Markelle Fultz was drafted No. 1 overall in 2017 because he was an exceptional college athlete whose game looked like it would translate seamlessly to the NBA.
But, his efficient three-point shooting was one of the most tangible reasons he had a lot of upside as a young prospect, and one of the main reasons the 76ers targeted him.
That shot disappeared last year, and Fultz played in just 14 regular-season games of his rookie campaign, which was full of speculation and differing reports on the reason that he was no longer able to shoot.
Fultz teamed up with shooting coach Drew Hanlen over the summer and put in an extensive amount of work to regain what was lost last season. In a June episode of the Talking Schmidt Podcast, Hanlen said that Fultz had a classic case of the "yips."
"What happened last year was an injury, let me get that straight," Fultz said on Friday, adding that Hanlen misspoke and that the two talked about it.
Whether it was the yips, the injured shoulder, or the likely combination of both injury and the broken confidence of a teenager thrust into the spotlight doesn't matter nearly as much as whether or not Fultz will enter his second NBA season with the skills package that was originally expected of him.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said on Tuesday that Fultz will not be defined by his shot. Joel Embiid echoed that statement on Friday.
"I don't think the whole story of this year is going to be about his shot" Embiid said. "He's much better than that. He's going to show everyone why he was the No. 1 overall pick."
Again, Fultz likely wouldn't have been the top draft pick if he didn't have such an impressive jumper and he knows that. Not being able to shoot the ball the way he wanted to was what took away his confidence.
"Last year I had an injury that stopped me from being able to be myself 100 percent," he said. "Going through the game I love, having the injury happen, having to deal with the media, having to deal with people saying certain stuff, and then having to deal with yourself. Just wanting to go in the gym and be yourself and telling your body to do something and it's not doing it, it was tough."
Recently released videos of summer workouts with Hanlen show Fultz draining shots from distance with no hesitation, and in a video on the Players Tribune of Fultz talking with fellow University of Washington alum Isaiah Thomas, Fultz said that he has regained his confidence and is excited to showcase his talents.
By all accounts, Fultz was relentless about recovering his shot and improving during the offseason. Going back to the basics and often putting in three workouts per day with Hanlen and taking upward of 150,000 shots, Fultz said he's worked harder than ever.
"It just slowly happened and before you knew it I was back to feeling like myself, and even better," he said.
If Fultz is right, and he's back to his old self, shooting the ball with confidence, then Embiid's point will be proven correct. The story won't be about the shot if the shot is there. Fultz will be able to be defined by his entire skill package and what he contributes to the Sixers success.
That's what this summer was about for Fultz; fixing what was broken and regaining his confidence.
If Fultz's shot is not back, it will unfortunately be another defining moment in his career. According to Fultz, though, that won't be the case.