Rook vs Shook

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The 2017-18 NBA season is coming to an end.  What a year.  What a year for the rookie class,  a year marked by pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments.  It was widely considered a deep draft coming into the season, although the 2018 class is expected to be even deeper.  Some late picks have proven to be diamonds in the rough and made general managers look like genius managers.  Most of the lottery picks appear to be on track as projected and are performing like the rookies that they are.

In spite of what the Rookie of the Year candidates have done, the most noteworthy rookie has got to be the consensus #1 pick, Markelle Fultz.  To get a little perspective, here's a look at his freshman season at Washington that earned him that #1 spot:

When he got to the NBA it was different story.  That aggressive, athletic beast and his jumper were gone.  You could write a book about his rookie season and I'm sure somebody will.  It would take a serious deep dive to even attempt to explain what has gone on inside the Philadelphia 76ers and Fultz's camp over the course of the year.  I'm just going to give you the numbers.  The can't miss #1 overall pick that the Sixers traded up from 3rd to 1st to get played the first 4 games of the season, averaging 6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 33% shooting and 50% on free throws.  Worse than the numbers was how it looked:

After that he wouldn't make another appearance in the NBA until 68 games later.  There have been any number of reports as to what was going on ranging from a hurt shoulder to a broken shot to a mental block.  On April 26th, out of nowhere, he was back and here was his first shot:

After that unfortunate start, Fultz settled in and actually looked good with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists in 15 minutes.  In his 8 games since returning he has managed put up 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 43% shooting off the bench.  As with his first 4 ill-fated games, what is more important than the numbers themselves is the way he has looked.  He appears more confident.  He appears more comfortable.  And he has started to show flashes of the skills and potential that made him the #1 pick last spring.

In limited minutes since his return, Fultz has given the Sixers and their fans a little hope that maybe, like most of their recent lottery picks, he just needs time to blossom into the player they anticipated he was at the draft.  With that small sample size, I can't call it so I'll leave it to you to decide.

Is he a Rook, Son?

Or just a Shook One?

Tim Caldwell