Uncertainty remains around Markelle Fultz’ future

Humans crave certainty and security. It is one of the base levels of Maslow’s heirarchy of needs. The Markelle Fultz mystery is so compelling because it undermines our feelings of certainty and leaves in its place doubt and fear and embarrassment. As the news came out last Tuesday, Elton Brand was clearly caught off guard.

Speaking about Raymond Brothers, Brand said, “Raymond’s job is different than mine; Raymond’s job is to do the best of what he thinks it is for his client, my job is to continue our positive trend….At the end of the day we all want to support Markelle, we all want what’s best for Markelle.”

In a time when the team feels they’re on the cusp of true contention, certainly in the Eastern Conference, it is perfectly natural for fans and media to feel anxious and to question everything about this situation. History suggests significant lack of transparency on the part of previous front office regimes, and a healthy dose of skepticism is certainly warranted. But something I believe we should all keep in mind is that we are not the victim in this situation.

As much as it may pain you to endure watching a 20 year old’s very public struggles, all indications are that Fultz genuinely wants to get himself back to a healthy and productive state so he can pursue the career he has worked so hard to begin. Monday’s consultation with specialists should not be viewed as a way to shirk responsibility for his struggles, but rather an effort to find a real solution – or set of solutions – that can get him back to an optimal physical and mental state.

As discussed in a previous article, Fultz and Simmons still need to face the music, these struggles almost certainly have multiple contributing factors. And as much as everyone involved may have wanted to point to a single smoking gun or imbalanced scapula, the solution will likely be as complex as the origins of the issues.

As conflicting reports come out about the team’s plans to move Markelle, and perhaps that Fultz himself would prefer a new home, you have to think that his value is at absolute rock bottom right now. It is nearly impossible to really calculate what fair value would even be at this point. When you compare the potential return on a trade to the increasingly unlikely, but non-zero chance that Fultz regains the confidence and form that made him the consensus #1 pick in June 2017 you come up with a risk reward calculation that still, to me, says to hold on to him.

“The bottom line, for me, is to find a way to help him.” – Brett Brown 11/20.

All indications are that Markelle is still well liked by his teammates and is still seen as a kid brother who they root for intensely. You do get the sense that other players are as confused and uncertain as any of us about what is going on, but none of them seem to think this is lack of effort on his part.

When discussing the situation, you do notice a shift in Embiid’s tone. Embiid famously said last season that people did not have Markelle’s back. First reported here on PFO in July, Embiid strongly advised Fultz to work with Drew Hanlen over the summer. According to Brett Brown, Markelle put up 150,000 jump shots and practiced three times per day over the summer while living in LA.

Even during his introductory press conference, Jimmy Butler noted that he was working out in LA and heard nothing but good things about how Fultz had worked out over the summer.

This should not be treated as a situation where a player refuses to try to change or work on obvious flaws. That is a perfectly valid argument for many athletes, but in this case, I would consider that unfair.

What you have to hope for is that Markelle’s representatives really strive to put together a team of orthopedics, pain science, sports psychology, and anything else that may be able to work collaboratively for a set of solutions to a very complex problem.

To say that the Sixers simply need to move on ignores the fact that the perimeter defense has been an absolute nightmare in the games he has missed. As much effort and grit as TJ McConnell displays, he is really most effective when used as a change of pace, shot in the arm emotional reliever.

You have to think of the point guard rotation right now in terms of MLB pitching. Ben Simmons is your workhorse starter, you hope he can give you 7 innings (35 mins) on a nightly basis. Fultz, for all of his struggles, was still almost certainly a better long reliever than TJ. I would equate TJ McConnell to a key left-handed situational reliever who you bring in to get one hitter out in a key spot in a game.

Bottom line, Fultz is still the team’s best chance to have 48 minutes of elite point guard play.