Why Sixers rookie Markelle Fultz could be the NBA’s next great guard

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Markelle Fultz was never predicted to be drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. That changed after a trade with the Boston Celtics that sent the first overall pick to the Sixers, allowing them to draft the former Washington Huskie.

The moment Markelle Fultz was drafted by the team, he instantly became a part of “The Process”. Fultz was the missing piece in a core of young players who were given the heavy burden of carrying the 76ers to the playoffs after a five year drought.

Fultz’s skill set is perfectly suited for the makings of a great NBA point guard. He stands at 6’4 with a 6’10 wingspan. Fultz will be able to cover point guards and shooting guards and even some smaller forwards. He struggled defensively at Washington mostly due to a lack of effort on that end. We did see some more intensity and focus from him in Summer League. Brett Brown should be able to encourage Fultz to play more aggressively on defense. If he can get Fultz to play as hard on defense as he does on offense, the league better start getting ready now.

Markelle Fultz is often compared to James Harden, one of the league’s best guards. However, Harden plays a bit out of control at times, especially when attempting to draw contact at the rim. Fultz is extremely smooth and patient on the offensive end. He doesn’t rush shots or make errant passes. Time seems to slow down for him whenever he has the ball in his hands.

Averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists while playing in college, he was the first player to average those numbers in over a quarter century. He had a better collegiate season than Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. Of course that doesn’t mean Markelle Fultz will be better than either of the two but it certainly doesn’t hurt his case.

Fultz has a good bounce to him that allows him to draw contact and finish at the rim. He has a quick first step that allows him to blow by defenders with ease. He is confident taking floaters and runners in the paint. Kevin Durant had high praise regarding Fultz as he watched him play in Summer League.

Along with his smooth moves and athleticism, Fultz also has a great jump shot. He shot 41.3% from deep in college and 46.9% from the field in the Utah Jazz Summer League while averaging 20 points per game. His mechanics are sound. He is comfortable pulling up from deep in transition or dipping below the three point line for a mid range pull up. Fultz showed some of this in his first game in the Utah Jazz Summer League, pouring in an easy 17 points.

Markelle Fultz has tremendous scoring potential, but he also possesses great court vision. Like previously mentioned, time seems to slow down for Fultz when he is handling the ball. He hits players on the dime in the open court and more importantly, in the half court. Not to mention that he is a pick and roll maestro. He can pull up for the shot, drive to the lane on a mismatch, dump it off to the rolling big man or kick it back for the classic pick and pop play. That’s what makes Fultz a perfect player for the Sixers. His pick and rolls with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, who are both capable of rolling to the rim or sitting back for three, will be a deadly combination that will force opposing teams to make quick decisions.

Fultz has it all. The defense isn’t there quite yet, but his physical tools and play in Summer League suggest that it will improve quickly and greatly. Scoring wise, there are few guards in the NBA that will be able to match Fultz. He could easily become a 25 point per game scorer some day. Even as a rookie, averaging 16 or 17 points isn’t out of the question. He has solid rebounding instincts and great passing skills, although we might not see them immediately as he becomes acclimated to playing as a secondary ball handler to Ben Simmons. The 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists stat line that he put up in college is certainly something he can average early on in his career.

Fultz will take on other lead guards like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul and John Wall. He will give each of those guards a run for their money as he enters his rookie season with a chip on his shoulder. A player with Fultz’s scoring and playmaking ability are rare to come by, especially one’s with the confidence that Fultz has in himself and his team. One day soon, Fultz will be among the league’s top tier guards, and when that day comes don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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