Well, he can shoot. That much we can probably take to the bank.
Markelle Fultz had a largely up-and-down night in his second Summer League outing -- his first half being the "down," and the second half being the "up" -- that in aggregate once again pointed to the many strengths and handful of weaknesses he will likely display as a first-year pro. Defense is a concern, primary playmaking is a concern, conditioning and stamina is a concern. Shooting? Not a concern.
If you followed Fultz's Summer League debut on any media platform, you are no doubt already familiar with the phrase "hesi pull-up jimbo," as coined by Finals MVP Kevin Durant (h/t DMV streetball parlance). That phrase, once applied to our No. 1 overall pick, already seems likely to follow him for his career's entirety: Not just because of its brain-sticking inanity, but because a shot as smooth and distinctive and consistent as Markelle's should have its own name. We'll be watching the Hesi Pull-up Jimbo for the next 5 to 10 (to 25) years and will lack the proper vocabulary to describe it anyway, may as well embrace it now.
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Fultz got some 💩 with him. The hesi pull-up jimbo was smooth. Probably don't understand what I just said if u don't REALLY hoop— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 4, 2017
In any event, the HPUJ was obviously in full effect on Wednesday night in Utah against the home-court Jazz. It was just about the only thing working for Markelle in the first half, where he turned the ball over four times with no assists, got repeatedly shut down by Dante Exum in the half-court, and also got lightly toasted by Exum on multiple occasions at the other end, looking slow and small (and winded) by comparison. It was the kind of half that has you nervously flipping to old DX strengths videos and scouting reports to persuade yourself to keep the faith while your eyes and stomach tell you that all is not right with dude.
But things leveled out in the second half -- Fultz got more opportunities in the half-court, his teammates set better picks and hit more shots, and an improved team scheme neturalized Exum and rookie backcourt mate Donovan Mitchell enough for the Sixers to mount an unlikely late-game comeback. And leading the charge was Fultz in full MF Doom mode, ultimately scoring 23 on the night and 13 in the quarter, including 9-16 FG and 4-8 from deep (really 4-6 when you discount his two half-ending heaves from beyond the timeline). In the final minutes, he casually shed his defender with a step back into a swished wing three to cut Utah's lead to one that had process-trusters and everyone else in full swoon. Didn't look that impressed with himself, either.
It's often irritatingly facile to trace a player's potential through his prospective fit with a teammate -- I can still remember Dennis Scott on the 2010 Summer League call insisting that Evan Turner's game would blossom once he got to share the perimeter with Andre Iguodala, an obvious and dangerous untruth. But damn if you can't see Fultz and Simmons filling the crevices in each other's game like a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and two-percent milk: A couple games of Fultz as a semi-pro and it's clear his most obvious player comp is Kyrie Irving, a truly dynamic scoring guard with a solid if occasionally uninspiring verve for distributing. Putting Simbo on the floor with him could open up his game like Irving's has next-leveled alongside You Know Who. (Not J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert.)
Anyway, the Sixers still lost, 100-94, and Fultz still ended with more turnovers (six) than assists (five, all but one of which came in the final frame). But life is still beautiful in the Post-Processverse. Players, Jerry! Real NBA players! The two months between Summer League and pre-season this year are gonna be the longest any Sixers fan has ever known.
(Postscript: Sixers 2016 first-rounder Furkan Korkmaz also supposedly played in this game, having officially signed his NBA contract earlier today -- I watched all 40 minutes and can not confirm he is yet on the continent.)