Will the Old Markelle Fultz Ever Return?

76ers point guard Markelle Fultz will be sidelined for the next three to six weeks, according to Stadium NBA Insider Shams Charania. Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and will rehabilitate the injury before returning to the court.

According to The Mayo Clinic, thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between someone’s collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) are compressed. Sources in the medical industry told Stadium that because Fultz has neurogenic TOS, a doctor believes his nerves are negatively affected when he raises his arms. Neurogenic TOS accounts for more than 95 percent of cases of thoracic outlet syndrome.

Sources said the condition results in “consistent numbness” in a person’s arms. This partially explains Fultz’s odd motion when shooting free throws.

It even reached a point where Fultz changed his free-throw shooting routine. This is why league sources believe there is also a mental aspect at play in Fultz’s struggles, according to Charania.

When he came into the NBA as the first overall pick, Fultz was an outstanding shooter. He hit 41.3 percent of his 3-pointers at Washington and converted 47.6 percent of his total shots. Fultz wasn’t great from the free-throw line with a 64.9 percent success rate, but he didn’t appear to have any physical limitations.

The 76ers traded for the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to take Fultz in an attempt to form a budding star trio with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He played in just 14 games during his rookie season due to a shoulder injury. In an exclusive interview with Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, Fultz said none of his issues during his rookie season were mental, but he did admit to modifying his shot during the offseason and into the season.

As Fultz continued to struggle on the court, Philadelphia eventually shipped off two members of its young core to acquire All-Star Jimmy Butler. The questions were no longer about whether Fultz could be a third star; they now centered on whether he could be an effective player in the NBA.

Fultz reportedly consulted 15 specialists to get a diagnosis on his condition over the last year, according to Charania. Sources in the medical industry tell Stadium that the high number of visits could be for several reasons. If Fultz’s condition is fairly mild, this would require more doctors to examine him to get a proper diagnosis. It could also be to see if there is another issue causing the nerve compression. There are several ways to manage the condition, including surgery.

The question now is whether Fultz will ever return to his old form. He was a one-man army at Washington, putting up 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. If Fultz returned to his old self in the NBA, he would be able to space the floor for the 76ers and effectively lead Philly’s second unit. Fultz would also create balance in the backcourt when playing with Simmons, given the latter’s disinterest in taking jump shots.

As for whether or not we’ll ever see that Fultz, Philadelphia can only hope and wait.