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Start of Markelle Fultz’s NBA Career Is Eerily Similar to Troubling List of Former No. 1 Picks

markelle fultz

Thanks to then-general manager Sam Hinkie the Philadelphia 76ers have lived by the mantra of “Trust the Process” since 2013. It’s a process that finally appeared to reach fruition this season with a young, talented roster that features Joel Embiid and the last two first overall picks, Ben Simmons and DMV’s own Markelle Fultz.

That process may very well be in motion. Unfortunately, Fultz’s development and contributions as part of that process has been stunted by a bothersome shoulder injury. So much so, he and the coaching staff have worked through various methods to accommodate the discomfort to allow him to play, including altering his shooting motion.

Most likely, you’ve seen the videos of Fultz awkwardly shooting free throws.

The injury forced him to miss three of the 76ers’ five preseason games. The situation has forced 76ers head coach Brett Brown to go in another direction with his starting lineup and limit Fultz’s playing time in the process (no pun intended). In fact, when the 76ers opened the regular season at Fultz’s hometown Washington Wizards on Oct. 18, the rookie did not start. He became just the sixth first overall pick in the last 20 years not to start in his NBA debut.

It’s that bit that should have 76ers and Fultz’s fans startled, because the other five No. 1 picks not to start in their debut are Anthony Bennett (Cavaliers, 2013), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors, 2006), Yao Ming (Rockets, 2002), Kwame Brown (Wizards, 2001), and Michael Olowokandi (Clippers, 1999). Yeah, that’s not a great company to be with if there are any aspirations of a great lengthy career.

For multiple reasons that included injuries, lack of development, and/or maturity, prevented those other five from starting in their first NBA regular season game. Outside of Ming, the others did not exactly overcome their stagnant beginnings. Even still, Ming had his fair share of setbacks. Let’s examine.

Bennett entered the NBA at the age of 20. He was supposed to be a complement to Kyrie Irving. Instead a shoulder injury (yup) halted his progression and after four mediocre seasons in which he played for four different teams he was out of the NBA, averaging 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.6 minutes.

Bargnani entered the league underdeveloped. In his first game he played just eight minutes, posting two points, two blocks, and two rebounds. Fortunately, he would go on to average much more. But after seven seasons of mostly mediocre play, Bargnani’s time with the Raptors was essentially chalked to a waste of time. He did play 10 seasons in the NBA, but by the time he played his last game in the 2015-16 season he had just one season of averaging 20 points or more.

Ming is inducted in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. However, that is more so of his international contributions that helped expand the NBA’s reach to Asia. Ming stayed with one team throughout his nine-season career. However, his playing career was marred by various injuries playing in just 476 games. That’s an average of 52.8 games per season. The NBA’s schedule is 82 games.

As for Brown, it was clear from the onset Michael Jordan and the Wizards’ choice of him with the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft was a complete disaster. Brown averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds as a rookie, starting in just three games. After four seasons in Washington, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, having started just 94 games and averaging 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. He bounced around the league, playing on seven teams in total during his 12 seasons.

Olowokandi played five seasons with the Clippers, the team that drafted him. He averaged a little more than 11 points per game during that time. But, those five seasons were dismal, and by the time he suited up for another team, he was already labeled a bust. He finished his career averaging 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds. Just to think the Clippers chose him over the likes of Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Antwan Jamison and Vince Carter.

There are plenty of 76ers fans and followers from his home area that hope those examples are not signs of things to come for Fultz. He has time to develop, but every video clip and shot of his awkward shooting motion will bring an eerily similar feeling of the other five. Through three games he has yet to start and has scored a total of 22 points in 59 minutes.

While it’s hard to know what will happen in the future, one thing is certain if this continues it will not be good for the psyche of Fultz.

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