The Sixers defeated the Orlando Magic 120-114, for their second win of the preseason. But the win isn’t what’s most important to Sixers fans, and that’s not because it was just a preseason game. Markelle Fultz not only demonstrated a willingness to pull the trigger from distance (four 3PA), he drained the first 3-pointer of his NBA career (outside of Summer League, which was prior to ‘Kelle’s unusual situation).
THERE IT IS.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 1, 2018
We got ourselves a Fultz three, folks. pic.twitter.com/VD6JDr9qRZ
We have yet to see Markelle nail a trey off of an effective dribble move. But he’s taking baby steps, and tonight was an encouraging development for Fultz as well as the team: it’s hard to imagine building a core around Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz if neither is willing to shoot. ‘Kelle was undoubtedly confident on the floor and certainly willing to shoot, and the following clip demonstrates as much:
A little Fultz jumper action early in this one.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) October 1, 2018
Sixers are leading, 6-2. pic.twitter.com/FbNFCAM2AY
Notice how Fultz called for a screen, and dribbled directly into a mid-range jumper. He knew exactly what he wanted and executed. That’s more like the prospect from Washington draftniks were drooling over.
Markelle still has a lot to prove. His finishing around the rim wasn’t great when taking contact. The jumper isn’t perfect — he still doesn’t seem consistently confident in the shot, regardless of appearing more confident on the floor. And even his statline tonight was somewhat modest: 12 points on 5 of 12 shooting, 6 rebounds and just 1 assist. But to say this evening wasn’t an encouraging outing for Fultz would be the words of someone suffering from delusion.
Joel Embiid and the phrase “bully ball” have been linked together pretty frequently lately, as coach Brett Brown professed his desire for Joel to use his large-and-in-charge frame more often this season. Brown even recalled Shaquille O’Neal’s penchant for little-boying defenders when talking of Embiid’s potential to score with ease by being physical.
Tonight, we saw a glimpse of the physical dominance Embiid can utilize. On multiple occasions, Joel received the ball in the paint with his back to the basket, and simply moved defenders out of the way to score. The Magic relied on hacking and tying up Embiid to thwart his efforts to convert close to the rim. But bullying Mo Bamba wasn’t the only path to shot attempts, as Joel was more than happy to sling it from deep, finishing the game with six 3PA, though Embiid made just one. Embiid finished the game with a notable boxscore line of 21 points on an efficient 9 of 15 shooting, to pair with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. It wasn’t all gravy though.
Joel’s habit of turning the ball over is still an issue, as the star center cost the Sixers three possessions. On top of that, Embiid had a bit of tunnel vision. There were a few instances in which Embiid forced a low quality shot while players like JJ Redick or Markelle Fultz stood wide open behind the perimeter. Regardless of a few minor transgressions, Embiid looked solid tonight, and it seems you’d be hard pressed to find a center in the Eastern Conference that can slow him down.
I was very impressed with Sixers rookie Landry Shamet. Despite his sweet shooting stroke, it was Shamet’s defense that piqued my interest. Landry fought through screens, contesting pick-and-roll ball handlers from behind, and seemed to communicate well with teammates when defending off-ball.
JJ Redick has been mentoring Landry Shamet, due to the two players’ penchant for 3PTs and general sharpshooting ability. If Shamet can convert from distance like JJ and provide decent defense off the bench, all while on a contract that pays him no more than $3 million in any of the next four seasons, he will be of tremendous value to this franchise. While the sample size is nowhere near large enough to make any conclusions, Shamet is someone to keep an eye on moving forward — especially given that unlike Redick, Shamet can theoretically run the point.
- Ben Simmons left the game near the end of the first half when suffering a cut near his eye after colliding with Aaron Gordon. Simmons would return in the second half with the slit stitched up and covered with a bandage. Aaron, you just made the list.
- Brett Brown continued to experiment with his rotation, as 15 players saw action yet no player was on the court for more than 24 minutes.
- Furkan Korkmaz displayed his shooting touch, scoring 18 points on 6 of 8 from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3PT.
- Ben Simmons, in just 21 minutes, tallied 9 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Over/under 1.5 seasons until he averages a triple-double for a season?