly keeping Philly from ever touching that football filled with success. Watching these future stars hear their name called by the Sixers has almost been a Shakespearian tragedy at this point.

As many Sixers fans have already done, stare into the light of those Men In Black sticks that erase your memory, and forget about Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. The moral of the story lies within Embiid and Simmons and the talent they currently bring to the table. While the start of their careers were certainly brutal as the Sixers were clobbered each and every year desperately clinging to hope, Philadelphia is in a position where that dream can become a reality because they waited, not in spite of it. The Sixers decided to be patient and it panned out. For some unexplainable reason, they’re not doing the same thing with Fultz.

This has been the root of the Sixers’ current problem thus far this season: Fultz’s shooting form. Coming out of college, he was clearly a prospect that did not need to develop his shot. During his lone year at Washington, he had no problem scoring in bunches. His 47% from the floor could be considered inflated due to a lack of competition and an ease to get to the rack, but by shooting 41% from deep, Fultz made sure there were zero issues with his shot. That was before he came to the pros.

In an extremely detailed video by ESPN’s draft analyst Mike Schmitz, you can clearly tell his form improves when he gets to college, and becomes one of the weakest parts of his game once he hits the pros.

You don’t need your own show at ESPN or 50+ years as a college scout to clearly see that his form is off. For a man that was once considered a shooter, he looked nothing like it once he entered the NBA. You can even look at his performance through his only four games and understand there was something wrong.

He was hesitating on open threes and driving instead of taking shots he would have let loose last year. He went just 9-27 from the field for a below-average 33% but that’s not the worst part. It’s his zero attempted threes that should really be the reason for concern. There are so many red flags all over the first four games about Fultz that it looked like an Olympic-grade skiing slope. Yet the Sixers still decided to push him by giving him a cortisone shot instead of resting him for the pain.

For a team that has had so much bad luck with injury, this is truly an insane move. Even if there was no structural damage, there’s clearly an issue since he claims he’s changing his shot because of it. Not only did the Sixers refuse to take caution, but they tried to keep this entire issue behind closed doors in order to keep him in the lineup.

That’s the thing that truly doesn’t make sense about the Sixers. They have been more patient than anybody in history. They even make Jim Halpert from The Office look like he was in a rush after waiting for Pam to get out of her relationship so he could make his move. Yet now that there is the possibility of something on the table, they’re trying to force something that may not be quite there just yet.

For 29 teams, this would make sense. When you have a lottery pick, let alone a top pick in the draft and a potential franchise-changing player like Fultz is considered to be, you want to see him on the court. The feeling has to be mutual, as the rookie wants to get out there and prove his worth right away.

It may not be the right decision, but the blind faith in what could be drives a team to push their player to take the court. The Sixers are not one of those 29. When they’ve decided to take the long route over these past few years it’s been painful, but you can’t argue with the decision by looking at the product on the court.

Take process piece No. 1, Joel Embiid. The beginning of his career hasn’t been ideal as the man has only played in 31 career games prior to this season, but it’s impossible to blame Philly for the route they take after seeing what their big man can do once he’s healthy. He’s clearly a franchise-changing player if he can stay on the court. It took awhile and there may still be some doubts, but benching him for as long as they did helped get Embiid to this point.

Plus, the fact that he’s insisting he isn’t made of glass definitely doesn’t hurt.

Now that we know Embiid isn’t made of fine china, it’s time to move on to process piece No. 2, Ben Simmons. It’s easy to not be as terrified about last year’s top pick because he’s missed just one season compared to Embiid’s two-plus, but he was still another centerpiece that was sidelined for an entire year. Yet just like Embiid, he’s proving there isn’t a single thing to worry about now.

By any and all standards, these two rising stars would be considered healthy and thriving, yes? If not, we have some more stats to drop on your head for all of those who still don’t believe in the Sixers’ process of waiting over the past few years.

Everyone should be focusing on the first line, but instead, are focusing on the negative. The reason why this is still considered negative at all is due to Philadelphia doing every single thing in their power to mishandle the situation. There is a clear path to success for injured Sixers and a prize for those who wait, yet this team is willing to dismantle the process in order to speed things up. What is the worst possible thing that can happen by benching Fultz?


If that’s so, then this is a cakewalk compared to what this team has gone through over the past few seasons.

It’s astounding that this team has done everything in their power to be patient and let things develop, yet are completely okay with throwing away that entire ideal in order to possibly win a few more games. The truth that everyone needs to realize is that this season means nothing to the Sixers.

Sure, it will get people fired up that they finally have meaning in their life when it comes to Philadelphia basketball, but the dream is to win championships with this roster, not compete for a playoff spot. The Sixers need to remember to look at the big picture when dealing with Fultz. Otherwise, everything they’ve built and everything they will build can come crashing down.

Start the discussion

to comment