Philadelphia 76ers

Markelle Fultz’s free throw shooting hits rock bottom

Philadelphia 76ers rookie Markelle Fultz’s free throw looks broken. Changing his form to alleviate some shoulder pain has produced ugly results.

The Philadelphia 76ers moved up in the 2017 NBA Draft to take Markelle Fultz, a smooth scoring point guard with breakaway speed and a knack for scoring the ball. He, like so many rookies, still had a lot of flaws to work on to get to the NBA level. But his start and his career always looked promising.

The worst thing anyone could do was tinker around with his best skill — his shot — too much.

One area he certainly could use some improvement is at the free throw line. He shot just 64.9 percent from the line as a freshman at Washington last year. It was one of his few weaknesses offensively in college.

The Philadelphia 76ers set to make his shooting from the line better. At least through the first week of the season the results are . . . not good.

That is just . . . well, that is just not good.

There is very little knee bend, horrible arm motion and just no power. This is not what a jump shot or a free throw is supposed to look like. And it seems like it is getting worse from when the season started.

Philadelphia looked to rework his free throw stroke this summer so it might be a bit of too much tinkering on their part. He was at least an average free throw shooter through Summer League and his form looked a bit more normal.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer asked Fultz about his free throw form after a preseason game in October. Fultz confirmed some shoulder discomfort was behind the change in his free throw form. And his new form certainly has less motion for his shoulder.

Perhaps this shoulder pain is worse than everyone imagines. And now it seems the Sixers are regretting messing with his form too much.

The top overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft is off to a slow start for the 76ers. He is averaging 7.3 points per game and 1.3 assists per game in 19.7 minutes per game off the bench. The rookie is shooting just 34.8 percent from the floor and 6 for 12 from the foul line.

So, yes, he can make free throws. But this motion hardly seems replicable. Or effective. And for a guard who is trying to attack and score — he averaged 6.7 free throw attempts per game last season — this is not a good sign. Free throws will be an important part of his game if he is to succeed in the NBA.

Seeing a shot this broken this early in his career is not encouraging.

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