Imagine yourself on your 20th birthday.
Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early. Chances are, you weren't the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft and coming off a disappointing and injury-plagued rookie season.
That's where Markelle Fultz finds himself on the first day of his 20s. After a bizarre shoulder injury that derailed his shot, his season and his swagger, Fultz is the subject of harsh criticism. Fans are already using the b-word and putting him in fantasy trade scenarios for the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard.
There is one thing we can all certainly relate to, being judged against your peers. No matter how well you were doing, there was always somebody doing better - and it seemed like your parents always knew the kid's life story.
While Fultz found himself on the bench for the majority of the playoffs, Jayson Tatum was becoming a superstar before our eyes with the Celtics. Even in Danny Ainge's wildest dreams, Tatum wasn't going to be this good this early. Fun fact for Sixers fans drooling over Tatum: They had no chance of getting him. Ainge was either taking Tatum at one or trading back. Also, there's nothing that says Tatum and Fultz can't both be great players.
And Fultz is far from the first rookie to struggle. Just two years ago people thought the Lakers screwed up their pick at No. 2 overall when they selected Brandon Ingram. At the age of 19, Ingram scuffled badly during his first NBA season. He recovered extremely well this season, boosting his scoring average by almost seven points. His field goal percentage went from 40 to 47 percent and his three-point percentage from 29 to 39.
There are players that are late bloomers. A prime example is Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo was the No. 2 overall pick in 2013 by the Magic. Before landing in Indiana, Oladipo was cast off to Oklahoma City and was viewed as a nice player at best. This season, Oladipo became an All-Star and was named first-team All-Defense and third-team All-NBA.
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The point is giving up on players so early can be detrimental to a franchise. All we heard for years was that Joel Embiid would never be healthy enough to play or that Dario Saric was never coming over. Fultz actually played during his draft year. Shouldn't that be seen as progress after Nerlens Noel, Embiid, Saric and Ben Simmons all missed at least a year?
Maybe years from now we'll look back and agree that Ainge fleeced Bryan Colangelo. But not yet. It's way too early for that.
I'm picturing myself at 20 and wondering what it would've been like if people decided that person is who I was going to be for the rest of my life. Yikes.