Maybe the 76ers don't need Markelle Fultz to be anything but himself | Mike Sielski
Former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar says Markelle Fultz would excel on any NBA team, regardless of fit.
So what kind of player would the 76ers be getting in Markelle Fultz, assuming — as everyone assumes — that they select him Thursday night with the first pick in the NBA draft? He's a point guard, but so is Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox, and the Sixers could have drafted Fox at No. 3. Fultz was a fine shooter in his only season of college basketball, at the University of Washington, making more than 41 percent of his three-point shots. But another Kentucky guard, Malik Monk, is arguably a better shooter than Fultz, and the Sixers probably could have traded down and still had the chance to pick Monk. The Boston Celtics had the first pick, and their general manager, Danny Ainge, is an astute fellow, and they decided that they could afford to pass on Fultz. Did they see an irrevocable flaw in his game? Did they think he wouldn't fit?
"In terms of the Celtics in general, the beauty of Markelle Fultz is there's not a combination of four other players on the floor that he can't play with," said Lorenzo Romar, who coached Fultz at Washington. "Some guys, they can't play without a really good point guard next to them. Some guys need a lot of shooters around them. Markelle could be on the floor with four other point guards and still do really well. He's just really adaptable because of his versatility. If Boston had taken him No. 1, that would make sense to me. There's not a team in the league where it wouldn't make sense, again, because of his adaptability."
I recently wrote about Fultz's season at UW and why the Huskies went 9-22 with him and why that poor record doesn't necessarily portend bad things for him in the NBA. I'll make the same point here that I made there: Romar is invested in Fultz's success. He recruited the kid. He coached the kid. He likes the kid. If Fultz turns out to be a star in the NBA, it only benefits Romar, who was fired after the season and is now Sean Miller's associate head coach at Arizona. It boosts his reputation, maybe helps him get another head coaching job sometime soon.
But Romar also previously coached Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas, who became elite NBA players. Roy pretty much entered the league as one, winning the rookie of the year award in 2006-07 with the Portland Trail Blazers. (He was the sixth pick in the '06 draft, the one in which Bryan Colangelo, then the Toronto Raptors' GM, selected Andrea Bargnani with the first pick.) It's possible that Romar simply knows a great guard when he sees one.
"People were critical of Brandon: 'Well, I don't know. Does he play hard enough?' " Romar said. "Well, he was so smooth and effortless in the way he went about his business. 'Well, he should be doing more.' He played the game right. He's not just going to jack the ball up every time he touched it. Markelle is very much like that. People will see.
"Put it like this. A lot of people say, 'Who is he like?' I am not comparing him to LeBron or Magic or anybody like that. But when those guys came along, it was, 'Well, who's LeBron like?' 'I don't know.' 'Who does Magic play like?' 'I don't know. They're different.' Markelle is like that. I don't know who I'd compare him to."
So what kind of player would the Sixers be getting in Markelle Fultz? They'd be getting a player like Markelle Fultz. They have to hope it's enough.