2016-17 Season Stats:
48% from the field
41% from three
65% from the free-throw line
Weight: 195 pounds Height w/shoes: 6′4″. Wingspan: 6'9.8″. Max Vert: N/A
Lou Williams *ducks*
You're in Portland. You're a Trail Blazers fan, and you're thinking, "Man, I wish I could take Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and fuse them together." Whoever drafts number one this June will get the product of that combination. Markelle Fultz, the consensus (as of now) number one pick for the 2017 NBA Draft, is basically the product of a mad science experiment to combine two players in one of the NBA's best back-courts. Fultz is a generational talent who already shows offensive skills at an extremely high level. His advanced playmaking has far and away guaranteed him to be a top-2 pick in the draft despite the University of Washington's incredibly sub-par record.
For the second year in a row, the best prospect in the NBA Draft will not be participating in the NCAA tournament, but there's a big difference between Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. Simmons played at LSU last year as a stop-gap, and he practically made a mockery of the college process. He skipped numerous classes, and it's likely that he'll never step foot in a classroom, or even the LSU campus, for the rest of his life. Fultz has been attending classes, he's doing well academically, and he genuinely cares about the school at which he attends. For this reason, Washington's sub-parity is somewhat forgivable. It's actually a fun thought exercise to wonder how bad the Huskies would have been without Fultz this year. Fortunately, we won't find the answer to that anytime soon, for Michael Porter Jr. will be unpacking his bags in Washington this summer.
As for Markelle Fultz and his impact on the court, this guy is a tough shot-maker, and that's the best way to describe him. He can give it to you any way you want it. You want him to carve up the paint and decimate your interior defense? He's got that. Oh, you're looking for an opponent who can pull up from three and drain a few in the faces of exasperated defenders? Say no more. You want someone to slice your defense up with strong pick-and-roll play, perhaps ending with a mid-range pull-up jumpshot? That's Markelle "Mid-range pull-up out of the pick-and-roll" Fultz's middle name. At the young age of 18 years old, he's already an offensive maestro. He pulls impressive finishes at the rim out of nowhere, and he finishes hard through contact.
What stands out the most about Markelle Fultz's offensive game outside of his versatility is his ability to finish over length. He makes really tough shots over guys whose arms are all up on him. If you go through his highlight reel, you'll find an astounding number of instances where he just shoots over guys who are either the same height or taller than him. Outstretched arms just don't bother him that much when he's shooting. Plenty of opponents have thrown their entire defenses at him (which is totally okay because his teammates are less than stellar), but Fultz has handled the onslaught to the tune of 23 points per game on 48% shooting nightly.
Fultz doesn't come with a flawless game, however. He is a very relaxed guy, and he can go through the motions at times, especially on the defensive end. How much of that is due to fatigue from literally putting the offense on his back? Not sure, but it's a yellow flag. It's not a complete red flag mostly because of his defensive potential due to the tools he already has. His wingspan is pretty outstanding for a guy his height at the NBA level, and he uses his length well to contain drives and close-outs. There are lapses in effort where he gets beat easily by his man or doesn't get a hand up to contest. Also related: he's only 18-years-old, so it's perfectly normal.
The reason why I compared him to the fusion of
Goten and Trun- I mean, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard is because Fultz really takes the best of those two players' style and mixes them together. He looks like McCollum out there on the court. Markelle Fultz's shifty (and potentially ankle-breaking) dribble package and pull-up jumpers are strikingly similar to McCollum's. Fultz is also similar to Lillard in the way they both approach the game and survey the floor. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are both really good basketball players. They're both fringe All-Stars. So what happens when you fuse them? A player with potential to be a perennial All-Star and franchise building block in Markelle Fultz.
There's like a 99.21% chance Fultz is picked #1 overall this June. It would take a miraculous tournament run from Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, and/or Josh Jackson to dissuade whoever picks at #1 to select someone else. There's just too much talent to pass up on. If you're picking Fultz, you're picking your point guard of the future. He's so good, it's almost like getting two players in one, and he's still only 18. The defense will come, and hopefully the intensity will come. Fultz doesn't seem to be Jeff Green-quiet; he's more like the silent assassin type. Next season, he'll be looking to kill the other 29 teams in the league.