Markelle Fultz shows the process is close to yielding results

SALT LAKE CITY -- In the closing seconds of his first game in a 76ers jersey on Monday at the Utah Jazz Summer League, No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz found himself in position to beat the team that traded the pick to Philadelphia. Down one with 5.8 seconds left after a jumper by No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum gave the Boston Celtics the lead, the Sixers put the ball in Fultz's hands to try to win the game.

There would be no storybook ending on this night. Fultz created separation on the baseline, drove to the rim looking for a reverse finish and was met by Jaylen Brown -- the No. 3 pick in 2016 -- who blocked Fultz's shot harmlessly away.

Though Fultz stressed the importance of winning after the game, there's a bigger picture to consider, as opening night of the regular season is still nearly four months away. With that in mind, Philadelphia summer league coach Billy Lange was excited his rookie had the opportunity to experience a late-game situation with a safety net.

"This is what we're here for," Lange said. "As much as we want to win, especially when we're playing the Boston Celtics, it's important to put guys like Markelle who are part of our bright future in situations like that."

Fultz started the game on a brighter note, drawing "Trust the process" chants from the vocal 76ers fans in attendance barely two minutes into that game. By that point, Fultz already had scored on the game's first possession with a step through, blocked Demetrius Jackson from behind and knocked down a 3-pointer.

While it wouldn't always be that easy for Fultz, he showcased his complete offensive game, including NBA 3-point range off the dribble. When that forced Boston to start chasing Fultz over screens, he was able to adjust by scoring in the midrange and finding teammates out of the pick-and-roll. Fultz was credited with one assist, but that undersells the job he did of finding teammates.

Finishing at the rim figures to be Fultz's biggest challenge early in his NBA career, and that was the case Monday night. Including the potential game winner, Fultz missed three of his four shot attempts inside three feet, drawing fouls on two others. To be an efficient scorer, Fultz will have to shoot a solid percentage around the rim.

We also saw turnover issues crop up for Fultz, who had four of them in 22 minutes. He favors a spin move to create space in traffic, which looks spectacular when it works but also leaves him vulnerable to having the ball stripped.

During the draft process, Fultz drew criticism for his role on one of the nation's worst major-conference defenses. (HisWashington Huskiesranked 225th in the NCAA in adjusted defensive efficiency, per, and 10th in the Pac-12 in conference play.) Fultz told reporters disproving that doubt is a priority.

At Washington, Fultz did supply regular chase-down blocks, and he had three spectacular blocks on Monday, two of them against Jackson -- one from behind after losing contact on a screen and another in transition -- and a third destroying a Kadeem Allenshot as a weak-side help defender. Few point guards are capable of making that play.

Good defense is about more than just the occasional spectacular block, and Fultz was generally a more attentive off-the-ball defender than he showed in college. He was aggressive helping off his man, leading not only to the help-side block but also to a play in which he tied up Brown for a jump ball.

While Fultz's first summer league game didn't finish the way he had hoped, it was an encouraging performance overall that should do nothing but whet the appetite of Philadelphia fans eager to see the process turn into results on the court.

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