Will Markelle Fultz training with Drew Hanlen pay off?
2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz has decided to spend the off-season training with shot doctor Drew Hanlen. In doing so, he is following the path of many other stars, such as Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Bradley Beal, and his teammate Joel Embiid. Hanlen training Fultz could be the key to reviving his collegiate form.
You may recognize Hanlen as the small dude getting dunked on by Embiid while he was preparing him for his 2016-17 NBA debut. Hanlen training Fultz could be the key to fixing the second year guards form.
Embiid’s transformation should obviously please Sixers fans. The question at hand is whether or not Hanlen can locate the .41 percent 3-point-shot that Fultz seems to have lost. The Washington product has been working with Hanlen for a couple months now.
Philadelphia made the decision for Fultz to forgo this year’s Summer League in order for him to spend more time training. So far, the only information Hanlen has provided fans about training Fultz is a choppy video and this tweet:
Sixers fans… Get excited!
— Drew Hanlen (@DrewHanlen) July 8, 2018
How far into this tweet should we read?
Hanlen is a smart guy, and he knows that Sixers fans will break down every single word said about their team. He’s certainly wise enough to know that by saying something like this, all he does is add pressure to himself. If he wants us to get excited, and we find out there was never anything to be excited about, Sixers fans will have his head on a stake.
The tweet itself is not what gives me confidence for Fultz’s progress. Obviously, the man training him will have nothing negative to say publicly. The reason I find the tweet significant is that it shows a change in the way those close to the 76ers and Fultz talk about him.
Throughout the season, the team did everything they could to keep Fultz out of the spotlight. This season fans watched as players consistently avoided questions about the top pick, doing anything in their power to dodge a topic that slowly became taboo.
How can Hanlen training Fultz help the Sixers?
Fultz is not a lost cause. In his freshman season, he shot .41 percent from three, consistently created offense for his team both on and off the ball, and was an absolute force on the defensive side of the ball, using his long arms and quickness to be a thorn in the side of the Pac-12. The 6-foot-4 guard was the consensus first overall pick for a reason. Yet, in his 14 NBA games, he attempted just one 3-pointer and shot .47 percent from the free throw line.
Enter Hanlen, who has built a reputation solely through word of mouth, and whose list of star NBA clients continues to grow more impressive by the day. This offseason he’s continued his work with Embiid, as well as Jayson Tatum and Mohamed Bamba.
Hanlen’s business model is to attract clients, improve their game, and let the players’ performances be his advertisement. Deciding to promote what he’s doing with Fultz in a way that builds expectations is a risky business decision.
Should Fultz continue to not play a significant role on the Sixers, Hanlen has allowed both the fanbase and the NBA as a whole, to point their fingers directly at him. The fact that he is willing to do that gives a sense of assuredness that has to provide optimism.
There's a reason Markelle Fultz was the #1 pick! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/UdUYXmqzC8
— Sixers Nation (@PHI_76ersNation) July 10, 2018
Is missing Summer League a huge concern?
Another aspect of Fultz training with Hanlen is that the 76ers have opted to withhold Fultz from participating in Summer League. This decision is much to the chagrin of a large contingent of fans who would prefer to see Fultz get as many game-speed reps as possible. It’s a reasoned sentiment, but I believe Fultz will be better off using his off-season to concentrate strictly on himself.
Playing in Summer League would take up time he could spend on his shot and confidence. On a related note, should he perform well in Summer League, the narrative would be that it proves nothing. People would claim he’s only doing well because his competition isn’t true NBA talent.
On the contrary, if he doesn’t perform well, the story becomes that he can’t even contribute meaningfully in Summer League. Neither circumstance does anything positive for his confidence, and it could actually do significant damage.
Ultimately, as stated above, Fultz was the consensus number one draft pick for a reason. He’s a 20-year-old kid with a mountain of potential he has yet to tap into. As fans, it’s very easy to get frustrated regarding one of the strangest basketball situations in recent memory. Even I’m not thrilled that a guard we invested a valuable asset for has seemingly forgotten how to shoot.
Nevertheless, I implore you to remain patient. Philadelphia fans have waited five years to get here, and an NBA Championship is currently still out of reach. Therefore, we can afford to wait a year or two more for Fultz to find himself as a player. In the meantime, all we can, and should do, is trust Hanlen’s process.
All stats from this article are from sports-reference.com
Featured photo; Michael R Smith via Flickr