The very strange saga of Markelle Fultz’s broken jump shot and shoulder injury

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The Markelle Fultz situation has evolved from mild controversy, to moderate concern, to full-blown curiosity. We’ve never seen a player as highly lauded as Fultz come into the league and immediate forget what made him so good. For that reason, this story has been as fascinating as it has been confusing.

Last week, Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo said that Fultz’s range didn’t extend beyond the paint — a baffling and wildly unhelpful thing to say. This week, The Philadelphia Voice’s Kyle Neubeck and The Athletic’s Derek Bodner shone more light on the situation.

Let’s recap what exactly we understand about last year’s No. 1 pick, from last summer up until now.

When did Fultz change his release?

Fultz shot 41.3 percent on triples in college, but according to Bodner, Fultz began working on altering his jump shot leading up to the draft with help from his longtime confident and trainer Keith Williams — before the 76ers even traded up for the No. 1 overall pick that they would use on Fultz. Changes in Fultz’s shot were visible in summer league, though his shot was still effective, and much more prominent by training camp, where Fultz reportedly had little confidence left in his changing jumper.

“There is zero doubt that Markelle, in the goodness in his heart, in trying to do the right thing, tried to readjust his shot,” 76ers head coach Brett Brown told reporters on Oct. 25. “And on his own he decided, with some help, to be able to try to improve it.”

Why did Fultz change his release?

Per Bodner, Fultz and Williams wanted to fix several aspects of Fultz’s jump shot, despite his success in college. From his story:

These changes included an effort to quicken his shot, eliminate the dip in his shooting mechanics and bring his set point over to the right side of his body, according to sources with knowledge of the changes Fultz made over the summer.

What did the 76ers think of his new form?

Philadelphia never saw Fultz’s form as something needing to be corrected, per Neubeck. From his story:

Privately, the Sixers have insisted they had no interest in changing any mechanics, pointing to the success he had with his jumper at Washington. His mechanics weren’t perfect — a team source said they would have graded them about an 8.5 out of 10 — but that they were more than good enough given his track record of success from distance.

The 76ers immediately began attempting to reverse Fultz’s changes to his jump shot when he reported to training camp in September, according to Bodner.

How did the shoulder injury affect this?

The 76ers previously had said that it isn’t clear whether Fultz’s jump shot changed because of a shoulder injury, or whether the injury was caused by a changing jump shot. Per Bodner’s reporting, that describes Fultz’s jumping changing long before his supposed September injury, the second timeline is correct.

How serious was the shoulder injury?

In October, Fultz’s agent said that the 19-year-old “literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball.” Reporting from Neubeck and Bodner indicate that is not true, as both say Fultz continued to shoot jumpers in an attempt to regain his college form even after playing four games and subsequently being shut down by the 76ers.

The correct term for Fultz’s injury should be scapular dyskinesis, something that Neubeck’s story explored. It is a real injury that has hampered the Fultz situation, but it does not appear to be the only or immediate cause of his degraded jump shot.

Why don’t the 76ers shut Fultz down?

The 76ers have reportedly given Fultz say in his rehabilitation process, and because of that, they haven’t shut him down for the season.

That said, the Fultz situation doesn’t appear to have an immediate answer. It looks increasingly unlikely that Fultz will play again this season, especially after Philadelphia signed Marco Bellinelli, a veteran bench guard, for their postseason push. (The 76ers currently sit in the No. 7 seed.)

Why does Fultz keep shooting in front of reporters?

One thing that has further spurred on the Fultz news cycle are constant practice videos of the rookie shooting with his janky jump shot. (Some shots look better than others, but there’s little consistency across the various practice clips.)

According to Neubeck, that is “partially a product of his own desire to be out there,” since Fultz doesn’t want to be seen as if he’s backing down from the challenge. Whether that’s the best move is up for debate, but it does somewhat help explain why Philadelphia keeps allowing this situation to happen.

Is that all we know about the Fultz situation?

I’d encourage you read Neubeck’s full piece, as well as Bodner’s story, for a fuller understanding of what Fultz has gone through. His situation is unprecedented, and there are many factors described in both stories swirling around the young kid that have affected him and the jump shot that helped get him drafted first overall and is now keeping him off the court.

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