Imagine how great of a story it would be if Markelle Fultz was, in fact, selected as the number one overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He quickly ascended to being the fifth-best player in his class, according to 247Sports, after not even playing varsity at DeMatha High School until his junior year(!).
He signed with the Washington Huskies last November, and since then Fultz has been named both a McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American, played in the Nike Hoop Summit, and just wrapped up the FIBA U18 Americas Championship where he won MVP.
Fultz already has the accolades of a potential first overall pick, but his skillset and work ethic are what put him in the conversation.
Arguably the best player on the United States’ roster, Fultz finished the five games in Chile averaging 13.8 points on 54 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 3.2 steals. The grand finale came in the Gold Medal Game against Canada, where Fultz tallied 23 points, five assists, and three steals in just 21 minutes.
Markelle’s size and abilities make him the quintessential combo guard. The University of Washington lists him at 6-4, 180 and his wingspan is somewhere around 6-10; also, his athleticism is ridiculous, according to this Instagram post.
What stands out the most when you watch his tape is how he is with the ball in his hands. We know he’s an excellent passer and a capable scorer, but when he’s creating off the dribble, he doesn’t get cute with the basketball, and won’t keep trying to break his defender down off the bounce if there’s nothing there. He’s incredibly efficient, and if Fultz is unable to get to the cup with a dribble or two, he has no issue passing the ball. That lack of cuteness equates to Fultz not being turnover prone despite being a very dynamic player.
According to RealGM, over Fultz’s last nine international games (five with the U18 FIBA team, four with adidas Nations), his turnover per game average is just 1.5, compared to his assist average of 5.1.
The potential on offense should get Lorenzo Romar super giddy, as the Huskies lost their three top scorers who combined for an average of 50.8 of U Dub’s 83.9 points per game. In 2015-16, Washington’s points per game average was good for sixth in the nation, so it’ll take work to get it back to that level. Their defense will need work as well since their 80.8 points allowed per game was among the worst in the country — 337th to be exact.
Fultz brings loads of defensive potential, evidenced by the steal numbers he put up in the FIBA Tournament. His length lets him disrupt the passing lanes, and his size and athleticism will allow him to matchup with either guard position and make it a daunting challenge for opposing guards to out-quick or out-power him. The length interferes even more with shorter guards trying to shoot over Fultz, and this was also evidenced in FIBA play with him blocking multiple jump shots.
If there’s anything that’s to worry about with him, it would be his jump shot. The case with his perimeter shot is very similar to Ben Simmons — both have a reluctance to shoot, but they’re so dominant physically that they don’t need to rely heavily on an outside shot be effective. With Fultz, the one thing separating him from a knockdown jump shot is the time in the gym, and he’s a reported gym rat. His jumper isn’t broken at all. In fact, it’s a very fluid motion with a high release. Furthermore, Dejounte Murray didn’t have much of a perimeter game and fared just fine with the Huskies.
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