A healthy Markelle Fultz can finally be the missing piece in the 76ers jigsaw

Markelle Fultz had a frustrating rookie season

The Philadelphia 76ers tried and failed to land a marquee free agent this summer but Markelle Fultz can help them get over that disappointment. 

It's easy to forget that he was last year's number one pick because of the weird and frustrating season he had. 

A shoulder injury kept the youngster sidelined for much of the campaign but his absence became a mystery as the Sixers chose to stay coy about his status. 

Fultz was having real difficulty shooting the ball and looked like a shadow of the player who impressed in college during his early outings for the team. 

But he did eventually make a return late in the season and looked more confident in his play - evidenced by him becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. 

If he can turn into the player the 76ers believe he can be next season, he can complete 'The Process' in Philadelphia. 

The 76ers are hoping Fultz can become their third star

X-Factor

The 20-year-old was one of the most talented players in the 2017 draft and has immense potential. 

Philly didn't get an established star in free agency but they could have a star in the making already at their disposal. 

A quick and dynamic guard is maybe the only thing they lack on their roster and Fultz has the ability to fill that role. 

Alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, he can give head coach Brett Brown another great option offensively. 

Fultz has the ability to form a deadly trio with Simmons and Embiid

Ideally, they'll want him to play off the duo to stretch defences and knock down shots, as well as create his own offence. 

He certainly has that skillset and can be an ideal fit on a team that's hoping to contend next year. 

Videos of him on social media this summer will have Sixers fans excited as he's been showing off his ball-handling skills, athleticism and putting in hours of work in the gym. 

The point guard has been working hard with NBA skills coach Drew Hanlen, who has been so impressed with what he's seen that he's predicting Fultz will be an All-Star next season.

"I literally think that, if he’s back to 100 percent, I think he’s immediately an All-Star," he said in an interview with Fox Sports. 

"I know that’s a bold statement, but I work with a lot of other All-Stars. So, I think I have the right to say that."

Many people see the Washington product as the X-factor for Philly as he can have a big impact on their success. 

Former franchise great Charles Barkley alluded to this last month as he called Fultz the "key".

“The key is gonna be Markelle Fultz, whether he can play or not, to me he’s the key,” he said.

Playing with a chip

Much was said and written about the young guard last year with some being quick to label him a bust. 

Fultz was heavily criticised last season due to his struggles

It was unfair to throw that at a player who barely took to the court and was just 19. 

But nonetheless, Fultz will have a point to prove as he'll be under pressure to show that he was worthy of being the top pick. 

That should give him the motivation to go out and have a great season. 

If he's able to put his shoulder and confidence issues behind him and perform at the level the 76ers think he can, he can become their third star.

Coach Brown has already declared that he's expecting Fultz to have a big year. 

“I have tremendous optimism and confidence that he’s going to have a hell of a year next year,” he told reporters at Summer League.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has a close relationship with the Maryland native and recently said he's "looking good" this offseason. 

Jayson Tatum is expecting his close friend Fultz to have a big year

These are all positive signs for Philly as they have real aspirations to win a championship. 

If Fultz can prove his doubters wrong and make a significant contribution to the upcoming campaign, it could elevate the Sixers to a new level.

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