76ers Select Washington Guard Markelle Fultz with Top Pick
Among the many areas the Philadelphia Sixers targeted for improvement this offseason, a scoring combo-guard topped the list, specifically someone who can score both on the perimeter and get to the basket.
The Sixers have gotten little scoring from their guards the past few seasons.
While the addition of Ben Simmons should help, he is not a the pure scorer that Markelle Fultz can be.
Fultz might not cure every issue the Sixers have, but his addition certainly helps in one area the Sixers lack.
Considered by many to be the best player in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fultz, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Washington, was the choice of the Sixers with the No. 1 overall pick.
"I just want to tell you I’m looking forward to being out there," Fultz told reporters at the draft. "I love you guys and I’m coming to put all my heart and soul into this program. I hope you guys are ready."
The Sixers were able to secure a pre-draft visit from Fultz last Saturday when news of them moving up to acquire the No. 1 pick started to leak out on Friday evening. On Monday the trade became official and now he is a member of the Sixers.
While his defense needs work, his 6’10" wingspan sets him apart from the other top prospects, which should help him out on the perimeter.
“I want to improve on all aspects of my game," he said. "But most importantly, at the defensive end. Just being locked in every play. I’m not a terrible defender, but there are times where I have mental lapses and I’m going to have to be locked in at the NBA every play. Not only when I’m guarding the ball but on help defense too.”
Fultz, 19, averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists playing just over 35 minutes per game. He also had 1.6 steals per game and 1.2 blocks per game on his way to earning first-team all-Pac 12 and third team All-American honors.
A former McDonald’s High School All-American, Fultz also won gold with the USA Basketball U18 program.
One question from some detractors of him has been the fact that his Washington team won just nine games this season.
"My mentality is a winner's mentality," Fultz stressed. "Even though we didn't win at Washington every time and every day I came in, you can ask any players, any coaches, I came in working as hard as I can. I came in trying to motivate my players and coming to Philly, it is going to be the same thing. Coming and working as hard as I can."
"All I ask people is if Fultz played at Kentucky, which most top prospects do, or if he had played for Duke like most top prospects do, or Kansas, or North Carolina, do you think he would’ve won nine games?", ESPN NBA Draft insider Chad Ford asked on the Sports Bash.
"The answer is no, he would’ve won 30 games and would’ve been going deep into the tournament," Ford continued.
"He did not have another NBA prospect on his roster he didn’t have another McDonald’s All American on his roster. I don’t think he had a D League player on his roster. I don’t think he had a future pro out of Europe on his roster, and he was playing in a very competitive PAC 12 conference I’m not sure what else you’d want him to do when you have opposing teams that can game plan just one guy every night. I think its remarkable how well he played considering that’s the goal of every defense every night is to stop one guy. You don’t have that luxury when you play at Kansas or when you play at Kentucky, or Duke or UCLA. There’s too many other good players on the court Markelle Fultz was a lone man in the wilderness in Washington last year."
Fultz has all the physical tools, and should complement Ben Simmons very well.
"We’ll be great," Fultz predicted. "On the court, we’ll play well with each other. Great players are going to play well with each other and have a winning mentality. We all want to win, so we’re going to do whatever it takes to get us back to the playoffs and get us to the championship."