What you need to know:
For the second consecutive season, the consensus No. 1 overall player on most draft boards did not make the NCAA Tournament. Markelle Fultz could join Ben Simmons (2016), Mychal Thompson (1978), Doug Collins (1971) and Walt Bellamy (1961) as the only players to have attended college, not made the NCAA Tournament and been drafted No.1 overall.
It wasn’t Fultz’s fault that the Washington Huskies could only a 9-22 record. The Maryland native led the Pac-12 in scoring at 23.2 points per game while adding 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists and posting an impressive 9.1 Box Plus/Minus.
Fultz, who has yet to officially sign with an agent though Raymond Brothers a name that consistently comes up, posted four double-doubles and scored over 30 fives times during his freshman campaign.
Fultz can score with ease at all three levels.
He attacks the rim ferociously whether in transition, pick-and-roll, isolation or cutting. His length (measured 6’10” wingspan at USA Basketball) allows him to finish over bigger players and at a variety of angles, shooting 61.6 percent at the rim.
He has vast, mature array of dribble moves and body movements that keep defenders off balance. He operates at different speeds fluidly and has excellent footwork and body control.
Fultz consistently punished smaller guards by shooting right over them, making 100 pull-up jumpers in 25 games. A knock on Fultz coming out of high school was his jump shot. Many wanted to see if he could consistently make threes, and he responded by shooting 41.3 percent, though his 64.9 free throw percentage is a little troublesome.
If Fultz’s three-point percentage translates well to the NBA, he has the size and skill-set to play off the ball.
In addition to creating his own shot, Fultz excels at creating for his teammates. He has an explosive first step that allows him to get around defenders and either find an open man or get his own shot. But he also displays patience and doesn’t force passes when they’re not there. His court vision is excellent for a player that won’t turn 19 until May 29.
With Fultz’s ability to beat his man one-on-one, he puts help defenders in no-win situations. The defender can either stop the ball, in which case Fultz can find the open man, or he can sag off and try to play both, giving Fultz an easy scoring opportunity.
Despite consistently poor floor spacing from Washington, Fultz still managed to manufacture gaps and make plays to where his teammates could get open looks. Fultz’s assist to turnover percentage was a healthy 35.5-to-13.4, which is even more impressive in the context of a 31.4 usage percentage (compared to Lonzo Ball who’s ratio was 31.4-to-18.6 with just an 18.1 usage percentage).
Defensively, Fultz has intriguing upside because of his physical tools (listed 6’4″, 185 lbs. with a 6’10” wingspan) and athletic ability. He shouldn’t have any problem guarding ones or twos and maybe even some smaller threes though at just 185 he is susceptible to being overpowered. As with most young players, there are flaws in the way Fultz defends both on and off the ball, but his court awareness and BBIQ are high which suggests he’ll be able to pick up defensive schemes in the NBA.
There were times when watching Fultz at Washington when he seemed disengaged or uninterested. It’s understandable when playing for a nine-win team and a coach who is now no longer employed, but it is worth noting.
On the flip side, when Fultz matched up against Ball in early February, many wrote that Fultz didn’t attack the game like it was him versus Ball or that he seemed disengaged. Fultz still posted a 25-6-5 stat line that night. And that’s the thing: Fultz can almost flip on autopilot and walk into what, for most, would be considered a massive stat line.
The 64.9 percent from the free throw line is also worth noting because of the questions surrounding the legitimacy and consistency of Fultz’s jumper. He silenced most critics with the way he shot the ball this season, and even if he doesn’t end up as an above-average shooter, he’s still an elite point guard prospect.