Uram: Next season will be the biggest of Markelle Fultz’s life


Facing adversity is nothing new to the 2017 NBA Draft number one overall pick Markelle Fultz.

“I think I’ve been going through stuff like this my whole life,” Fultz said at his 76ers exit interview press conference. “Just everybody going against the odds, really, and a whole bunch of outside noise. I don’t really look to it. I’m with my team. I’m with my family. That’s all I really care about, and myself.”

Fultz went from his high school junior varsity team to one of the most highly-touted prospects in the country in a matter of years.

That test, albeit an impressive accomplishment to overcome, isn’t close to the one he faces now.

Fultz played 14 regular season games for the Sixers because of a shoulder injury and the need to recapture the jump shot that made him coveted out of college. He fell out of Brett Brown’s rotation in the playoffs to the point where he saw no minutes at all in the Boston series. In the meantime, Jayson Tatum, the player Fultz will probably be attached to the hip with for a very long time, averaged just over 23 points a game for the Celtics.

Bryan Colangelo traded the third overall pick in 2017’s draft to the Celtics, along with a future first-rounder, for the first overall selection, which he used on Fultz. Boston’s Danny Ainge selected Tatum third.

That’s not looking very good at this point.

But, the key phrase in that sentence are “at this point.”

Fultz’s rookie season took a very unfortunate turn. He showed glimpses of extreme potential in his return before the postseason. The soon-to-be 20-year-old 100 percent deserves a full season, preferably the 2018-19 one, to show why he was the consensus No. 1 overall pick to most.

The reason why next season is so incredibly important is because at that point we’ll be presented with comparable sample sizes with 2017-18 Tatum.

Fultz doesn’t need to perform at the same level as Tatum did against the Sixers. The 20-year-old Duke product averaged 13.9 points in the regular season and 15.4 in seven games against Milwaukee. Unfortunately for Fultz, Tatum was a really, really bad matchup for the 76ers.

But, it’s not unrealistic to expect such a high asset to reach Tatum’s regular season and Milwaukee series numbers.

If he doesn’t, the “outside noise” is going to be even uglier than it is now.

Sixers franchise icon Julius Erving recently went on ESPN and said, “Tatum probably should’ve been the first pick in the draft.”

It’s hard to disagree with Dr. J’s assessment present day, but that can’t be confirmed until next season.

If Erving is ultimately right, though, and Fultz doesn’t contribute the way a number one pick should, it will be very hard for Sixers brass to stand by this decision.

Fultz can help alleviate the worries of some fans in the near future if he plays summer league ball and dominates, leading into finding significant minutes at the very beginning of next season.

“I’m just looking to prove that I belong to be here really,” Fultz said. “I don’t have anything to go out there and prove, just that I’m an NBA player and just go out and prove why I’m here.”

Before I forget … 

• Excluding Jimmy Rollins, who rang the Sixers ceremonial bell prior to Game 4 against the Celtics for a late arriving crowd due to a ridiculous 6 P.M. weeknight start time, Nick Foles received the loudest ovation of any ringer this postseason. It was louder than Joel Embiid, Kevin Hart and Meek Mill. That’s the result of Foles bringing Philadelphia what was once a dream and now a reality. Nothing against Carson Wentz, or even Donovan McNabb, but if anyone was going to capture the city it’s elusive Super Bowl, who better than Foles? Who better than someone who was underappreciated by many during his first stint with the Birds? Who better than someone who was written off by every national expert and many local media when he was struggling late in the regular season? Foles will no longer be unappreciated, as evident by the roar of roars at Wells Fargo Center before Game 3 vs. the Celtics. Foles is a folk hero in this city, and will forever be, regardless of what happens going forward.

• Speaking of the guy in front of Foles on the depth chart, Carson Wentz continues to rehab in hopes of a Week 1 return against the Falcons. As documented here by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro, there may be more signs that goal can be reached. Between a photograph the Eagles provided on their web site of Wentz in uniform, the quarterback saying on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football he’s confident he’ll be ready or a video posted by the Birds on Twitter, that’s the optimism Eagles fans can take heading into the heart of the summer.

I’ll say this though, how much of a buzzkill will it be if for some reason Wentz isn’t ready? What if all these signs are just giant teases? My point is, be careful what you believe until Wentz is on the field in that Thursday night opener vs. Atlanta. The Eagles organization is going to be want to be extra careful with Wentz, especially after what Foles just proved. Don’t let it hit you hard if, for some reason, Foles starts the season. And remember, going with backup Foles is a pretty special option, if you catch my drift.

• “Ding, dong the Penguins are done!” That should’ve been the chant of all Flyers fans when the two-time defending champions were dethroned, albeit by the Washington Capitals. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a level right below the Cowboys and Giants in terms of rival dislike in this town. No Flyer fan should ever be okay with the Penguins winning a Stanley Cup, especially if Sidney Crosby is on that team.

• Odubel taketh and Odubel giveth. For as much as Odubel Herrera may drive you crazy with not hustling or sometimes appearing to be in space with his decisions, the center fielder can play. Legitimately play. His on-base streak of 39 games heading into Friday night isn’t a fluke. He’s talented and can be a perfect spark plug for the Phillies. Just make sure you’re in a good mood the next he makes or mistake or jogs on the base paths.

• And at the same time, while Herrera gives the Phillies’ offense a jolt, their pitching staff is led by a 24-year-old ace very few projected to be an ace, Aaron Nola. The kid can pitch. He’s filthy. His 5-1 record and 2.05 ERA after beating the Giants isn’t a fluke. Nola may not have a zipping fastball, but it’s good enough to mix with other pitches. Nola is good enough that he deserves a nickname for when he pitches. What do you think of, “Nola Night”?


Dave Uram is a weekly contributor to Philly Influencer. You can follow him on Twitter (@MrUram) and e-mail him at uramradioman@gmail.com.

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