Markelle Fultz Favored to be No. 1 Overall Pick in 2017 NBA Draft

markelle fultz

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 1:39 PM GMT

Wednesday, May. 17, 2017 1:39 PM GMT

The Celtics won the 2017 NBA Draft lottery and, barring a trade, are on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick for the Thursday, June 22 event. Here’s why I believe that Boston should & will select Washington guard Markelle Fultz.

The Boston Celtics have the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft for the first time since 1950 after winning the draft lottery on May 16. The draft is Thursday, June 22, starting at 7 p.m. ET (on ESPN) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There’s always the potential for Boston to trade the pick, but that’s unlikely. The Celtics are the first team since the 1982 LA Lakers to have the best record in its conference and the No. 1 overall pick in that year’s draft. It worked out well in ’82 for the Lakers as they selected James Worth.

I am here to argue why Boston should – and I believe will -- take University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz at No. 1, and he is the -400 BetOnline favorite on NBA odds to go first. Last year for the Huskies, he averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds. Fultz had the highest player efficiency rating of any freshman in the country and the 12th highest PER for an 18-year-old in the past 16 years. Fultz averaged 1.01 points per play on pick-and-rolls, which ranked 15th among D-I players with at least 100 such plays. Scoring off a pick-and-roll is vital in today’s NBA.

Yet Washington was just 9-22 and the school fired Coach Lorenzo Romar. A total of 16 of those losses came with Fultz on the floor as he missed six of UW’s final eight due to injury. The last time Fultz won a game was Jan. 18 when he had a career-high 37 points in an overtime victory over Colorado.

Fultz didn’t have a heck of a lot of talent around him and became the second potential No. 1 overall pick in a row to not play in the NCAA Tournament. LSU also missed in 2016 despite having a superstar freshman Ben Simmons. He missed his rookie season with the 76ers, so Simmons and Fultz likely will be among the NBA betting favorites for the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Award.

Fultz is listed as a point guard, but he can play off the ball with his size and scoring ability. Some believe he belongs at shooting guard. That would work out fine on the Celtics with the diminutive Isaiah Thomas at point guard. Fultz is close with Thomas, who also played with the Huskies, and worked out with the Celtics star in Washington last summer.

There have been comps of Fultz and the L.A. Lakers’ DeAngelo Russell (that’s probably the floor), Washington’s Bradley Beal (a pure shooting guard) and Houston’s James Harden (a hybrid point/shooting guard; Harden is Fultz’s ceiling). Fultz is listed at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds and he has a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He’s not a good defensive player yet but with that size and wingspan should be with the right coaching.

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If there’s one knock on Fultz, it’s that his motor doesn’t always run hot, especially on defense (that’s true of Harden at times, though), and you worry about a kid like that suddenly becoming a millionaire multiple times over. Perhaps playing on such a lousy Washington team got to him. Fultz He is considered a great teammate.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is a much better pure point guard from a passing standpoint than Fultz but couldn’t play off the ball like Fultz can and isn’t close in athleticism.  Thus Ball really wouldn’t work on the Celtics with Thomas around. Fultz also doesn’t have the baggage of a loudmouth, overbearing father like Ball has with LaVar Ball.  Lonzo Ball is +375 on NBA odds to be the No. 1 overall pick.

While all teams would love to have the No. 1 overall pick in any draft, it’s not exactly a harbinger for success. Just four times since the NBA started the lottery system in 1985 has a player been drafted first overall and gone on to win at least one NBA title with the team that selected him. The Spurs did it with David Robinson (first in 1987) and Tim Duncan (1997), and the Cavaliers with Kyrie Irving (2011) and LeBron James (2003), although LeBron had to leave town and return to Cleveland before winning it all.

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