Markelle Fultz is making Danny Ainge look like a genius

Remember last year when that guard out of Washington came into the spotlight and was regarded as the clear choice to be picked #1 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft? Experts claimed that he could score from anywhere on the floor, was creative and would get his teammates involved, and that he could defend multiple positions. They said that he was a franchise player, a future all-star, and someone to build a team around. Any GM would be an idiot not to draft this guy: Markelle Fultz.

Then the NBA Draft Lottery came around and the ping pong balls fell in the Boston Celtics' favor. They'd get the first choice in the draft after years of being snubbed by the system. Questions began to arise about the team's roster. Can Isaiah Thomas and Fultz play together? With so many guards on the team, who will Danny Ainge trade to trim the roster? How will a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals be able to utilize their new young stud? Something had to be done to make this Fultz's team. What would Danny do?

Then in classic fashion, Trader Danny swapped picks with the Philadelphia 76ers, passing up on the league's 'next super-star', Markelle Fultz. 

And guess what? The move is making Danny seem like a genius, because the guy who he 'missed out on' is struggling to even shoot the basketball, and the player who he chose in Fultz's place is thriving. 

Yes, you heard me correctly: Markelle Fultz is having a hard time shooting a basketball. And I don't mean that he's shooting inefficiently from the field or is in a slump. I mean that his everyday, regular jump shot, is totally skewed, and the information behind this oddity is unclear and just plain weird. 

First, news came out that Fultz had changed the mechanics behind his jump shot, which is a obviously a bold strategy for someone viewed as a premier offensive guard. The reason was unknown. Then rumors began to leak, but they weren't consistent. Fultz's agent said that his client's right shoulder was injured, the 76ers' trainer said that his right shoulder was injured, and Fultz himself said that his right shoulder was injured. But then the Sixers' GM Bryan Colangelo contradicted the report and said that Fultz changed his shot, "for no reason." Which led people to asking why the 'future of the Association' would change such a thing. Why fix what ain't broken?
So, Fultz played in Philly's first four games, and wasn't very impressive. He shot 33% from the field on 9-of-27 shooting, and averaged six points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. And the craziest thing is that he barely shot any jumpers in those games. The majority of the field goals that he put up were near the basket. Or, they were free throws...
After his poor performance, more information about his shooting and the injury appeared. Apparently, Fultz actually shouldn't have been playing in those games because his shoulder was more injured than let on. His agent told us this when he admitted that Fultz was given a cortisone shot back in the preseason to help relieve pain in his shoulder, and that more recently he's had other treatments done to help the ailing area. Fultz's agent said,

Markelle had a shoulder injury and fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder. He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball. He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent.

This is some Pedro Martinez in Game 7 shit! Of course, athletes are going to want to play through injuries or fatigue. They want to be out there when their team wins the game. They want to contribute. It's up to the coaching staff and medical team to make the right decision that will be most beneficial for both the team and the player. Grady Little learned this the hard way back in 2003, and it seems that the 76ers are learning that now. The strange thing in this situation is that, the beginning of the season isn't very high stakes. Fultz could have easily rested and healed his shoulder during that time. It makes no sense to play an injured guy at this point in the season. Just a weird move by the Sixers.

So, Fultz was pulled from the lineup and hasn't played in an NBA game since October 23. Finally a smart move, right? Well, it was recently revealed that Fultz has been participating in practice, but not exactly how you might expect.

Yes, he is altering his shot again! Granted, he could just be messing around in practice, but again, that seems like a stupid decision. The guy can barely lift his arm, and trainers are allowing him to put up shots?

The only rationale that I can think of here is that he's trying to improve his game. Because he can't use his right arm, he'll work with his left. It's a great skill to be able to shoot with both hands in the NBA, and I kind of dig this idea to be an ambidextrous shooter. Steph Curry can do it, and LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were seen practicing the technique a few years ago.

And while a lefty jumper may never be needed, excelling with both hands at the rim is surely important. We've been seeing this necessity more and more ever since Kyrie has been in green. His floaters from inside the paint are lethal, and you best believe that he does it with both hands.

So, this whole Markelle Fultz thing either just got a whole lot weirder, or it's a savvy move for Fultz to try to improve his game in such a unique way. It's probably a better idea for players to continue working with their strong hands, seeing as no one is a perfect shooter, but hey, I'm into it. It would be really neat to witness a player who can consistently drain shots with both arms.

Anyways, the inconsistency in Philadelphia is making Danny Ainge look great, because while Fultz is playing hurt, and missing games, and practicing injured, Jayson Tatum is starting for the first place Celtics and is averaging 14.3 points on 50% shooting, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1 block per game.

Of course, it's too early to tell who will have the better career. They're both just rookies, after all. Markelle may turn out be exactly what he was foreseen to be, and we'll all be ragging on Danny for passing up on one of the Greats.

But until then, In Danny we Trust.

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Photo: Boston Globe