NBA

Top overall pick Fultz to open 76ers season as reserve

(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA draft, will open the season as a reserve, coach Brett Brown revealed Sunday.

The 76ers open the season Wednesday against the Washington Wizards and the star backcourt combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal and that was one factor in the decision. Another is that Fultz played in just two preseason games after battling shoulder and knee ailments.

"He hasn't played much basketball in preseason," Brown told reporters. "He's been out for a while. He hasn't been with our group. I think the decision like, 'do you put him into the fire right away and have him play against starting NBA defensive players, especially with the little foundation that he has?' I don't think that's smart."

Fultz scored four points on 2-of-13 shooting in his first preseason appearance against the Memphis Grizzlies. He fared better in his second when he tallied 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting against the Boston Celtics.

Fultz said he was OK with the decision.

"At the end of the day, I want to do whatever I've got to do to help my team win," Fultz said. "So if that's coming off the bench, I'm fine with that. Just contribute any ways I can."

Fultz said the ailing shoulder affected his performance in the preseason and was a prime reason why his shooting percentage was 29.2.

"My shoulder is bothering me, so that's the reason my shot's like that," Fultz said. "At the end of the day, I'm not going use that as an excuse, like I said before. But my shoulder is the main reason why my shot's doing that."

Veteran Jerryd Bayless is the likely starter in place of Fultz.

Fultz is the fourth top-three selection to join the 76ers over the past four seasons and two of the other three didn't see the court as rookies.

In fact, 2014 selection Joel Embiid (third overall) missed both of his first two seasons due to foot injuries. He returned to action last season and averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 31 games before his season was cut short by a knee injury.

Last season's No. 1 overall pick, swingman Ben Simmons, missed the entire season due to a foot injury. He will make his NBA debut on Wednesday.

The other top-three choice was center Jahlil Okafor (2015). He averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games as a rookie before a knee injury ended his campaign. He dropped to 11.8 and 4.8, respectively, in 50 games last season.

Brown said Fultz's role could change at some point during the season, but the fact that he was the No. 1 overall pick won't be a factor in the decision.

"The balance of development and winning is a slippery slope because he hasn't played basketball and he's really had an erratic preseason," Brown said. "How we are fair in delivering him to an NBA court and situations that I put him in and volume of minutes he gets with the notion he's the first player chosen, we understand the microscope, the pedestal that he is on.

"But the reality with all those under things that I just said are also my responsibility to figure it all out. Ultimately, you've got play and develop him and take some hits so that he can grow with us."

Updated October 15, 2017


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