Markelle Fultz likely established himself as the top NBA Draft prospect as a freshman despite a tough season for his Washington Huskies. He earned a spot on the First Team All-Pac 12 behind his remarkable 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. As a team though, Washington went just 9-22, and there is skepticism about how much Fultz contributed to their struggles. He had the highest PER among all freshmen in the nation, even though he wasn’t surrounded by proficient teammates and had to shoulder much of the offense on his own. However, Fultz does appear to coast through the game at times, especially on the defensive end of the floor. No matter what his mentality may be, Fultz is loaded with talent that is worthy of the number one overall pick.
Fultz is absolutely brimming with skill on the offensive end of the floor. Standing 6-4 with a 6-10 wingspan, he has elite size for a combo guard and is capable of playing on or off the ball. He runs the pick and roll masterfully, using screens to score in a variety of ways or setting up teammates for open shots. He manipulates defenders who switch onto him, using hang dribbles to freeze them for just a second before hitting a pull-up jumper or racing past them to the bucket. He’s explosive splitting screens and uses spin moves to get through multiple defenders. Fultz can also make any pass out of the pick and roll. He hits the screener on the roll or on the pop, whips passes to shooters in the corner or hits the help defender’s man standing under the basket. He likely would have tallied even more assists on a more talented team. Off-ball, Fultz can spot up and hit shots off the catch. He also attacks closeouts well and can be a dangerous playmaker as the secondary ball-handler.
Fultz’ skills are brought out even more in space, of which he should have more of in an NBA offense. He’s dynamic in transition as he changes gears with ease and keeps his head up looking for open teammates. In the half-court, Fultz is a nightmare in isolation situations. He gets to his spots on the floor at will using his arsenal of dribble moves. From the perimeter, Fultz can use his size to hit pull-up jumpers over smaller guards. In the paint, he uses spin moves and euro-steps with precision and has the capability to finish creatively with either hand. He also draws contact at a high rate, getting to the free-throw line 6.7 times per game.
The biggest knock on Fultz is his casual approach to the game. Most expect his talent to outweigh his demeanor in an NBA setting, but it is still cause for concern. His low motor shows up most often on defense, but he can be too lax on the offensive end as well. He turned the ball over 3.2 times per game, making lazy entry passes and trying to do too much at times. Fultz was efficient shooting the ball, but had a bit of a habit of forcing up difficult shots early in the shot clock. Defensively, Fultz has the physical tools to be effective but simply doesn’t display any will to guard at a high rate. If he buys in as a defender, he has the size and length to defend multiple positions. Despite his disinterest in defense, Fultz still averaged 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. All he needs is a better mentality and effort level to be a factor on both ends of the floor.
Markelle Fultz is filled with as much ability as any prospect in this draft. He can score from all over the floor. He can create easy offense for himself or his teammates. He has the size and length to be a versatile weapon on both ends of the floor. The only negative to Fultz’ game is his lack of motor on the court. Once placed in an NBA offense and surrounded by skilled teammates, he shouldn’t have any issue exerting more effort. The NBA should correct his lack of spacing, help and effort which will give him the opportunity to be a legitimate star in the league.